How you hold your baby may say a lot about your mental state, British researchers said on Wednesday.
Their study found that mothers who cradled their babies in the right arm showed signs of stress and could be at higher risk of depression, said Nadja Reissland, a developmental psychologist at Durham University who led the research.
But why this might be is a mystery, said the researchers, who published the study in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.
“What it shows is mothers who cradle to the right might be stressed,” Reissland said in a telephone interview. “There is no explanation of why.”
Reissland’s team asked 79 new mothers to pick up and cradle their babies while at home and then complete a survey quizzing them on their mental state.
They found that of the mothers who showed no signs of stress or depression, 86 percent preferred to hold their babies to the left. Cradling to the right was more prominent among stressed mothers with 32 percent of them showing this bias.
“You get a significant difference,” said Reissland who noted that there was no link between cradling position and whether a person was right- or left-handed.
The findings were not absolute and do not mean mothers are stressed if they are cradling their babies to the right, she said.
But they do represent another sign people can look for to help identify stressed mothers who may be at risk of depression, Reissland said.
“Stress is an indicator of depression and this could help people see potential signs,” she said.