Women who experience depressive symptoms following pregnancy and childbirth are less likely to involve in breast-feeding practices, or other parenting activities such as playing with their newborns, interacting with them etc. The study is the first of its kind to analyze the impact of mother's depressive symptoms on her parenting practices, post partum.
The researchers analyzed the behavior of more than 4,874 mothers from nearly 15 pediatric care centers in Columbia. The study participants were required to provide information about their family background, depressive symptoms if any and parenting practice following two to fourth months of delivery.
Upon analysis, 43.8% of mothers with depressive symptoms were found to breast-feed. On the contrary, 56.9% of mothers, without depression were likely to breast feed after two and four months of delivery. Women with depression were less likely to engage themselves in playful activities with their newborns. The percentage of depressive and non-depressive mothers who played with their infants was 87.4 and 91.9% respectively.
Similar trend was observed when it came to showing book to infants. Women suffering from depression were less likely to show children books to their kids compared to mentally sound mothers (22.4 Vs 28.2%).
Surprisingly, the presence of depressive symptoms in the mother was found to be independent of mother's adherence to safety practices (reducing temperature of the water heater and placement of infant in the correct sleeping position). The overall adherence to safety practices were found to be high among all the study participants.
'Maternal depressive symptoms are very common in early infancy. These symptoms clearly have an unfavorable impact on a mother's parenting practices, particularly those that involve active engagement with the child. Our results highlight the importance of screening new mothers for depressive symptoms,' concluded Cynthia S. Minkovitz, author of the study.