Inconsolable crying babies put mothers at risk for post-partum depression, raising the odds ratio for depression to 4.0. The inability to sooth a baby may result in helplessness, depression and reduced parental care.
Inconsolable Infant Crying and Maternal Postpartum Depressive Symptoms
OBJECTIVE: To quantify the extent to which maternal report of inconsolable infant crying, rather than colic (defined by Wessel’s criteria of daily duration of fussing and crying >3 hours), is associated with maternal postpartum depressive symptoms.
METHODS: Participants were 587 mothers who were recruited shortly before or after delivery and followed longitudinally. At 5 to 6 weeks postpartum, mothers recorded the duration and mode (fussing, crying, or inconsolable crying) of their infant’s distress by using the Baby’s Day Diary. The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) was administered at enrollment and at 8 weeks postpartum. Using regression models that included baseline EPDS scores and multiple confounders, we examined associations of colic and inconsolable crying with later maternal EPDS scores at 8 weeks postpartum.
RESULTS: Sixty mothers (10%) met the EPDS threshold for “possible depression” (score ≥9) at 8 weeks postpartum. For mothers reporting >20 minutes of inconsolable crying per day, the adjusted odds ratio for an EPDS score ≥9 was 4.0 (95% confidence interval: 2.0–8.1), whereas the adjusted odds ratio for possible depression in mothers whose infants had colic was 2.0 (95% confidence interval: 1.1–3.7). These associations persisted after adjusting for baseline depression symptoms.
CONCLUSIONS: Maternal report of inconsolable infant crying may have a stronger association with postpartum depressive symptoms than infant colic. Asking a mother about her ability to soothe her infant may be more relevant for potential intervention than questions about crying and fussing duration alone.