To describe infant sleep patterns and investigate relationships between infant sleep problems and maternal well-being in the community setting.


Cross-sectional community survey.


Maternal and Child Health Centers in 3 middle-class local government areas in Melbourne, Australia.


Mothers of infants 6 to 12 months of age.

Main Outcome Measures.

Maternal well-being (Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale) and infant sleep problems (standardized maternal questionnaire).


The survey was completed by 738 mothers (94% response rate), of whom 46% reported their infant's sleep as a problem. In the univariate analyses, sleep patterns characterizing a sleep problem included the infant sleeping in the parent's bed, being nursed to sleep, taking longer to fall asleep, waking more often and for longer periods overnight, and taking shorter naps. The same sleep patterns were associated with high depression scores and tended to increase as depression scores increased.

Because of positive skew, the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Score was analyzed in 3 categories (<10, 10–12, and >12) using validated cutoff scores from community and clinical studies. Fifteen percent of mothers scored above 12 on the depression scale, indicating probable clinical depression, and 18% scored between 10 and 12, indicating possible clinical depression. After adjusting for potential confounders and factors significant in the univariate analyses, maternal report of an infant sleep problem remained a significant predictor of a depression score >12 (odds ratio: 2.13; 95% confidence interval: 1.27,3.56) and >10 (odds ratio: 2.88; 95% confidence interval: 1.93,4.31). However, mothers reporting good sleep quality, despite an infant sleep problem, were not more likely to suffer depression.


Maternal report of infant sleep problems and depression symptoms are common in middle-class Australian communities. There is a strong association between the 2, even when known depression risk factors are taken into account. Maternal report of good sleep quality attenuates this relationship. Appropriate anticipatory guidance addressing infant sleep could potentially decrease maternal report of depressive symptoms.

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