Picture: Mother with a baby 
Most mothers cradle their
babies to the left; © Hemera

As at least one in ten women develop post-natal depression, studying non-verbal cues such as baby cradling could potentially help doctors and health visitors identify which mothers are in need of extra professional support before it gets too late.

Experts say that stress in mums can lead to depression which can have a detrimental effect on their baby’s mental development and wellbeing. The study studied 79 new mothers and their babies, who were an average age of seven months. In their own homes, mothers were asked to pick up their babies and cradle them in their arm. They also completed a survey which quizzed them on their mental state. The research methodology established there was no link between cradling side and left or right handedness.

The study found that of the mothers who expressed no signs of stress or depression in the survey, 86 per cent preferred to hold their babies to the left. However, cradling babies to the right was more prominent amongst stressed mums with 32 per cent showing a right-sided bias.

Lead author Dr Nadja Reissland, a senior lecturer with Durham University’s Department of Psychology, explained why early detection of stress is vital: “Many mothers don’t realise they are suffering from stress, or don’t want to admit they are. The way they interact with their child is usually the best indicator of their inner mental state. Mums who are stressed often see what their baby does as negative so they may interpret their baby’s crying as being naughty, when in fact this is normal behaviour. These sorts of feelings can have a huge impact on the relationship between mother and baby and on the family as a whole. If this stress develops into depression, then the situation can be even worse.”

MEDICA.de; Source: Durham University