02 September, 2007

Guardian Unlimited: Cradling linked to depression in new mothers

Jennyalice spotted this on the Guardian Unlimited site and thought you should see it.

Note from Jennyalice:

Now we can't even hold our babies the right way... interesting stuff.

To see this story with its related links on the Guardian Unlimited site, go to http://www.guardian.co.uk

Cradling linked to depression in new mothers
Lucy Ward, social affairs correspondent
Wednesday August 29 2007
The Guardian

It is one of the most natural actions in the world - a mother scoops up a baby to hold and comfort it in her arms. But, according to new research, cradling could help identify stress that may lead to postnatal depression.

New mothers who cradle their infants on the right side of their body may be displaying signs of "extreme stress". The findings build on previous research showing that most mothers prefer to hold their baby to their left, regardless of whether they are left- or right-handed.

The study suggests there is a correlation between the minority who hold a baby on the right and a greater likelihood that they are experiencing stress beyond the levels natural in new parents.

The researchers say the finding could provide a new way to tackle postnatal depression, suffered by at least one in 10 new mothers. They conclude: "Studying non-verbal cues such as baby-cradling could help doctors and health visitors identify which mothers need extra professional support before it gets too late."

Depression in mothers can have a detrimental effect on the baby's mental development. The study, published in the online edition of the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, was based on 79 new mothers and their babies.

Mothers in their own homes were asked to cradle their babies, an action not linked to left- or right-handedness. They were also quizzed on their mental state.

The study found that of the mothers who expressed no stress or depression only 14% preferred to hold their babies to the right. But 32% of stressed mothers showed a right-sided bias.

Lead author Nadja Reissland, a senior lecturer with Durham University's department of psychology, said early detection of stress was vital. "The way they [new mothers] interact with their child is usually the best indicator of their inner mental state," she said. Gillian Fletcher, president of the National Childbirth Trust, said the apparent link between cradling side and mental state was interesting, but she would view it with caution in terms of predicting depression.

Copyright Guardian News and Media Limited

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