A new study published in Academic Paediatrics confirms that mothers of fussy babies are more likely to experience symptoms of depression than mothers of “easy” babies.
Researchers pulled data from more than 8,200 children and their parents and found “the less soothable the infant, the more distressed the mother,” a press release states.
Caring for difficult babies does, in fact, take an emotional toll.
If you, dear parent, are reading this at 3 a.m. because your infant still won’t stop crying after you’ve rocked him, swaddled him, and sung him lullabies in an increasingly threatening tone, you are likely shouting, “THANKS, CAPTAIN OBVIOUS” at your screen. I get it.
But perhaps there is a message of comfort in the scientific findings, and that is it’s not you.
My first kid was a difficult baby. She hated gravity, and whenever I’d stop bouncing her on an exercise ball, she’d scream. (Come to think of it, I now have a bad association with exercise balls, and also exercise in general.)
I spent so many days scrolling through Facebook and feeling like all the other new parents had it together — they were travelling, getting promoted, starting side hustles and announcing more babies. Weepy and sleep-deprived, I kept wondering: “What’s wrong with me?”
Now, six years later, I have a new baby and he’s “easy” (so far). He smiles a lot, entertains himself by staring at his fingers, and has slept seven to nine hours at night since he was seven weeks old. I’ve been stunned.
Over the past months, with an infant by my side, I’ve planned birthday parties, joined a book club and started remodeling my bathroom. This is a vastly different parenting experience for me, and yet I had nothing to do with it. The kid came this way. Have an easy baby. That is the hack.
But also know that you might just have a difficult baby. While this realisation won’t help you much with round-the-clock wake-ups or raging colic (I’m so sorry), it might help you let go of any idea that you’re not doing enough, or that you’re not enough, or that your life should look like someone else’s.
(Note: Regardless of your baby’s temperament, if you are experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression, you should talk to your doctor immediately.)
Basically, if your baby is difficult, blame the luck of the draw, not yourself. And then hang tight — I’ll tell you that even the fussiest baby can become a kind, loving and mostly-pleasant-to-be-around kid. When that happens, you should definitely take some credit for it.