How Depression Harms Low-Income Moms And BabiesAnna North8/26/10 9:30amFiled to: Mind mattersDepressionDepressed momsLow-income depressionPovertyBabiesbreastfeedingmental healthTherapyshutterstocktweet87EditPromoteShare to KinjaToggle Conversation toolsGo to permalinkOver half of babies born in poverty have depressed moms, and these moms rarely get treatment — revealing yet again that one of the groups most in need of mental health services is least likely to receive them.AdvertisementAccording to Donna St. George of the Washington Post, researchers at the DC-based Urban Institute found that more than 50% of babies in poverty have a mom with some level of depression, and one in nine are born to severely depressed moms (rates are lower, though still high, in the general population, with 41% of moms reporting some depression, and 7% suffering severely). Low-income moms are also unlikely to get treatment — only 30% of those with severe depression had talked to a therapist in the year the study was done. Unsurprisingly, this has an impact on babies — for instance, depressed moms are less likely to breastfeed. Says study co-author Olivia Golden,A mom who is too sad to get up in the morning won't be able to take care of all of her child's practical needs. If she is not able to take joy in her child, talk baby talk, play with the child - those are features of parenting that brain development research has told us contribute to babies' and toddlers' successful development.Given all the ways poverty makes parenting harder in this country, it's no surprise that low-income moms are more likely to be depressed. But in addition to harming moms themselves, the illness may also perpetuate the cycle of poverty — babies who don't get the stimulation they need in early life may struggle in school and jobs later on. And mental problems can sometimes have even worse consequences — it's possible that if unemployed mom Shaquan Duley had received therapy, she might not have resorted to drowning her children. Depression sometimes gets a bad rap in this country, with people complaining about overdiagnosis and overprescription of drugs — but this study bears out the suggestion (made by Judith Warner and others) that among some groups, depression is still undertreated. And these groups may have the fewest resources, and need treatment the most.