Studies of the effects of postpartum depression (PPD) on infants link negative effects on social, emotional, cognitive and physical development (Field, 2010). Many studies rate prevalence of PPD between 20-40%. While all the contributing factors for this very common disorder are not completely known, we are finding therapies that help ameliorate the negative effects of maternal and paternal depression on children.
Pleasant touch is know to increase oxytocin and endorphins in the mother and child. Oxytocin is a major hormone related to bonding. A mother or father can intentionally increase the levels of this bonding hormone by using infant massage as a therapeutic technique. Infant massage proved valuable in two studies, one showing reduction of negative effects in the infants (Field ,Grizzle, Scafidi & Abrams, 1996) and another showing reduction of depressive symptoms in the mothers (Goldstein-Ferber, 2004).
I suggest that babywearing is a “pleasant touch” and as such can be beneficial to the mother and infant dealing with PPD.
Research done specifically on babywearing and PPD is lacking. We have many other scientific studies that we can draw hopeful conclusions from. Anecdotal evidence on the therapeutic effects of babywearing and depression is very easy to find. Babywearing International has a wonderful brochure on this subject. http://www.babywearinginternational.org/PPD%20brochure%20for%20email.pdf. The research cited there shows babywearing can reduce crying in infants by 43%, promote bonding (82% compared to 32% of the control group) and provide a parenting tool that allows the parent to be more socially involved and more easily complete daily tasks.
© Robyn Miller and Therapeutic Babywearing, 2014.