Winter and the holidays are particularly a difficult time of the year for many people, including babies. But really, babies have a lot on their plate. When they are born, they have to get used to living in a totally open and cool environment compared to the womb of their mother where they were happily encased in water, warmth, and love. They also have to adjust to depending one hundred percent on another human being to live, breathe, and grow. As they get older, they will gradually learn independence, and become self-sufficient, but this takes time and effort.
Being a human being is hard work. It's hard on all of us, but for babies, depending on the stress of their birth experience, their nervous system, and the time of the year, this will all affect them in some way. We tend to think that babies don’t understand what is happening around them, but they do. They take in the stress, the ambiance, and many other elements and this will affect them. They also will feed off of the nervous energy of their caregivers -so if Mom and Dad is nervous, baby will be too. This is why it's of utmost importance that first time parents or even veteran parents take care of their own emotional issues so as to be better able to help and be there for baby.
Depression does not usually show up in babies younger than eighteen months, but can sometimes as young as six months old. Babies who do develop depression or are possible targets to develop it due to genetics or environment, will show signs at some point. Prior to that they may just seem like quiet children who like to play alone. So, what are the signs parents can look for to see if their baby needs help? Here are 15 signs the baby is depressed:
15 Seems To Blend In With The Room
Mom thinks this type of child is easy-going and relaxed. She can be in a room by herself or with company, and she will see baby if she looks around, but does not hear him/her making noise. This kind of child also does not try and get her attention. This type of baby seems to blend in with the room. This is not good. Babies who don’t try and catch parents’ attention in some way either by crying, laughing, or acting up, are not feeling like themselves and may not be well and up to socializing. If this happens once in a while, that's fine. If this happens on a regular basis, then baby could be depressed. A baby needs to be curious, moving out and about, and causing some ruckus. If not, there could be other issues involved. Mom should closely monitor him/her to rule anything out for sure.
14 Baby Withdraws From Strangers
The baby that actively withdraws from relatives and friends in the room or in a public place on a regular basis is a worrisome thing. Now, once in a while it is understandable if baby wants space. He/she could be tired, not feeling well, or overwhelmed. But if they are overwhelmed often and pushing people away on a regular basis, this is troubling and worrisome. This is when parents have to look at the fact it may be more than a passing phase for baby. If they are having trouble relating to people due to feeling stressed, this is one of the few ways that they can cope - by pulling away. It's their physical escape. Parents at this point need to address this with the pediatrician and they may recommend further testing to rule out any physical issues as well. It's better safe than sorry, so parents must trust their gut.
13 Pulls Away From Parents Or Main Caregivers
A sure sign of a baby who is depressed or who may have other neurological issues or problems, is one who continuously pulls away from parents or caregivers who should be their first point of reference. Sometimes baby’s depression is due to a caregiver’s own depression. They have both the genetic susceptibility to being depressed as well as the physical environmental influence if Mom or Dad also have mental health issues that are not being taken care of. In this case, the best thing they can do for baby, is to get help themselves for their own mental health issues to rebuild that bond and trust with the baby. Babies as young as six months old can sense depression and pull away. While the parent or caregiver with mental health issues gets care, another reliable caregiver or other parent needs to take over with baby to rebuild their trust in that caregiver bond.
This is seen a lot in children who are feeling down. They don’t want to play with their siblings, or other children or individuals. Yes, some babies and kids are loners or introverts by nature, but be suspicious if a child NEVER wants to interact with others. This could also be a sign of a developmental delay like autism, where children often prefer their own company due to the unpredictability of other people, and various other challenges and delays like misunderstanding or poorly developed social skills. Children who feel depressed or overwhelmed are like depressed adults. They often don't know how to regulate their emotions and stress levels and need to be helped by those around them. They may eventually need medication, but to start, they require a caring and healthy caregiver who tends to their needs and helps them work through their feelings. If babies have parents doing “play therapy” and gradually re-introduce them to social interactions and how fun it can be, they are well on their way for more positive social interactions.
11 Difficulty Soothing When Upset
Of course being upset is normal for all of us, and babies take time to calm down. It's when they take long amounts of time to calm down and the crying becomes hysterical or turns into rages, that parents need to sit up and take notice. The baby that takes a long time to soothe when upset should set off alarm bells for all parents, particularly if baby doesn't seem to be able to do anything to settle on their own and needs constant guidance, affection and support from caregivers. Self-regulation is something that gradually needs to be shown to babies as they grow. If parents see they are not catching on, they need to seek outside help to learn the skills necessary to teach their child resiliency. The difficulty in self-soothing can be learned helplessness from parents who responded with too much attention or not enough if they were upset and, once again, can indicate a potential developmental delay. In such a case, babies will need medical help and support from parents to learn these skills.
10 Does Not Play Easily
Babies who do not play easily or appropriately with toys, also are a red flag for parents and professionals. It's similar to adults who are depressed. They can’t learn or enjoy anything in their environment if all their body is doing is trying to survive each day intact. Babies who are depressed are vulnerable and in self-defense mode. They have difficulty grasping how toys work, what to play, and even the fun of playing. Eating, sleeping and interacting with their caregivers and others in their environment is hectic enough for their stressed bodies to deal with, much less taking an interest in toys and how to use them. It's too much for their little brains to take in, so often they tune out as all the information coming at them is overwhelming. When they do this, they appear to be uninterested. Really, it's simply an overextended child that does not know where to turn.
9 Does Not Cry During Or After Traumatic Experience
This is a clear giveaway for parents. If after a bad fall, injury or something worse, God forbid, baby does not utter a peep, parents get them evaluated. This is not a healthy response. The first thing the doctor does after baby is born is test their reflexes by using an instrument and running it softly on the balls of their feet. If the baby does not react to that, more tests are performed to see what could be done to help him/her and what could be wrong. With a fall or other injury or psychological stress or disturbance, more needs to be done to see why baby is not reacting. It could be a temporary depression, an illness, or a developmental delay like autism where pain is experienced differently due to a sensory system that does not feel things the same way. Regardless, parents need to have baby evaluated and look at how best to help them express happiness and pain in proper and healthy ways.
8 Does Not Smile Or Laugh Much
A baby that doesn't laugh or smile a lot is not a happy baby. It's the same with adults. Yes, there are some individuals who are more serious than others or more introverted, but we would still occasionally see laughter, ease, and silliness come out. If it's not apparent, it means that they're not feeling like themselves and need help to feel good and positive. Most of us have many things to be grateful for, whatever age we are. For babies, who can’t count their blessings in the way an adult can, they need to be around positive caregivers who model happiness, joy and stress-free living. By observing and imitating, they will learn how to turn on the positive side of their brain and downplay anything negative. The wiring of the brain is highly malleable when young. This is the time to work with children so that they reprogram their brain to think positively.
7 No Excitement About Exploring Their Surroundings
Excitement, risk taking and exploration of potential dangers are all hallmarks of a healthy and happy baby. The ones who sit on the sidelines afraid to venture out, show no interest in climbing up on chairs, furniture etc. are not wonderfully well-behaved babies as it appears. Unfortunately, they could be avoiding these kinds of activities due to stress of falling, lack of interest or just being unaware as they are so wrapped up in negative feelings they can't think straight. Parents and caregivers can try and engage baby to take some creative risks and see what happens. If they are met with resistance, tears or stress, they need to seek help for their little ones to rule out a psychological issue. The sooner parents or caregivers address this, the better and happier everyone will be. Babies will start getting the intervention they need, and parents know that if there is a genetic component to the depression, they are doing their best to address it as quickly as possible.
6 Passivity And Quiet
Just like passive and quiet adults can signal depression, the same is said of babies who are overly quiet and passive. They don't care to play or interact or be picked because they feel separate from the world and other people due to their stress levels being over stimulated. They're feeling down and overwhelmed, so like a lot of adults, will disconnect from people and from touch so that they don’t feel pain anymore. The longer the baby does this to escape facing pain and discomfort, the harder it will be for them to learn to be well-adjusted and happy children and later, happy adults. Again, this is where parents, particularly if one or both are depressed, need to learn to manage their own feelings before being able to help their children. Once they have the skills down themselves, they can slowly start to work with their baby and teach them what to do.
5 Underweight And Feeding Problems
Lots of people who are depressed lose their appetite. The same thing happens with babies. Here, little ones are closely monitored by their pediatricians for any strange eating patterns, and given the chance to learn how to become calm and relaxed so that healthy eating can begin again. Obviously with a baby, it's not the same as with an adult who can be taught mantras, use medication, and do other things to help with depression. Babies would need possible intravenous or extra formula to help them grow and thrive, but as long as caregivers and medical professionals closely watch them, they stand a great chance of growth and moving towards an inner peace and happiness. Parents and caregivers need to take weight very seriously as it will affect the rest of the baby’s development as they grow. Parents want them to thrive in whatever way possible.
4 Failure To Reach Milestones
If baby is not reaching milestones on time like sitting up, crawling, walking or talking, this could also be due to depression or feeling overwhelmed. There is no way that babies can learn, perform or advance if they feel that they can barely keep up with the art of daily living, eating, napping and playing. Babies will fail to reach those milestones and progress if they don't have the proper support in place to help them learn to be calm and happy. Physical or other mental issues could also be at work here, so it's important that Mom and Dad rule out anything out of the ordinary before they decide what kind of help baby needs to get better. If it's a different way of teaching, a different medical professional or perhaps a new way to approach them when stressed, parents need to be able to take a chance and do what they feel could work best to help their child.
3 Does Not Express Full Range Of Emotions Regularly
All of us experience happiness, sadness, laughter and anger. This goes for adults and babies. If a human being is not able to do this, something else is going on. There are emotional issues that the individual is not dealing with - extreme sadness or pain. Once again, if parents see their baby struggling with these emotions, or not being able to express emotions at all or minimally, this is when they need to get a child psychotherapist on board who can help them see how to interact with their child. The baby needs to learn how to fully experience growth, happiness, and health again. If this has only been going on a short while, it could be due to a sudden change in the family situation. If this has been happening on a regular basis however, outside help and new strategies are definitively needed. Baby needs to learn to express and feel all kinds of emotions in order to feel completely healthy.
2 Does Not Sleep Well
Then, of course there is sleep, or lack of sleep if one prefers. This is a sure benchmark to problems with depression in most cases to people of all ages. When sleep is interrupted on a regular basis, not just due to sickness or other temporary changes in the household, this could signify a more intense problem with emotional regulation and how to control it. Babies can't be taught as adults, but they can be shown how to gradually learn to turn off their brain to sad or stressful thoughts, and how to learn to feel happy or peaceful thoughts in their place. Sleep will also make everything else easier to handle for little ones and their parents, so it's important parents teach them self-soothing techniques as well as reassure baby that they're there to help them and love them always. A steady and loving parent or parents is what little ones need.
1 Developmental Delays
Finally, a developmental delay can also cause feelings of depression or anxiety in children. Babies who have autism, down-syndrome, an intellectual disability or any other type of challenge, are dealing with more emotional stuff than the average baby. They have to handle and regulate themselves with a very different nervous system that does not process information and stimuli in the same way as a neuro typical child’s body does. It's hard for all babies, but these little guys and girls have that extra challenge and need more support in learning to regulate and handle their emotions. As long as parents and medical personnel are on board, these little ones can have just as much success as their neuro typical peers and can learn how to deal with their emotions in a positive way. The important thing is to get in early to help them, and make sure they know you love them by giving lots of hugs and attention, which parents do for all children. Teaching will go over in a more positive way in this regard.
So those are the 15 signs the baby is depressed. Parents need not beat themselves up if they notice any of these signs. They are doing the best they can for their child. The important thing to remember is just to continue to seek help, so that they and their baby can be as happy and healthy as possible.