Mama’s Got the Blues: Impact of Maternal Depression on Attachment in Infants and Young Children

August 2, 2018
Health and Mental Care
Family Support

By Dr. Harleen Hutchinson, Executive Director, The Journey Institute, Inc.

Pregnancy and motherhood are two of the most exciting times in a woman’s life. However, many women experience changes in mood and feelings during pregnancy and postpartum for up to a year. This is not unusual, and depression can affect women of any race, age, or socioeconomic background. While many women experience some mild mood changes during or after the birth of a child, 15 to 20% of women experience more significant symptoms of depression or anxiety; and 1 in 7 women suffer from postpartum depression. 

Unfortunately, many women struggle when this occurs and often associate this experience with being “Not-A Good-Enough Mother.” One in eleven infants will experience their mother’s major depression in their first year of life, and the rates are even higher for mothers with previous histories of depression or those experiencing other stressors, such as financial hardship or social isolation. Maternal depression is the most common complication of pregnancy and childbirth. It is also known as Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder. Depressed mothers are more likely to engage in less stimulation and interactive responses with their young children, often impacting the development of the parts of the brain that are involved in learning and memory. When a woman is pregnant and experiences depression, this affects the body’s stress response and immune system of the fetus. This connection increases the chance that the fetus will become more vulnerable to withdrawn care than babies who are born to mothers who are not depressed. Ongoing postpartum depression often impacts the interactional cycle between the mother and the child, impacting on the mother’s ability to read the child’s cues, and engage positively. Therefore, when a mother becomes depressed, her caregiving ability affects the young child’s development, as children function in the context of caregiving relationships. 

Maternal depression, if untreated, can have significant impact on the infant’s and mother’s ability to form secure attachment or bond, which impacts the quality of the parent-child relationship. Young children with mothers who
are depressed are at higher risk for delays in social, emotional cognitive and physical development, elevated levels of stress hormones, lack of breastfeeding, early discontinuation of breastfeeding, increase crying and irritability, dysregulation, increase risk for abuse and neglect, and long term mental health problems. 

Having a baby is challenging and every woman deserves support. So, if you are experiencing emotional changes or think that you may be depressed, make an appointment to talk with a professional. Getting help is the first step towards helping you and your baby, as you keep your baby’s feelings in mind.

Some the common symptoms are: 

  • Sad feelings, excessive worry and anxiety

  • More sleep than usual, difficulty going to sleep

  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions

  • Guilty feelings of parenting, loss of interest in things you once enjoy
Frequent crying for no reason, loss of interest in caring your yourself

  • Lack of motivation towards doing everyday tasks
Lack of pleasure or delight in your baby or difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Thoughts about hurting yourself or your baby 

As a community of professionals, when we intervene early, we increase the likelihood of the mother’s attachment with her infant or young child. This, in turn, can be beneficial in lifting the mother’s mood and levels of functioning in the parent-child relationship. Therefore, it is our responsibility and professional obligation to ensure that timely screening, assessment, and treatment are being provided to mothers during their medical visit to help reduce the stigma of asking for help. So, if you are a mother or woman who are experiencing maternal or postpartum depression, and do not know where to seek help, call 211-Broward to be linked with professionals in your community who works with women who are experiencing these symptoms. Remember! You are not alone. 

Dr. Harleen Hutchinson, is the Executive Director of the Journey Institute, Inc. She is a psychologist, an Infant Mental Health Specialist, and Chair of the Broward County Infant Mental Health Workgroup. 

Mian, A.I. (2005). Depression in pregnancy and the post-partum period: Balancing adverse effects of untreated illness with treatment risks. Journal of Psychiatric Practice, 11 (6), 389-396. 

National Research Council and Institute of Medicine (2009). Depression in parents, parenting, and children: Opportunities to improve identification, treatment,
and prevention. Committee on Depression, Parenting Practices and the Healthy Development of Children, Board on Children Youth and Families, Division on Behavioral and Social

Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. 
Tronic, E., & Reck, C. (2009). Infants of depressed mothers. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 17, 147-156. 

Share this post

Learn More About CSC Broward

Accessibility Statement

Our organization provides leadership, advocacy and resources to enhance the lives of the children of Broward County and empower them to become responsible, productive adults.

Stay Connected

Find A Program That Fits Your Needs

Other CSC-Funded Community Initiatives
2-1-1 Broward General Hotline | 2-1-1 Broward

2-1-1 Broward, an information & referral line, provides a 24-hour, comprehensive help line and support service for individuals seeking crisis intervention assistance and/or information and referrals to health and human services in Broward County. An impressive database of information is used to provide community callers with current, relevant information regarding a wide variety of services within the community. All calls are toll-free, confidential and anonymous from anywhere in Broward County.

Other CSC-Funded Community Initiatives
2-1-1 Broward Special Needs and Behavioral Health | 2-1-1 Broward

The 2-1-1 Hotline is Broward’s single source for information and referrals for children with behavioral health needs and disabilities. The hotline’s specialized staff focuses on helping parents, caregivers, agencies, and medical practitioners who serve the needs of children, find programming, support and hope. A case management component is also available for families in need of assistance accessing and navigating the special needs and behavioral health system of care.

Capacity Building
Capacity Building Mini Grants | Children's Services Council of Broward County

Infrastructure building support is provided to local child and family serving nonprofit organizations through our annual Capacity Buildings Mini Grants. Through a competitive grant process, local organizations are awarded funding for capacity building projects, professional business coaching and or fundraising support each year.
Primary POC: Adamma DuCille |

Other CSC-Funded Community Initiatives
Community Builders| Children's Services Council of Broward County

Improving Lives Through Collective Impact through the Broward County Children’s Strategic Plan

Health & Safety Initiatives
Cribs for Kids | Broward Healthy Start Coalition, Inc.

In 2003, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published a report that estimated that the risk of infant suffocation increases 20-fold when infants and adults sleep in the same bed. In 2005, the AAP restated that co-sleeping is a growing concern and recommended that infants not share a bed during sleep.

Capacity Building
CSC Sponsored Trainings | Children's Services Council of Broward County

The CSC offers quality and affordable training workshops for professionals serving children and families in Broward County. Each session is led by instructors that are highly qualified and experienced in their field to provide an optimal learning environment. CEU’s are also offered for many of the completed courses. For a training calendar and to register, please visit our website at

Primary POC: Adamma DuCille |

Health & Safety Initiatives
Drowning Prevention | Florida Department of Health in Broward County

Drowning Prevention is a collaborative community effort driven by the Drowning Prevention Task Force. In 2009, the Children’s Services Council allocated funding to support a full-time coordinator housed at the Broward County Health Department who provides insight and accountability for the implementation of the Drowning Prevention Action Plan.

The Faces of CSC

The impact Future Prep had on Sarah fomented her desire to give back to her community. Today, she is a Counselor for Memorial’s CSC-funded Youth Force program, helping other young people gain confidence and determine their own path for the future.
This program has touched me and made a difference in my life.
Thanks to the Children’s Services Council and the YMCA of Broward County, students have an opportunity to give a voice to issues that are important to them.