Modern mums are anxious and stressed about babies. The Monash University research shows mothers are feeling ashamed, marginalized and guilty because they can't meet the strict public health messages of breast feeding and sudden infant death campaigns.
They feel even more inadequate when told to use their maternal instinct to solve mothering issues when they are confused by conflicting information and they are battling to live up to an idealized image of how motherhood "should" be. Twenty mothers were interviewed by researchers during admission to an early parenting service. 40% of them had above normal anxiety symptoms and a further 45% were experiencing moderate or severe stress, the researchers found.
This type of anxiety can stop mums from sleeping, can make their muscles tense, interferes with their eating habits and in some cases can become a disorder that is debilitating says Heather Rowe. The researchers say over simplified public health messages that breast is best and always putting a child to sleep on its back overstate the risk of not doing this and can make mums feel anxious.
Public health campaigns, health professionals and others could reduce this anxiety by providing realistic, understandable, numerical information to assist decision making, they say. Women who decide to bottle feed can be discharged from hospital without any bottles, with no instructions on mixing formula, which can make them feel unsupported and marginalized, she says.
While the 'Safe Sleep Space' campaign on sudden infant death syndrome has been successful in reducing child deaths and getting parents to put babies to sleep on their backs, the message over simplified the problem. A number of women told researchers they and their partners were hyper-anxious about SIDS.