A mothers stress can pass to her baby and increase crying and colic

A mothers stress can pass to her baby and increase crying and colic

A recent study has shown that a mother who is in an unhappy relationship can trigger her baby to be more upset. Many of the studies released around the health of mothers and babies seem to have a rather miserable angle towards the mother and baby and don’t offer much advice to help. So although I don’t have any advice on relationships I do have some advice to help crying babies affected by stress “picked up” from the parents. This stress can actually be passed in a number of ways besides relationship.

Some of the most “colicky” babies I have seen have had very stressed parents. Is the stress because of having a colicky baby or was the stress in the mother before the birth of their child and passed to the baby? Probably both in most cases but either way you have a viscous cycle that leads to a crying baby.

In another study researchers looked at “fear behaviour” in babies that were breast fed and formula fed. What is “fear behaviour”? I have no idea! But I’m thinking it involves excessive crying or colic and this illustrates well that there is science out there that can benefit mother and baby but it’s phrased in such a way as to make it useless for mother and baby!

What did the researchers find? Basically the more stressed a mother was, the more stress hormones in her mothers milk the more “fear” in the baby. This was not present in the formula fed babies. So a mother is passing her stress (via a hormone called cortisol) through her breast milk to her baby which then triggers stress in them too which equals crying.

What I find particularly interesting here (in my opinion) is that new mums don’t eat very well. In fact they don’t really eat at all as they are rushing around looking after their baby. When you don’t eat, your blood sugar crashes and your hormone system rescues you using cortisol. This is the stress hormone I have just mentioned and the study found that you pass this onto to your baby. So tip number one is to eat regularly. This will actually keep your own stress levels down.

More research shows that formula fed babies don’t escape the stress either. You know how you can walk into a room and just “sense” a bad atmosphere? Well babies can do this too. And really anyone that has been around babies knows this without a shadow of a doubt. Some more researchers took two groups of mums and put them to different tests. Each group gave a presentation to a panel of people. One group got praised and felt good about themselves, another group received no praise. The mums then got put into a room with their own baby. Guess what? The babies of the stressed mums cried more! They weren’t being breast fed, they just picked up on their mums tension and stress.

If your baby is crying more from a stressful environment these are the recommendations I give the parents that come into to see me.

Firstly, as mentioned I ask the mum about her own diet and primarily make sure she is eating regularly to keep her blood sugar stable. This might be best achieved by having three main meals and a snack in between to keep her fuelled for the busy day ahead looking after her new baby.

Secondly, try and have a tag team partner. Knowing that your baby is picking up on your own stress it will be good to pass them to a family member or friend when they are crying and you are getting hot and bothered. I’m sure you have seen this before too. You are having no success trying to settle them. You pass them to someone else and they calm immediately.

Thirdly, I very often use a baby probiotic, which is a friendly bacteria to settle the gut. It has been shown that stress can reduce the friendly gut bacteria in babies. And a decrease in this friendly gut bacteria can lead to colic and wind and a general upset tummy in a baby. So a top up of this is really beneficial to help calm your baby.

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