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Pediatrics. 1994 Sep;94(3):322-32.

Excessive infant crying: a controlled study of mothers helping mothers.

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Behavioural Science Unit, University of London Institute of Child Health, UK.



To determine the efficacy of behavioral management counseling in the treatment of persistent, excessive infant crying (> 3 hours per day).


Two treatments, one no treatment control group. Infants were group-matched according to baseline fuss/cry levels, sociodemographic, and infant variables. Treatments were carried out sequentially by the same counselors.


Telephone counseling by volunteers (mothers) of CRY-SIS, a national support group for the parents of crying infants.


Sequential sample of 27 mother-infant pairs receiving treatment 1 (Tr1, empathy: talking through the problem), 21 receiving treatment 2 (Tr2, behavioral management: specific care taking suggestions) and 44 receiving no treatment (C, controls). Infants were between 1 to 5 months of age.


Mother-infant pairs had a pretreatment baseline assessment and a posttreatment follow-up (3 months after baseline) using 1-week diaries. Total fuss/cry duration reduced significantly more in the behavioral management group (by 51%) than the empathy group (37%) or the control group (35%). This was mainly due to significantly reduced evening fussing/crying in Tr2 (67%) compared with Tr1 (45%) and C (42%). No differences in total number of fuss/cry bouts/day were found. However, the number of fuss/cry bouts reduced significantly more in the evening in Tr2 (by 55%) compared with Tr1 (27%) and C (32%). Behavioral management mothers evaluated the same counselors as more sympathetic, knowledgeable, and understanding. Tr2 was also perceived by mothers to have helped them more in reducing the crying problem, coping with the infant, and improving the relationship with their infant than Tr1. No effects of treatment on infant difficult temperament were found.


Behavioral management was more effective in reducing fussing/crying than spending time with the mother talking through the problem or just waiting for spontaneous remission. Treatment by suitably but briefly trained lay counselors is an inexpensive and successful treatment option.

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