Researchers at Pennsylvania State University found that mums who are depressed might cause sleep problems in their babies - and not that the babies lack of sleep causes the mother's depression.
The study revealed that a mum's anxiety and worry could lead them to disturb their babies by picking them up and feeding them while they are sleeping, or taking them into bed for a cuddle because they wanted the emotional comfort, rather than the baby needing it.
The study's lead author Douglas Teti said the research gave 'insights about maternal depression's effects on night-time parenting, and how such parenting affects infant sleep.' He said that mothers with higher levels of depression and concern about their children's sleep had children whose sleep was more disrupted.
The research team looked at 45 mums and their babies over a week. The infants were aged from between one month to two years. They discovered that those mums with more symptoms of depression were more likely to pick up their babies when they were sleeping, or disrupt them in other ways.
The report suggested that mothers who worried excessively about their babies' well-being at night were quicker to respond to slight sounds the baby made even if the infant was not upset or in need of attention. They also moved the babies into their own beds because they were worried they needed feeding or if they were comfortable.
The authors concluded: "Although most mothers implemented a calming bedtime routine, ignored non-distressed vocalisations, and had children who sleep through the night (aside from expected night feedings for younger infants), mothers reporting more depressive symptoms displayed much more variability in night time interactions with their infants, intervened with their infants when there did not appear to a clear need for intervention (eg, going to the infant when the infant was awake but not distressed, or when the infant was sound asleep), and had difficulty setting limits with their infants during bedtime and at night."
Prof Teti added: "Although we found greater support for mothers' behaviour explaining the relationship between depressive symptoms and infant night wakings, it's likely that both infants and parents influence infant sleep. This helps us better understand what factors influence infants' sleep in homes in which mothers are depressed. Understanding how maternal depression and sleep problems combine to affect children's development is important to developing interventions to help reduce these negative consequences."
What do you think? Does this resonate with you?
Or is this small report - 45 mothers and babies - just another way to heap more worry on already anxious mothers?