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Post Partum Depression and The Importance of Sleep

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

sleeping infantThe July 2009 issue of Sleep published the results of a study done at the Stavanger University Hospital in Norway. The study was cross sectional and included over 4000 women. The study showed a clear relationship between postpartum depression and lack of sleep among mothers of infants.

Additional factors associated with post partum depression were shown to be, 1. A history of depression, 2. Lack of support and help from partners, 3. Stressful life events, 4. Depression during pregnancy, 5. History of sleep problems, 6. Relationship problems, 7. Having another child,

However, the single most important factor that was found to be connected with post partum depression was the lack of sleep, independent of any of the other factors.

Given the nature of infancy, there is nothing surprising about the findings in this study. Infants are extremely demanding, especially during the first six months of life. Long before it is possible to get them onto a feeding schedule, they alternate between a couple of hours of sleep followed by the demanding and piercing cry for food. This is where the husbands and family members need to rush to the forefront of being supportive and helpful. Even mothers who breast feed can use a breast pump to create a supply of milk so that either husband or family member can do the feeding while mother sleeps.

Whether breast or bottle feeding, moms of newborns need lots of help and support. If there are other children present, all the more help is needed. Granted that fathers have to go to work but that is where other relatives and friends come to the forefront.

I do not remember who is reputed to have made the statement that "It takes a village to raise a child," but, I have always believed in the truth of that statement. We do not, cannot and should not live in isolation. What happens to our babies and our children is the business of every person.

Your comments are welcome and encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD.