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Persistence of infant crying, sleeping and feeding problems: need for prevention
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  • Published on:
    Preventing infant regulation problems: considering the roles of biology and parenting
    • Fallon Cook, Postdoctoral fellow, infant regulation and child development researcher Murdoch Children’s Research Institute; Department of Paediatrics, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
    • Other Contributors:
      • Harriet Hiscock, Paediatrician and senior research fellow

    Infant sleeping, crying and feeding problems can be hugely concerning for parents. As Wolke points out,(1) a growing body of evidence points to a range of poor longer term outcomes for infants who experience persistent, severe, regulatory difficulties. Olsen and colleagues’ study(2) is important because it aims to help our understanding of the early factors that predict persistent regulatory difficulties. If we can identify these early risk factors, perhaps we can better focus our efforts to prevent these difficulties from arising.

    There have been several attempts to prevent infant sleeping and crying difficulties via parent education and support programs. Randomized controlled trials of these programs have reported small increases in infant sleep duration, increased likelihood of ‘sleeping through the night’,(3–5) reduced parent depressive symptoms, and less doubt about parenting ability at bedtime.(6) Parent education programs may modestly reduce infant sleep difficulties. Whether these infants are then less likely to develop complex regulatory problems that precede poor childhood outcomes, remains to be tested.

    We agree with Wolke’s assertion that ‘there is a major need to educate parents on how to support infants in regulatory adaptation.’ Parenting practices such as having a consistent bedtime routine, and encouraging independent settling, have been shown to improve infant sleep.(7) However, we must consider that some infants’ sleep difficulties may have...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.