The evolution of the concept of depression in infancy (0-3 years) is relatively new and follows a path similar to the history of depression in adolescence, then in childhood, and in preschool years. Doctors predict that 1 in every 40 infants is suffering from depression. Depression is the most frequent psychiatric disorder and has long-term, compromising effects on the mother-infant relationship and the child’s development. The infant continuously faces a climate of negative affect that disrupts the interactive experience of the infant and the mother.
Today, doctors struggle with identifying the signs of infant depression and treatment. In infants and toddlers, signs of depression include lack of interaction with others, staring or averted gaze, lack of responsiveness, lack of interest in their environment, what might be called “sad” facial expressions, expressing little emotion, slow movement, feeding problems, sleeping problems, irritability, and attachment difficulties with parents or care givers.
However, not every depressed baby will display these symptoms, and rarely will all the symptoms be present. In addition, these symptoms could also point to other physical problems your pediatrician should explore. Doctors say, if the symptoms remain for at least three months, and no physical reason for them can be found, depression might be suspected. At that point, psychological testing may be obtained. The area of depression in infancy is relatively new territory, and not all pediatricians recognize it.
However, some experts on depression, including author and counselor Beth McHugh, say “it can be beneficial for both mother and infant to spend time apart for a part of each week, so that both may benefit from interacting with others. In the case of the seemingly depressed infant, this approach could be crucial to their subsequent social and emotional development. ” This is especially true if the mother is also depressed.
In addition to giving the child “space,” a counselor will try to pinpoint any non-chemical reasons your baby is depressed and try to resolve them. For example, if the mother is depressed, the counselor will encourage her to seek out treatment, or if there is unusual tension in the household, the counselor will try to help the family resolve it. In conclusion, although infant depression has been acknowledged not too long ago doctors have been able to identify its symptoms pretty easily.