SOURCE: Southwest Human Development

August 09, 2007 19:50 ET

Arizona Institute for Early Childhood Development Expands Birth to Five Helpline Through Innovative Fussy Baby Program

Institute Launches New Program to Empower Parents of 'Colicky' Babies

PHOENIX, AZ--(Marketwire - August 9, 2007) - The Arizona Institute for Early Childhood Development today announced the introduction of a new program designed to aid Arizona parents of babies who cry excessively. The Fussy Baby program, an affiliate of the Fussy Baby Network at Chicago's prestigious Erikson Institute, is an expansion of the organization's Birth to Five Helpline, which provides information and support for caregivers with questions about young children. The program will provide telephone and home visiting support to help families navigate challenges associated with hard to soothe infants.

"All babies cry. In fact, crying is the major means of communication in the first weeks and months of life. But, approximately one in five babies cries excessively. These babies are more irritable than other babies, and their families can face longer bouts of inconsolable crying. Their crying patterns, commonly called colic, may also include problems with feeding and sleeping, all of which add up to frustrated and exhausted parents urgently seeking answers," said Alison Steier, Ph.D., clinical director at the Arizona Institute for Early Childhood Development.

Steier added, "Parents of colicky babies often feel isolated. They are apt to receive advice, solicited and unsolicited, and often contradictory, from a number of outside sources, causing them to feel overwhelmed or unsure of how to best care for their child. The Fussy Baby team supports parents to effectively parent their child now and in the future. The message to parents is that they are not alone and that they have what it takes to meet their child's needs."

According to a study conducted by Erikson and the University of Chicago in a Pediatric Emergency Room, more than one-third of babies brought in with a primary complaint of crying were diagnosed with colic or "crying without a medical reason." Unfortunately, only five percent of these families received documented instructions on how to help with the crying, leaving many families continuing to feel helpless.

A subsequent focus group conducted in 2003 found that families whose babies have colic reported feeling a high degree of emotional stress and physical exhaustion; experienced isolation and criticism; searched constantly for answers and solutions to the crying; experienced a strain on their positive sense of self and view of their baby; and responded best to empathic listeners.

"Professionals at our new Fussy Baby program will join with parents in helping to develop a better understanding of their baby and his or her specific needs. The program has proven successful in providing counsel that helps parents achieve a greater level of parental confidence and satisfaction in parenting, and ultimately more contented babies," said Steier.

Erikson Institute Fussy Baby Network staff will provide planning, training and ongoing consultation for the Arizona program, which collaborates with several other programs across the United States. The goal of the program is to enhance the competence and confidence of parents and caregivers who experience the stress of excessive infant crying. Additionally, the program provides intervention services when other risk-factors are involved, such as adult mental health issues or developmental delays in the baby.

The program will augment the Arizona Institute's existing toll-free Birth to Five Helpline (1-877-705-KIDS), a free resource for parents and professionals to receive telephone consultations, referral information and individualized child development information. Callers to the Fussy Baby program will use the same phone number as the Helpline. In addition to telephone support for urgent concerns about their baby's behavior, a unique aspect of the program is that all callers in Maricopa County will be offered home visiting services, which can continue for up to one year, and may include consultation with other professionals. The Fussy Baby program has found that home visits allow staff to better assess the situation and communicate more effectively with families.

The Fussy Baby team of professionals will consist of an infant mental health clinician, a developmental pediatrician, a nurse and an occupational therapist.

"Thoughtful assessment of the problem and encouragement from calm, experienced and nonjudgmental professionals can help parents feel more effective. We can observe with them those things they are already doing, which may be obvious or subtle, that seem to be helpful to their baby and support them to build on those and also try new ideas and strategies that may bring their baby greater relief. We can help them find their way as parents," said Steier, "and the experience of finding your way through a difficult parenting situation is something you will have with you through all the years of parenting your child."

Results of an evaluation taking place at the Erikson Institute indicate that the program is having a very positive impact on families, showing decreases in maternal depression and parenting stress and increases in maternal self-efficacy, all of which have a critical impact on the baby and his or her ability to grow and thrive. The Arizona Institute's program will join in this evaluation effort.

"I had no idea my baby was telling me so many things even though she can't talk. Now that I know some of her cues and am responding to them, we're both happier. I'm actually enjoying being a mom the way people always told me I would," noted one mother who has used Fussy Baby program services.

The Institute is looking to increase funding from individual and corporate donations to continue efforts to improve early childhood development. For more information, please call 602-266-5976.

About the Arizona Institute for Early Childhood Development

As scientific research continued to confirm the importance of impacting children during their earliest years, Southwest Human Development, Arizona's largest provider of services for young children and families, founded the Arizona Institute for Early Childhood Development in 2004. The Institute was created with the mission to expand research-based early development programs to help children reach their full potential, and today focuses on three core areas: early literacy reading programs, infant mental health and the Birth to Five Helpline. For more information, call 602-266-5976 or visit www.swhd.org.

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