Mother-infant interaction in mother and baby unit patients: before and after treatment

J Psychiatr Res. 2013 Sep;47(9):1192-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2013.05.012. Epub 2013 Jun 17.


Maternal severe mental illness (SMI) disrupts mother-infant interaction in the immediate postpartum and is associated with less than optimal offspring development. In-patient mother and baby units (MBUs) provide the opportunity of supporting mothers with SMI in developing their relationships with their infants in order to minimise this disruption. One way is through an individualised video feedback intervention, delivered as part of a multidisciplinary inpatient treatment package. The present study prospectively measured changes in mother-infant interaction following video feedback intervention, during admission to an MBU (N = 49). Comparisons were made with mother-infant interactions of (1) a community-based ill group of mothers (N = 67) with a mental health diagnosis of similar severity, living at home and without the intervention and (2) a group of healthy mothers (N = 22). Maternal sensitivity and unresponsiveness, and infant cooperativeness and passiveness, were measured from a 3-min videotaped play session, using the CARE-Index. Following admission and the video feedback intervention, the MBU mothers (irrespective of diagnosis) and their infants showed improvements in their interactions. Moreover, on discharge the MBU dyads were significantly more sensitive, cooperative and responsive than the community ill group, and as attuned as the healthy group. While the design of the study does not allow us to conclude unequivocally that the video feedback intervention has effects on the outcome for the mothers and babies independent from the whole inpatient therapeutic package, the results do show that the dyadic interaction of mothers with SMI and their infants improves following the focussed treatment package in a specialised MBU.

Keywords: MBU; Mother and baby unit; Mother–infant interaction; Severe mental illness; Video-feedback.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Biofeedback, Psychology / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Behavior* / physiology
  • Infant Behavior* / psychology
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Inpatients
  • Male
  • Maternal Behavior
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Mental Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Video Recording
  • Young Adult