Deviant physiological reactivity to infant stimuli has been suggested to underlie maladaptive parenting behavior. Our study involved 44 maltreating and 42 non-maltreating mothers. During a standardized cry paradigm, mothers listened to nine cry sounds of varying pitches. Saliva was collected at baseline, after each cry sound, and after a recovery episode. Salivary α-amylase (sAA) as a marker of autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity was assayed from saliva samples. Maltreating mothers showed lower overall sAA levels and an attenuated reactivity pattern to infant crying as compared to non-maltreating mothers. No effect of type of maltreatment (neglect only vs. neglect and abuse) was found. Furthermore, positive correlations between sAA and heart rate (HR) for non-maltreating mothers differed significantly from non-significant correlations between sAA and HR for maltreating mothers. This suggests anomalous asynchrony between different aspects of the ANS in maltreating mothers. Results indicate a lack of functional autonomic (re)activity as a contributing risk factor to child maltreatment.