A Mother’s Unprocessed Childhood Experiences Can Decrease Her Ability to Respond Appropriately to Her Baby’s Cries

A study released last week¹ in Child Development provides new evidence that a mom’s ability to respond appropriately to her baby’s cries depends on her level of depression and her own childhood experiences.

crying baby

Image source 

The healthiest way to respond to an upset baby (quickly, consistently and warmly) was associated with mothers with healthier emotional development. Mothers who are depressed or who have problems regulating their emotions are more likely to focus on themselves and their own stress, rather than on the needs of the baby.¹

My two cents: New moms don’t want to focus on themselves, especially in something like therapy. This new study indicates yet another reason why taking a little time to be selfish and stay healthy is BEST FOR BABY. What keeps you healthy and balanced? In my private practice in San Diego, I help new and expecting parents figure out how to keep an optimal balance. When we become a new parent, especially for mothers taking a break from the workforce, our identities shift enormously. We go overnight from being a competent professional to a novice in a high-stress, high-stakes role. Sometimes something that seems frivolous, like playing music, dancing or making art is the lifeline that will help us be the best parents possible. Sometimes I help my clients figure out how to “mother the mother,” or learn taking care of their own unmet needs.

Question: What helps you feel like “you,” the best possible you?


¹Source: Esther M. Leerkes et al. Antecedents of Maternal Sensitivity During Distressing Tasks: Integrating Attachment, Social Information Processing, and Psychobiological PerspectivesChild Development, September 2014

By |2016-11-01T21:48:42+00:00September 20th, 2014|Categories: Blog, Maternal Mental Health, Mental Wellness|Tags: , , |2 Comments

About the Author:

Abigail Burd, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist practicing in San Diego. (CA lic #LCS26867.) Specialties include maternal mental health, parenting, addiction, depression/anxiety and personal growth. Abby is experienced providing counseling to others in the helping fields, college students, and graduate students.


  1. Jennylou Raya September 23, 2014 at 8:49 am - Reply

    When I was a new mom, I was at a loss. I was working up until the day before I gave birth and even a little bit after. Then I was a SAHM, and I could not figure out why half of me was loving being with baby and the other half was so upset at myself for not being what I thought was a “competent” mother (despite the Attachement Parenting that I was doing). I later realized that how i looked all day bummed me out – As in, I’m still in house clothes and it is 5pm! I was a fashion major and look at this hair, ewww! I finally did get a little selfish as in get some decent clothes, haircuts and a lipstick color once in a blue moon! A few minutes in the morning makes me feel better all day.

    • Abigail Burd September 23, 2014 at 9:03 am - Reply

      Thank you so much for taking the time to leave your experience, Jenny. I am sure that a lot of mamas will relate. I love that you prioritized taking five minutes to really get back to the person you were. Ultimately we do not return to the exact same person we were before we had children, but that person can be incorporated into a new woman we are proud to be.

What are your thoughts?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: