Frequent and prolonged night waking in infants tied to maternal depression
According to recent findings, it has been observed that by 6 months, some infants have developed a pattern of frequent and prolonged night waking and the mothers of these infants appear to be at increased risk of clinically significant levels of depressive symptoms.
The study is published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology.
One of the many challenges mothers face in caring for a young infant is coping with the sleep fragmentation and deprivation caused by infant night waking. Nearly all infants awaken regularly for feeding during their early weeks and months because of their need for nutrition. By 3 to 4 months, however, the majority of infants no longer physiologically require nighttime feedings, yet many continue to awaken.
Because mothers provide most of the nighttime care for infants, their sleep is often disrupted by their infants' night waking. Further, mothers are susceptible to depressive symptoms during the postpartum period. Because sleep deprivation is known to have deleterious effects on mood, the sleep deprivation produced by infant night waking may contribute to postpartum depression.
Hence, to confirm this, Katherine Hildebrandt Karraker and Marion Young from the West Virginia University conducted this study examined the relations between night waking in infants and depressive symptoms in their mothers at 6 months postpartum. The data was collected from the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care.
A total of 1,364 mothers and infants were recruited and enrolled in this longitudinal study. The results showed that although more depressive symptoms were only weakly correlated with a higher frequency of infant waking, longer wake times, and more total time awake, the rate of clinically significant depression scores was about double in mothers of chronically waking infants in comparison with mothers whose infants did not awaken during the night.
Hence, it was concluded that "by 6 months, some infants have developed a pattern of frequent and prolonged night waking. Mothers of these infants appear to be at increased risk of clinically significant levels of depressive symptoms. Educating mothers about how to encourage infant nighttime sleep and how to deal with the sleep deprivation that can result from infant night waking such as through good time management and brief naps may alleviate potentially deleterious effects on parental and infant functioning and prevent the development of long-term mental health problems."