Life with a New Baby: Stressors, Supports, and Maternal Experience


Address correspondence to: Karen F. Pridham, R.N., University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Nursing, 600 Highland Avenue, Madison, WI 53792.


The context in which mothers of new infants solve problems of infant care tasks includes day-to-day stressors and supports. Both may be a function of maternal experience in the form of parity or time since the infant's birth. Our short-term (90-day) longitudinal study explored the nature of the stressors and supports that mothers report in the infant's first three months, and examined their relationship to maternal experience. It was organized as six 15-day periods to explore change over time.

The stressors and supports recorded in the daily log that 62 mothers kept were coded in seven classes structured by the mothers' own language. In addition, they were coded using a second scheme as either existential (conditions, activities, or events of being) or social. Supports were almost equivalent in mean frequency to stressors throughout the 90 days. Four of the seven classes were more likely to be reported as stressors than supports. For both stressors and supports, the existential type was more frequent than the social type. Although overall, stressors and supports decreased significantly across the six periods, three support classes (activities/plans, behavior of self and others, and conditions) and three stressor classes (tasks/responsibilities, conditions, and events) did not change significantly. For all six periods, the relationship of stressors and supports, over all classes, was strong and positive.