Surviving Crying Study

Surviving Crying Study




The Surviving Crying Study is a first step in developing and evaluating routine NHS services to support parents who are distressed by their baby’s excessive crying.

Most parents have had to cope with a crying baby.  However, in early infancy, around 1 in 5 babies cry for prolonged periods without an apparent reason, including bouts of crying which are hard or impossible to soothe. This used to be known as ‘colic’ and attributed to indigestion pain.  Research has also shown that many babies have a crying peak at 1-2 months of age.  This crying peak and the ‘unsoothable’ crying bouts are thought to be linked to normal developmental processes.  Recent research has found that only 5-10% of infants taken to the doctor because of their crying are poorly.  Most infants who cry a lot are healthy and develop normally, and the prolonged ‘unsoothable’ crying bouts usually stop by around 5 months. 

Although most babies who cry a lot are well, the crying can result in considerable alarm and distress in parents. Many seek help from their Health Visitor, GP, or even their hospital A&E department.  Prolonged infant crying can trigger maternal depression, poor parent-child relationships, premature ending of breastfeeding, over-feeding, problems with long-term child development, and in a small number of cases infant abuse.

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 often give conflicting advice.  By developing and testing evidence-based resources, we hope to improve parents’ wellbeing, infant outcomes, and how NHS money is spent.

The Study 

Aim: To conduct a preliminary study to develop a novel intervention package designed to support parents of excessively crying babies and to examine the feasibility of delivering and evaluating it within the NHS.  The research is designed to estimate the feasibility and design parameters for future large-scale controlled trial of the intervention package’s effectiveness and cost-effectiveness. 

The study runs from November 2014 to October 2016 and has two stages:

Stage 1: Development of an Intervention Package

The aims of the first stage of the study were to review existing research and support materials for parents with crying babies, and work with parents and Health Visitors to develop a package of evidence-based resources suitable for NHS use.  This stage began in November 2014 and is now complete.  For a summary report on Stage 1, click here.

Stage 2: Feasibility Study of Package Implementation in the NHS 

The second stage of the study will provide provisional data on the effectiveness and cost of the package, and find out whether parents and Health Visitors consider it valuable and worthwhile.  It will also make recommendations about the package’s further evaluation and inclusion in the NHS, including whether and how a full-scale study of its effectiveness and cost might be carried out.  This stage began in November 2015 and will last for a year. 




The Research Team

The study is based at De Montfort University, Leicester and funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment Programme. 

The Research Team:

Principal Investigator: Professor Ian St James-Roberts, Emeritus Professor of Child Psychology, Thomas Coram Research Unit, UCL Institute of Education

Senior Research Fellows: Deborah Bamber, Dr Charlotte Powell, School of Nursing & Midwifery, De Montfort University

Research Assistant: Dr Jaqui Long, School of Nursing & Midwifery, De Montfort University

Research Consultant: Professor Jayne Brown, School of Nursing & Midwifery, De Montfort University

Study Partners:

The Surviving Crying Study involves a number of partners who bring particular expertise to this issue.  Most importantly, we are working closely with parents of babies who cried excessively, and with Health Visitors across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. 

Our partners are:

  • Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust
  • University College London
  • UCL Institute of Education
  • University of Leicester
  • Middlesex University
  • National Childbirth Trust (NCT)
  • Cry-Sis
  • Sally Rudge, Consultant Counselling Psychologist

Contact Us

If you would like to find out more about the research study and the findings so far, or would like to be kept informed of future reports and publications, please contact:

The Surviving Crying Team
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
Edith Murphy Building
De Montfort University
Leicester  LE1 5RR

E:   T: +44 (0)116 250 6518