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Maternal responses to neonatal crying Dunn, Pauline


This descriptive study investigated mothers' perceptions of and responses to neonatal crying behavior for the purpose of providing more relevant and effective nursing care to mothers with young infants. With the guidance of an interactive framework, quantitative and qualitative data were collected at three different time periods in the first postpartum month from 19 primiparous women who delivered healthy full term infants. Findings indicated that on the third postpartum day neonatal crying behavior was not an anticipated caregiving concern for any of the mothers. By the fourth postpartum week, however, 9 of the 19 mothers rated crying as a concern and had recorded significantly more crying behavior than the 10 mothers for whom crying was of little or no concern. Data revealed that the infants whose crying was of less concern were more content, consistently consolable, gave clearer cues regarding distress and comfort and had more easily definable and more compatible behavioral patterns than the infants whose crying was a concern. Mothers with little or no concern about their infant's crying differed from those with concerns in that they expected more crying behavior, perceived crying more positively, and were more prompt in their response to signs of distress. There were also statistically significant differences in that mothers with little or no concerns about crying were less concerned about spoiling their infant and experienced neonatal crying as a less negative influence on their feelings of maternal confidence. As a total group, the mothers' interpretations and responses to neonatal crying behavior were empiric and reflective of little academic or experiential preparation for understanding and managing neonatal crying. Mothers' expectations and health professionals' responses support a societal belief that mothering is intuitive, instinctive and to be learned "on the job." Findings indicate that the perinatal nurse needs to anticipate neonatal crying as a caregiving concern of mothers with young infants and must know and utilize current theory associated with infant crying and maternal-infant interaction. The nurse must participate in the generation and subsequent promotion of innovative nursing interventions to decrease mothers' concerns about and increase their management of neonatal crying behavior.

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