Assessing the Role of Infant Crying, Infant Sleep and Maternal Sleep on Postpartum Depression Amongst Mothers of Colicky Infants

Nkiruka Stephanie Ehiemere, The University of Texas School of Public Health


The aim of this pilot study was to assess the relationship between postpartum depression, maternal and infant sleep, colic, and demographic and behavioral characteristics. Mothers with colicky infants, as assessed by the mother, completed the Demographic and Behavioral Characteristic Questionnaire, and completed a Brief Symptom Inventory 18 (BSI-18) to assess for postpartum depression. The mothers were stratified using a permuted block method into intervention and control groups. Both groups received the American Academy of Pediatrics infant soothing recommendations, plus the intervention group received The Happiest Baby on the Block training. At the home visit, the actigraph, an instrument measuring sleep, and the dosimeter, an instrument measuring crying, were installed. After 3-7 days, the study instruments were retrieved and the post-intervention BSI-18 was completed. For the 25 mother-infant dyads, the association, at baseline, between the demographic and behavioral data and their postpartum depression diagnosis (positive score ≥13) was evaluated with Fisher’s Exact Test. Mothers who were over the age of 30 years, single, not breastfeeding, not living with the father of their infant, and had a previous diagnosis of depression were more likely to screen positive for postpartum depression. Due to attrition, 14 mother-infant dyads had a post-intervention BSI-18 score. The actigraph and dosimeter data for the 14 dyads were analyzed to assess the correlation between demographics and behavioral characteristics, sleep, colic, and the change in the BSI-18 scores pre and post-intervention. Wilcoxon signed rank test and Spearman correlation coefficient test were used. The average BSI-18 score decreased for both groups but there was a larger decrease in the post-intervention BSI-18 score for those in the intervention group when compared to the control group. Sleep efficiency and the infant crying rate were similar between the intervention and control groups. The results of this pilot study suggest the intervention was useful in reducing the prevalence of postpartum depression and a larger robust study would be worth considering. If done, researchers should determine how to keep the control group mothers engaged to prevent large attrition and improve upon the dosimeter methodology used in order to increase the amount of recorded crying.

Subject Area

Mental health|Public health

Recommended Citation

Ehiemere, Nkiruka Stephanie, "Assessing the Role of Infant Crying, Infant Sleep and Maternal Sleep on Postpartum Depression Amongst Mothers of Colicky Infants" (2018). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI10811572.