Postpartum Depression and Colic—How They’re Linked

“Baby Blues.” “Depressed.” “Sad.” These are all ways to describe postpartum depression, which can kick in about five days after a newborn’s delivery, and usually goes away after two weeks. For some mothers (and dads!), postpartum depression is much more serious and treatment is needed. A new mother with postpartum depression will often feel sad, guilty, worthless and take no interest in her new baby. These moms feel shamed for feeling this way, and are too embarrassed to seek help. As a result, postpartum depression can be overlooked.

A 2006 study done by Brown University shows that it is vital for mothers who have the baby blues get professional help. Why? The study says there can be a link between a mother’s depression and a colicky baby. The study, which is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and is run by the state of Rhode Island, consists of a survey titled “Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System.” The idea behind it is to help prevent infant mortality and ask about health and environmental factors in the baby’s household that may impact his, as well as the mother’s, health. The survey had already asked about depression, but in 2006 a new question was asked, “How inconsolable is your baby?” From these answers, it was determined that those mothers who were depressed also commented that their baby was very inconsolable, or, colicky.

If you’ve had a colicky baby, this finding should come as no surprise. A baby who is constantly screaming can put anyone in the madhouse (no pun intended). Awake for hours during the night and not being able to help their baby’s pain, a mother can start to question if she’s fit for her new role and judge herself as inadequate or undeserving of her new child.

If a mother begins to experience these feelings—and especially if they turn to feelings of rage—it’s the utmost importance to seek some help—for herself and the baby. She needs caregivers to watch the baby so she can step away and get some time to herself. If there is no one to babysit, then the mother should put her baby down in a safe place and walk to a different room or in the backyard--she could even take a shower--all of which enable her to take some deep breaths.

Postpartum depression is extremely common--no one should feel embarrassed if it happens to them or a loved one. If a mother can not get out of bed, stops doing her regular household duties and experiences rage toward her newborn, it’s vital to seek help. She could turn to a good friend, her doctor, her local postpartum support society—all of which are there to support her. If the mother chooses not to, her depression may have a long term effect on her baby’s development. Cases have been seen where children whose parents suffered from depression had delays in their cognitive development, took a bit more time to develop emotionally and who can be depressed themselves.