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Germany

Cure For Crying Babies? Medical Help For Sleepless Parents In Munich

Babies cry, that’s normal. But what if your baby does not stop crying and drives you up the wall? For more than 25 years, a Munich-based medical department has helped parents cope with crying babies.

Don't hold back, baby.
Don't hold back, baby.
Christina Hertel

MUNICH – Marion Schmidt's baby Felix cried frequently, even after he was fed and changed. Schmidt, whose name has been changed, would get up 10 to 15 times a night to soothe her son, holding him for hours. One day she decided enough was enough and contacted the outpatient department of the KBO Child Centre in Munich that deals with crying babies. Felix, small and thin for his age, needed medical attention.

The mother and child were examined by a pediatrician. The session was filmed by a camera hidden behind a mirrored wall to analyze the behavior of Felix and Schmidt. During their three-week stay at the department, nurses showed Schmidt how to handle Felix when he cried without pause and trained Felix to not be alarmed when he was separated from his mother.

Offering this kind of coaching was considered revolutionary when the center's outpatient department was established in 1991. Since then, the department has dealt with about 7000 babies and their parents. Pediatricians, once skeptical, grew thankful for the department as even they felt helpless dealing with crying babies.

Although the department is an outpatient one, up to five mothers and their babies can be admitted as inpatients.

"This is the case when children are not gaining weight or the mother may suffer from postnatal depression and an outpatient treatment is not sufficient," said Margret Ziegler, head of KBO Child Centre. She said that sometimes mothers may feel threatened by their babies, thinking that they "want to annoy me." The result is anger, frustration and a damaged relationship.

Schmidt was never angry with her son because he didn't stop crying. But there are mothers who accidentally shake their babies to death when they don't stop crying. The outpatient department offers an emergency phone service that reassures mothers of crying babies that it is not their fault when their babies don't stop crying.

The KBO Child Centre outpatient department has a pediatrician and psychologist on call to help the mother examine her baby carefully and to ease her fear that there's something wrong with her child. They said that often enough, the crying phase only lasts about three months.

But Felix, at 10 months, hadn't stopped when he was brought in. He wasn't eating enough and was nearly two kilograms lighter than his ideal weight. The centre's pediatrician diagnosed Felix with lactose intolerance. At the end of Schmidt's three-week stay, Felix didn't need to be soothed by her at all times. He no longer needed constant physical contact, and began to sleep more soundly. Schmidt was happy. She said she's looking forward to going home. She stood outside Felix's room. Only silence could be heard.

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