New program shows how observing a baby's behavior can help boost mom's mood

BOSTON (KABC) -- There's no doubt new parenthood can be exhilarating, exhausting and stressful. It's not unusual for women to feel everything from the baby "blues" to the much more serious condition, postpartum depression.

Now researchers in Boston are working on a program that they say helps parents better understand their newborns, and it may also help reduce maternal depression.

Katelynn DeLaRosa recently gave birth to her son, Julian, but she's already a veteran. He's her third child.

"With my first, I was really nervous, worried about things. I'm more relaxed this time," she said.

She's also armed with new information. Doctors at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital, where Katelynn gave birth, use the newborn behavioral observation system.

"The focus was very much on who is this little boy or girl, how can we capture his personhood, who he really is," said Kevin Nugent, PhD.

Nugent is a child psychologist at the Brazelton Institute in Boston. Nugent and his colleagues at the world-renowned institute developed the NBO, which is a tool designed to help parents understand their babies and promote a positive relationship from the very beginning.

Clinicians and parents observe the newborns together to see, among other things, how babies respond to their new world. In one example, a pediatrician shakes a rattle over baby Julian, who is sleeping in his crib.

"What we did today was shake a rattle to be an on-purpose interruption," pediatrician Lise Johnson said.

Despite the noise, little Julian can protect his sleep. Research suggests that this strength-based approach can help reduce postpartum depression.

In a study of 106 moms, half participated in NBO, and the other half did not. One month later, the NBO moms were less depressed and more sensitive to their babies' cues.

Nugent suggests every behavior parents observe is a baby's attempt to communicate. He advises parents to trust themselves to learn and understand a baby's cues.

Now, the information from the NBO program is reaching other hospitals and clinics in Massachusetts, Ohio, California and Wisconsin.

Researchers are hopeful this program will help mothers and fathers better understand their newborn's behavior as well as reduce symptoms of post-partum depression and improve mood.
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