Maristella Lucchini, Shambhavi Thakur, Liat Tikotzky, Natalie Barnett
Presented at 8th Annual Sleep & Research Symposium at Yale 2023
Welcoming a new baby can be a joyful event, but can also increase psychosocial stress and lead to health behavior changes. Returning to work can be a time of particular stress, due to the adaptation to a new work-life balance. Most research has focused on mothers, but in the last decade parental leave programs are extending to fathers. Recent findings suggest improvements in maternal mental health when fathers take parental leave, but limited research has focused on paternal mental health.
Assess levels of stress relative to return to work after parental leave among fathers and explore whether they are associated with stress relative to baby’s sleep, job flexibility (work from home vs no work from home) and age of the baby when father returns to work.
Fathers of 175 US infants aged 1-8 months (4.1±1.9 months) were recruited among Nanit users and were asked questions about parental leave and mental health. We calculated descriptive statistics on parental leave length and stress levels. Regressions quantified the association between stress returning to work and stress relative to baby’s sleep, job flexibility and baby’s age.
All fathers reported working full time, 60% with flexible job arrangements. 11% took no parental leave, 6% less than one week, 32% 1-4 weeks, 22% 5-8 weeks, 19% 9-12 weeks. Only 10% were not at all stressed about returning to work and 32% were very/extremely stressed (Figure 1). Similarly, only 12% of fathers were not stressed about their baby's sleep and 20% of fathers were very/extremely stressed (Figure 2). Stress relative to baby’s sleep was significantly associated with stress returning to work (β=0.4±0.08 p=0.0001), while flexibility and age of the baby were not.
Returning to work after parental leave is a time of great stress for fathers. Higher stress around baby’s sleep is associated with higher stress relative to returning back to work. Given the significant impact of stress on physical and mental health, we hypothesize that more support around management of infant sleep could improve physical and mental health outcomes for new fathers.
About the Researchers
The researchers included Maristella Lucchini, Shambhavi Thakur, Liat Tikotzky, and Natalie Barnett.
- Dr. Maristella Lucchini serves as Senior Clinical Researcher at Nanit. In her role, Maristella works to secure grant funding in collaboration with Nanit’s university research partners and supports the development of the company’s research collaborations around the world. Previously, Maristella served as an Assistant Research Scientist in the Division of Developmental Neuroscience, Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University Irving Medical Center where she led projects across several cohorts focusing on sleep health for pregnant and postpartum women and their children. Maristella’s research focused on underserved communities and sleep health disparities in the perinatal period. During her years as a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in the Department of Psychiatry, Maristella was selected to participate in the American Academy of Sleep Medicine Young Investigator Research Forum. She holds a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Politecnico di Milano.
- Shambhavi Thakur serves as Clinical Research Data Analyst at Nanit. She holds a Masters degree in Health Informatics and Life Sciences. She oversees the research collaborations with various universities and analyzes sleep data for internal as well as external studies.
- Dr. Liat Tikotzky is an Associate Professor at the Department of Psychology, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, in Israel. She was a visiting researcher at the department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford university from 2008 to 2010. Dr. Tikotzky is a licensed clinical psychologist, with specific training and expertise in infant, child, and parent sleep. Her research focuses generally on the relationships between parenting and sleep.
- Dr. Natalie Barnett serves as VP of Clinical Research at Nanit. Natalie initiated sleep research collaborations at Nanit and in her current role, Natalie oversees collaborations with researchers at hospitals and universities around the world who use the Nanit camera to better understand pediatric sleep and leads the internal sleep and development research programs at Nanit. Natalie holds a Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of New England in Australia and a Postgraduate Certificate in Pediatric Sleep Science from the University of Western Australia. Natalie was an Assistant Professor in the Neurogenetics Unit at NYU School of Medicine prior to joining Nanit. Natalie is also the voice of Nanit's science-backed, personalized sleep tips delivered to users throughout their baby's first few years.