Mother-to-Infant Bonding is Associated with Maternal Insomnia, Snoring, Cognitive Arousal, and Infant Sleep Problems and Colic

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Behavioral sleep medicine


Objective: Emerging evidence links maternal and infant sleep problems to impairments in the mother-to-infant bond, but the independence and directionality of these associations remain unclear. The present study characterized concurrent and prospective effects of maternal sleep disturbances and poor infant sleep on the mother-infant relationship. As common sequalae of problematic sleep, nocturnal cognitive hyperarousal and daytime sleepiness were investigated as facilitating mechanisms.

Participants: Sixty-seven pregnant women enrolled in a prospective study on maternal sleep.

Methods: Sociodemographic information and clinical symptoms were measured prenatally then weekly across the first two postpartum months. Women reported insomnia symptoms, sleep duration, snoring, daytime sleepiness, nocturnal cognitive arousal (broadly focused and perinatal-specific), perseverative thinking, depression, infant colic, infant sleep quality, and mother-infant relationship quality. Mixed effects models were conducted to test hypotheses.

Results: Prenatal snoring and weak maternal-fetal attachment augured poorer postpartum bonding. Poor infant sleep was associated with increased odds for maternal insomnia and short sleep. Impairments in the mother-to-infant bond were linked to maternal insomnia, nocturnal perinatal-focused rumination, daytime sleepiness, depression, and poor infant sleep. Postnatal insomnia predicted future decreases in mother-infant relationship quality, and nocturnal cognitive hyperarousal partially mediated this association.

Conclusions: Both maternal and infant sleep problems were associated with poorer mother-to-infant bonding, independent of the effects of maternal depression and infant colic. Perseverative thinking at night, particularly on infant-related concerns, was linked to impaired bonding, rejection and anger, and infant-focused anxiety. Improving maternal and infant sleep, and reducing maternal cognitive arousal, may improve the maternal-to-infant bond.

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ePub ahead of print

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