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Med J Aust. 2010 Nov 1;193(9):533-6.

The unsettled baby: crying out for an integrated, multidisciplinary primary care approach.

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Gladstone Road Medical Centre, Brisbane, QLD, Australia.


Unsettled behaviour in the first few months of life is a common clinical problem, with the associated risks of postnatal depression, premature cessation of breastfeeding, long-term psychological disturbance, and child abuse. Parents of new babies complain of difficulty accessing appropriate care and receiving conflicting advice. Although organic disturbance is implicated in only 5% of cases, gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, food allergies and lactose intolerance are often mistakenly diagnosed in unsettled babies. There is no evidence that acid-suppressive medications help in treating unsettled behaviour and, until the hypothesis that proton-pump inhibitors may predispose to food allergies has been properly investigated, treatment with acid-suppressive medications should be avoided in this population. Although unsettled behaviour in infants is commonly a transient neurodevelopmental phenomenon that peaks at 6 weeks of age, failure to diagnose other correctable problems, including breastfeeding difficulty and cows milk allergy, risks entrenching anxiety and disrupted mother-infant interactions in the long term. In the current climate of health system reform, the design and evaluation of an integrated, evidence-based, multidisciplinary primary care approach to management of unsettled babies and their mothers is a priority.

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