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Keywords:

  • colic;
  • infant crying;
  • infant sleeping;
  • maternal depression;
  • paternal depression

Aims:  Infant sleeping and crying problems are common and impact adversely on maternal mental health but their impact on paternal mental health is unknown. A consistent approach to managing such problems has not been identified. Parents may be able to identify useful management strategies, which could then inform the content of a prevention/early intervention approach to such problems. We aimed to determine the impact of infant behaviour problems on maternal and paternal mental health and management strategies that parents find useful.

Methods: Design: Pre–post intervention pilot. Setting: Paediatric outpatient clinic at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne. Participants: 71 mothers and 60 fathers of infants aged 2 weeks to 7 months recruited from July 2004 to April 2005. Main outcome measures: Pre and post questionnaires measuring maternal and paternal well-being (Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS)), parent report of infant behaviour problems, usefulness of consultation strategies.

Results:  Three weeks post consultation, fewer parents reported that their infant’s behaviour was still a problem (64% of mothers and 55% of fathers). Thirty per cent fewer mothers reported an EPDS score >12 (45% pre vs. 15% post clinic) while 11% fewer fathers reported an EPDS score >9 (30% pre vs. 19% post clinic). Most parents (80% or more) rated exclusion of medical causes and information about normal sleeping/crying as useful.

Conclusions:  Problem infant behaviours are associated with poor parental mental health. An intervention/prevention approach to infant behaviour problems should include fathers and contain information about normal infant sleeping and crying patterns and exclusion of medical causes.