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Mothers’ reports of infant crying and soothing in a multicultural population
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Abstract

OBJECTIVES To investigate the prevalence of infant crying and maternal soothing techniques in relation to ethnic origin and other sociodemographic variables.

DESIGN A questionnaire survey among mothers of 2–3 month old infants registered at six child health clinics in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

SUBJECTS A questionnaire on sociodemographic characteristics and crying behaviour was completed for 1826 of 2180 (84%) infants invited with their parents to visit the child health clinics. A questionnaire on soothing techniques was also filled out at home for 1142 (63%) of these infants.

RESULTS Overall prevalences of “crying for three or more hours/24 hour day”, “crying a lot”, and “difficult to comfort” were 7.6%, 14.0%, and 10.3%, respectively. Problematic infant crying was reported by 20.3% of the mothers. Of these infants, only 14% met all three inclusion criteria. Problematic crying occurred less frequently among girls, second and later born children, Surinamese infants, and breast fed infants. Many mothers used soothing techniques that could affect their infant’s health negatively. Shaking, slapping, and putting the baby to sleep in a prone position were more common among non-Dutch (especially Turkish) mothers than among Dutch mothers. Poorly educated mothers slapped their baby more often than highly educated mothers.

CONCLUSIONS Mothers’ reports of infant crying and soothing varied sociodemographically. Much harm may be prevented by counselling parents (especially immigrants) on how and how not to respond to infant crying. Health education should start before the child’s birth, because certain soothing techniques could be fatal, even when practised for the first time.

  • Problematic infant crying was reported by 20.3% of mothers

  • Many mothers used soothing techniques that could affect their infant’s health negatively

  • Undesirable soothing techniques were more prevalent among immigrant mothers

  • Much harm might be prevented by counselling parents (especially immigrants) on how and how not to respond to infant crying

  • infant crying
  • soothing
  • ethnic origin

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