Mother’s Loss May Affect Infant

Losing a loved one may hurt your relationship with your baby

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) When a mother experiences a traumatic loss, her behavior toward and around her infant may interfere healthy development.  New research may offer moms and their babies help through a loss.

Recent research has shown that some mothers who have experienced a significant loss can become mentally distracted by their grief, and this distraction can affect her attachment to the infant. 

In a recent case study involving one mother and her infant, it was found that psychotherapy, or talk therapy, directed at the mother’s grief and her relationship with her new baby benefited both the mother and baby.

"Alert your doctor or OB/GYN to losses your family experiences."

Ritva H. Belt of the University of Tampere in Finland and colleagues noted that mothers in their clinic with substance abuse issues and recent trauma had difficulty with attachment to a new infant.

The researchers wanted to provide a detailed case study of a mother who was provided psychotherapy. They tracked the relationship of the mother with her infant before, during and after psychotherapy.

They found that when the mother was provided a safe environment to explore and resolve any trauma or loss experiences, as well as to talk about her new role as a mother, the infant was less likely to suffer the ill effects of the trauma or loss, like being afraid of the mother, role confusion, negative-intrusive behavior and withdrawal. 

These effects were measured by using attachment-derived testing methods throughout the stages of the case study.  

The mother-infant psychotherapy aimed to help the mother be in a clearer state of mind (and free of substance abuse), prevent destructive behavior and strengthen the mother’s emotional availability for the infant.

Because only one mother and her infant were included in this study, it is not clear if these results will be true for everyone. However, the researchers state that this type of detailed examination is not currently available.

More research in this area may find ways that psychotherapy directed specifically at the mother’s grief and mother-infant relationship can help both mother and infant.

This case study was published in May online ahead of print in Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry.  No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 24, 2012
Last Updated:
August 17, 2012