How do mothers with unsettled babies feel their baby’s crying has impacted their developing relationship with their baby?

Ms Melainie Mckay1

1The Royal Children’s Hospital, Parkville, Australia



1.Explore how mothers with unsettled babies feel about their baby and themselves as mothers.

2.Explore mothers’ understanding of infant-parent relationships.

3.Determine if/how mothers of unsettled babies feel unsettledness has impacted on the developing mother-baby relationship.

This qualitative study explored the impact of infant unsettledness on the mother-baby relationship from the mothers’ perspective. Ethics approval was sought through the Royal Children’s Hospital [RCH]. Mothers were recruited from the RCH Unsettled Babies Clinic and participated in semi structured, in-depth interviews to elicit responses about how they felt about their babies, themselves as mothers and if/how their baby’s crying had impacted the developing mother-infant relationship. Mothers with post-natal depression were excluded to manage risks associated with this population. Interviews were transcribed and analysed to identify broad themes in mothers’ experience.

This study is still in progress with final results available by the expected completion date of January 2019. Preliminary results indicate that while mothers reported negative impacts of excessive crying while the phenomena was occurring, they report few lasting relational impacts between themselves and their babies.

Significance to allied health:
Results from this project may assist allied health professionals seeing mothers and unsettled babies to think about clinical decision making such as:

1.When/how to provide information and education about the development and importance of infant-mother relationship, and the impact of unsettledness.

2.When to make specialist referrals for identified infant-parent relational difficulties.


I am a social worker at the Royal Children’s Hospital practicing in the neurology and Adolescent units. I am also undertaking a Master Of Mental Health Science degree through the University of Melbourne for which this research project is the final component. Prior to working at the RCH I have worked with children and families at the Children’s Protection Society and at the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency.