<p>Background: Caring for an excessively crying infant (ECI) can be stressful for mothers and fathers and is associated with mental and bonding problems. Hair cortisol offers a unique measure for the biological reaction of the body to stress over time. Methods: In this case-control study, scalp hair cortisol concentrations (HCC) were measured using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS) in 35 mothers and 23 fathers and their ECIs. The control group consisted of 64 mothers and 63 fathers of non-ECIs of similar age. Parental stress, depression, anxiety and bonding were assessed using validated questionnaires. Results: Mean HCC were significantly lower in mothers and fathers of ECIs (2.3 pg/mg, 95% CI 1.8–2.9 and 1.6 pg/mg, 95% CI 1.3–2.0) than that in control mothers and fathers (3.2 pg/mg, 95% CI 3.0–3.7 and 2.9 pg/mg, 95% CI 2.5–3.5). In the total group of parents and within the parents of ECIs, HCC were not associated with negative feelings. In the control group, HCC showed a positive association with stress and depression (r = 0.207, p = 0.020 and r = 0.221, p = 0.013). In infants, no differences were found in mean HCC between the ECI group and the control group. No associations were found between maternal and infant HCC, paternal and infant HCC and maternal and paternal HCC. Conclusion: Parents of ECIs showed significantly lower HCC than control parents, reflecting a diminished response of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. More research is needed to examine whether this decrease in response is pre-existing or caused by excessive infant crying.</p>

doi.org/10.3390/children8080662, hdl.handle.net/1765/136344
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

I (Ineke) Kruijff, Ellen Tromp, M.P. (Mijke) Lambregtse - van den Berg, Arine M. Vlieger, Marc A. Benninga, Y.B. (Yolanda) de Rijke, & E.L.T. (Erica) van den Akker. (2021). Parental stress and scalp hair Cortisol in excessively crying infants. Children, 8(8). doi:10.3390/children8080662