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Pioneering research launched at DMU to help parents with babies who cannot stop crying

Coping with a baby who cannot stop crying is a scenario almost every parent has had to cope with.

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Now a two-year study has been launched, to be based at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU), which will take the first steps towards developing routine NHS services that will be able to provide distressed parents with the support many of them desperately need.

Persistently crying babies can trigger maternal depression, poor parent-child relations, a premature end to breast-feeding, problems with long-term child development and, in a small number of cases, infant abuse in the form of shaken baby syndrome.

Yet there are no tried-and-tested NHS practices for supporting parents in managing the crying. Instead parents turn to popular books, magazines or websites which give conflicting advice.

A total of 16 partners who are working with DMU’s Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, including Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust, The National Childbirth Trust and the helpline charity Cry-sis, met at DMU today to mark the start of the project.

Professor Ian St James-Roberts, principal investigator, told the assembled partners that figures showed the estimated annual cost of persistently crying babies to the NHS, in the form of Health Visitor help and the use of other health services, was in the region of £66 million.

He also explained how recent investigations had shown only around five per cent of crying babies are found to be poorly. While ‘unsoothable’ babies, which can cause so much alarm for parents, usually stop persistent crying at about five months and grow and develop without any problems.

He stressed it was now time for research to look at what can be done for the parents.

The first year of study will look at developing a support package offering help through materials such as web pages and phone apps as well as special NHS staff training and one-to-one consultations offered to parents.

The second year of study will see how feasible it is to offer that level of support through the NHS.

Dr Rosemary Garratt, DMU Principal Lecturer in Midwifery, Nursing and the Midwifery Research Centre, said: “This study has the potential to have an impact on a lot of people which is so important. It is a prestigious study involving a lot of local partners that we have close relations with and that in itself is very exciting.”

Nicy Turney, a senior nurse professional for families, young people and children’s services at Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust, said: “It is such an important area for us, supporting parents with a persistently crying baby, and any research which helps us with that is going to be of enormous benfit to parents and their children.”

 Jan Bullen, chairwoman of the national helpline Cry-sis, has been offering telephone advice to parents for 30 years. She welcomed the research, adding: “The more people who are thinking about how to help parents the more beneficial it is going to be.

 “It is a challenge as every baby and parent is different and you cannot have one solution that fits all, but I welcome the idea of one-to-one consultations. In my experience, what most parents need is just someone to talk to.”

DMU’s Faculty of Health and Life Sciences is renowned for its excellence in nursing and midwifery training, with thousands of students going on to work within the NHS and health organisations around the world.

Parents who are dealing with a crying baby and need to talk to someone can call Cry-sis on 08451 228669.

Posted on Friday 14th November 2014

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