Babies do not have a life history that makes them feel depressed or sad, but this does not mean that they will not experience depression. Although this has not been proven through empirical studies, many mental health experts do believe that, based on case studies and clinical experience, babies can and do become depressed. However, this is not common, and about a quarter of babies will experience depression symptoms.
According to experts, one of the main ways to identify depression in infants is their emotional vitality. To measure this, ask yourself the following questions:
- Does my baby appear withdrawn, perhaps staring into space often?
- Does my baby’s facial expression look sad (rarely smiles)?
- Does my baby express a series of energetic emotions?
- Is it difficult for your baby to socially interact with you?
- Is my baby quiet and gentle?
Although different babies naturally have different personalities and temperaments, if this behavior represents a change in the child’s normal behavior, it may be a sign of depression.
Surprisingly, crying is not necessarily a sign of infant depression. In fact, depressed babies may be labeled “good” because they don’t often cry or make a fuss.
There are many possible causes of infant depression. Like other types of childhood depression, genetics and brain chemistry can play a role in the emotional health of infants—and so can the mental health of parents or caregivers.
Since babies learn a lot about their emotions from those around them, if their parents suffer from depression, babies may have a greater chance of developing it. Babies in poor or abusive families are also at higher risk.
Although it is important to recognize the possible symptoms of depression, your baby showing some signs of depression does not necessarily mean that they are experiencing clinical depression.
according to Diagnostic classification of infant mental health and developmental disorders (DC: 0-3R), published in 2005 by a non-profit organization called Zero to Three, the following five conditions must be met to diagnose depression in infants:
- Emotions and behavior patterns must represent changes in the child’s typical situation.
- In a two-week period, depression or irritability must be present for most of the day.
- Depressive symptoms should occur in more than one activity and more than one relationship.
- These symptoms must cause the child to suffer, impair their function, and/or hinder their development.
- Symptoms must not be caused by general medical conditions, drugs, or environmental toxins.
If your child has these symptoms for only a few days, it is likely that they are only experiencing a brief period of restlessness related to your absence, which will soon pass as they adjust to your normal life.
If your baby is still having difficulties, you may wish to make an appointment with a parent-child psychotherapist or other mental health professional with experience working with young children.
Although medication and treatment will not be given to such a small child, a psychotherapist can work with you to help you better understand and meet your baby’s needs and make them feel safe in their environment. Music therapy and baby massage may also be viable options to help relieve any symptoms of depression.
Deciphering the emotions of babies is never easy, and conflating the possibility of depression can make things more difficult. After all, babies cannot express their mood or describe their feelings or what they are experiencing in words.
One of the best ways to cope as a parent or caregiver is to take steps to protect your mental health, including seeking help if you are still suffering from depression or coping with postpartum depression. If you want to know if you are experiencing postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety, please make an appointment with your obstetrician immediately. Can receive treatment.
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Taking care of your baby means taking care of their physical and emotional health. If you start early, you can make mental health a priority in your family and prevent depression from showing up as a more serious problem later in life.