The joy of parenting: infant sleep intervention to improve maternal emotional well-being and infant sleep

Singapore Med J. 2017 Jan;58(1):50-54. doi: 10.11622/smedj.2016046. Epub 2016 Feb 26.


Introduction: This study aimed to examine how improving infant sleep impacted the emotional well-being of mothers.

Methods: The participants were 80 mothers of infants aged 6-12 months; they attended a primary care medical clinic in Adelaide, Australia, for assistance with infant sleep problems. Behavioural intervention consisted of a 45-minute consultation, where verbal and written information describing sleep physiology and strategies to improve infant sleep was provided. Mothers were followed up 2-6 weeks later. Mothers rated their confidence (C), pleasure (P) and frustration (F) on a scale from 0 to 10, and completed the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale 21 at each consultation. The number of night-time awakenings and time taken to see an improvement in infant sleep were also reported.

Results: There was a significant increase in the C and P scores, and a significant decrease in the F scores (all p < 0.001). The mean total CPF score increased significantly from 14 to 25 (maximum score = 30). There was also a significant decrease in depression, anxiety and stress in the mothers (all p < 0.001). The mean number of maximum night awakenings also decreased significantly, from 4.9 to 0.5 (p < 0.001). The mean time taken to see improved infant sleep, as reported by the mothers, was 2.8 nights.

Conclusion: A single consultation using a behavioural strategy to improve infant sleep was effective in improving infant sleep and in increasing maternal emotional well-being. In particular, the scores for 'pleasure in being a mother' increased dramatically.

Keywords: behaviour modification; infant sleep; maternal well-being; postnatal depression.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Australia
  • Depression, Postpartum / etiology
  • Depression, Postpartum / prevention & control
  • Depression, Postpartum / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Care / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / complications*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / prevention & control*