Mum’s the word when it comes to compassion

27 Feb 2019

mother pushing child in strollerA clinical psychologist who personally experienced ‘mum-shaming’ is leading a study aimed at addressing the effects of self-criticism among new mothers.

University of Queensland researchers are examining how the mother-infant bond might be affected by both shaming and compassion.

UQ School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences PhD candidate Julia Caldwell said shame and self-criticism were linked to mothers not seeking help when they needed it.

“Becoming pregnant and having a baby should be a happy time, but mums can be enormously self-critical, making the transition to parenthood difficult,” she said.

“There is also a lot of mum-shaming in our culture where mums can be criticised for their parenting choices or their baby's behaviour.

“This shame can worsen existing distress, such as stress, anxiety or depression, and reduce mothers’ tendency to seek help in the early postnatal period.”

Ms Caldwell was inspired to undertake the research after experiencing mum-shaming.

“My daughter had difficulties with breastfeeding and sleeping through the night,” she said.

“I was given a lot of well-intentioned advice that didn’t feel right but I felt obligated to follow it.

“When the advice didn’t work for us, I felt responsible, and it really took the wind out of my sails as a new mum.”

Ms Caldwell and her research team are looking to recruit women aged 18 years or over who are in their third trimester of pregnancy (28+ weeks) for the study.

Participants will complete three online surveys – during pregnancy, and then three and six months after giving birth – and will go into the draw to win one of 10 $20 gift vouchers.

There are two additional optional components of the study – an interview when baby is three-months-old, and an observation of mother and child interacting when baby is six-months-old –undertaken via online video conferencing.

All participants in the additional components of the study will receive a $20 gift voucher. Interested participants should visit the website to register.

Ms Caldwell is collaborating with Professor Pamela Meredith, Dr Koa Whittingham and Professor Jenny Ziviani on the study.

The data collected will help in the development of treatment methods such as compassion-focused therapy for mums.

Media: Dani Nash, UQ Communications,, +61 7 3346 3035, @UQhealth.