Can Baby Books Cause Postpartum Depression? Study Says Yes

Can popular baby books be linked to postnatal depression?

A new study from Swansea University, published by the Department of Public Health, Policy, and Social Sciences, says yes.

Researchers looked at the link between baby books and maternal anxiety — specifically books which encourage new mothers to put their babies on strict sleep and feeding schedules.

The study found the more mothers read these books, the worse they felt.

This is unsurprising, as attempting to “train” a baby and keep them on a forced schedule is the antithesis of what research shows is best for moms and babies.

Babies have a biological need to be fed, held, and nurtured. It is a survival mechanism. They recognize safety through the touch, smell, sound, and sight of their primary caregivers. It is developmentally normal for babies to need assistance getting to sleep, and gentle comfort is the best way to do that. It is unrealistic to expect a baby, or even a young child, to sleep on command without any help. Many babies sleep best when they are rocked, baby-worn, or breastfed to sleep. Similarly, young children often appreciate company while they drift off to sleep.

This does not create a dependent child.

Meeting a child’s needs creates a secure, healthy attachment and confidence in sleep which can help lower the incidence of bedtime battles. Children learn to approach sleep as a peaceful, healthy routine, rather than one which causes fear and dread.

Putting a baby on a strict sleeping and eating schedule causes unnecessary stress for parents and their children. It flies in the face of every maternal instinct we have, and it undermines the confidence of new parents. When we believe our baby should be sleeping through the night, or shouldn’t be nursing frequently, we are setting ourselves up for major disappointment. Babies need to be nurtured. Babies breastfeed frequently. All of these things are normal.

Those of us who have been involved in the attachment parenting community have long been aware of the bad, unnatural advice these parenting books give. Now we have evidence that this information is not only dangerous for babies, but for mothers too.

Related: 8 Things Attachment Parenting is NOT

Common baby books like What To Expect When You’re Expecting miss the mark by failing to provide evidence-based information. Books like the disaster known as Babywise have been denounced by the American Academy of Pediatrics for causing “failure to thrive, poor milk supply failure, and involuntary early weaning.”

Here are some baby books that promote evidence-based, gentle parenting.

The Attachment Parenting Book

The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two

The Attachment Connection: Parenting a Secure and Confident Child Using the Science of Attachment Theory

The Fussy Baby Book: Parenting Your High-Need Child From Birth to Age Five

The Happiest Baby on the Block 

The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding

Image credit: Kenny Louie


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