Mama’s Got the Blues: Impact of Maternal Depression on Attachment in Infants and Young Children

August 2, 2018
Health and Mental Care
Family Support
Blog Post

By Dr. Harleen Hutchinson, Executive Director, The Journey Institute, Inc.

Pregnancy and motherhood are two of the most exciting times in a woman’s life. However, many women experience changes in mood and feelings during pregnancy and postpartum for up to a year. This is not unusual, and depression can affect women of any race, age, or socioeconomic background. While many women experience some mild mood changes during or after the birth of a child, 15 to 20% of women experience more significant symptoms of depression or anxiety; and 1 in 7 women suffer from postpartum depression. 

Unfortunately, many women struggle when this occurs and often associate this experience with being “Not-A Good-Enough Mother.” One in eleven infants will experience their mother’s major depression in their first year of life, and the rates are even higher for mothers with previous histories of depression or those experiencing other stressors, such as financial hardship or social isolation. Maternal depression is the most common complication of pregnancy and childbirth. It is also known as Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder. Depressed mothers are more likely to engage in less stimulation and interactive responses with their young children, often impacting the development of the parts of the brain that are involved in learning and memory. When a woman is pregnant and experiences depression, this affects the body’s stress response and immune system of the fetus. This connection increases the chance that the fetus will become more vulnerable to withdrawn care than babies who are born to mothers who are not depressed. Ongoing postpartum depression often impacts the interactional cycle between the mother and the child, impacting on the mother’s ability to read the child’s cues, and engage positively. Therefore, when a mother becomes depressed, her caregiving ability affects the young child’s development, as children function in the context of caregiving relationships. 

Maternal depression, if untreated, can have significant impact on the infant’s and mother’s ability to form secure attachment or bond, which impacts the quality of the parent-child relationship. Young children with mothers who
are depressed are at higher risk for delays in social, emotional cognitive and physical development, elevated levels of stress hormones, lack of breastfeeding, early discontinuation of breastfeeding, increase crying and irritability, dysregulation, increase risk for abuse and neglect, and long term mental health problems. 

Having a baby is challenging and every woman deserves support. So, if you are experiencing emotional changes or think that you may be depressed, make an appointment to talk with a professional. Getting help is the first step towards helping you and your baby, as you keep your baby’s feelings in mind.

Some the common symptoms are: 

  • Sad feelings, excessive worry and anxiety

  • More sleep than usual, difficulty going to sleep

  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions

  • Guilty feelings of parenting, loss of interest in things you once enjoy
  • 
Frequent crying for no reason, loss of interest in caring your yourself

  • Lack of motivation towards doing everyday tasks
  • 
Lack of pleasure or delight in your baby or difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Thoughts about hurting yourself or your baby 

As a community of professionals, when we intervene early, we increase the likelihood of the mother’s attachment with her infant or young child. This, in turn, can be beneficial in lifting the mother’s mood and levels of functioning in the parent-child relationship. Therefore, it is our responsibility and professional obligation to ensure that timely screening, assessment, and treatment are being provided to mothers during their medical visit to help reduce the stigma of asking for help. So, if you are a mother or woman who are experiencing maternal or postpartum depression, and do not know where to seek help, call 211-Broward to be linked with professionals in your community who works with women who are experiencing these symptoms. Remember! You are not alone. 


Dr. Harleen Hutchinson, is the Executive Director of the Journey Institute, Inc. She is a psychologist, an Infant Mental Health Specialist, and Chair of the Broward County Infant Mental Health Workgroup. 
 

References: 
Mian, A.I. (2005). Depression in pregnancy and the post-partum period: Balancing adverse effects of untreated illness with treatment risks. Journal of Psychiatric Practice, 11 (6), 389-396. 

National Research Council and Institute of Medicine (2009). Depression in parents, parenting, and children: Opportunities to improve identification, treatment,
and prevention. Committee on Depression, Parenting Practices and the Healthy Development of Children, Board on Children Youth and Families, Division on Behavioral and Social

Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. 
Tronic, E., & Reck, C. (2009). Infants of depressed mothers. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 17, 147-156. 

Share this post

Learn More About CSC Broward

Our organization provides leadership, advocacy and resources to enhance the lives of the children of Broward County and empower them to become responsible, productive adults.

Stay Connected

Join our mailing list to receive the most up-to-date event details and information about CSC Broward.

Find A Program That Fits Your Needs

SNAC (Special Needs Advisory Coalition) | Children's Services Council of Broward County
954-377-1667

The Children’s Services Council has been at the forefront in funding programming for children and youth with physical, developmental or behavioral health needs since its inception. In 2004, the Council commissioned Broward County’s Business Plan for Children with Special Needs which became the impetus for establishing a stakeholder group known as the Special Needs Advisory Coalition (SNAC). The SNAC has been instrumental in advocating for system improvements and reducing service gaps.

Primary POC: Marissa Aquino | maquino@cscbroward.org

2-1-1 Broward General Hotline | 2-1-1 Broward
2-1-1 or 954-537-0211

2-1-1 Broward, an information & referral line, provides a 24-hour, comprehensive help line and support service for individuals seeking crisis intervention assistance and/or information and referrals to health and human services in Broward County. An impressive database of information is used to provide community callers with current, relevant information regarding a wide variety of services within the community. All calls are toll-free, confidential and anonymous from anywhere in Broward County.

Capacity Building Mini Grants | Children's Services Council of Broward County
954-377-1000

Infrastructure building support is provided to local child and family serving nonprofit organizations through our annual Capacity Buildings Mini Grants. Through a competitive grant process, local organizations are awarded funding for capacity building projects, professional business coaching and or fundraising support each year.

Primary POC: Adamma DuCille | aducille@cscbroward.org

Cribs for Kids | Heathy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Broward County
954-765-0550

In 2003, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published a report that estimated that the risk of infant suffocation increases 20-fold when infants and adults sleep in the same bed. Cribs for Kids provides low-income families with free GRACO Pack ‘n Play® cribs, one crib sheet, and a safe-sleep sack, and counsels parents on the dangers of co-sleeping.

Primary POC: Ashley Sturm | asturm@hmhbbroward.org | 954-765-0550 ext. 339

CSC Sponsored Trainings | Children's Services Council of Broward County
954-377-1000

The CSC offers quality and affordable training workshops for professionals serving children and families in Broward County. Each session is led by instructors that are highly qualified and experienced in their field to provide an optimal learning environment. CEU’s are also offered for many of the completed courses. For a training calendar and to register, please visit our website at training.cscbroward.org.

Primary POC: Adamma DuCille | aducille@cscbroward.org

Drowning Prevention | Florida Department of Health in Broward County
954-467-4700

Drowning Prevention is a collaborative community effort driven by the Drowning Prevention Task Force. In 2009, the Children’s Services Council allocated funding to support a full-time coordinator housed at the Broward County Health Department who provides insight and accountability for the implementation of the Drowning Prevention Action Plan.
Task Force members create a culture throughout Broward that infuses drowning prevention methodologies, practices, and messages that directly impact families with young children.

Early Literacy Interventions | Reading & Math, Inc.
786-347-3667

Reading & Math, Inc., through a partnership with Broward County Public Schools, is implementing the Reading Corps program in Broward County. Florida Reading Corps tutors serve Broward County’s most at-risk students with targeted early literacy interventions. Reading Corps screens all students at designated schools to identify children who are behind on early literacy skills, and develop individualized tutoring plans to meet each child’s needs.

The Faces of CSC

The greatest tool you can give a child is the ability to persuade and speak with confidence. Being that my YIG experience positively impacted my emotional literacy skills, I would like to pass these on to those who are less fortunate.
"This program has touched me and made a difference in my life."
"I will be the first to say, Youth in Government should be a part of every teenager's life, because I know without it I wouldn't be the person I am."
Close