Research: This is the fastest way to calm a crying baby

Research: This is the fastest way to calm a crying baby
Research: This is the fastest way to calm a crying baby

Deep bags under the eyes are the order of the day for parents who have been up all night because the baby is crying. All kinds of things are often done to get the youngest family member to sleep. But now a new Italian-Japanese study shows what works best.

According to the new study, published in the journal Current Biologythis is the optimal method to calm the baby:

Pick up the baby and carry him or her quietly around the room for 5 minutes without stopping or suddenly changing direction. Don’t stand still either. Then sit down and hold the baby for another 5 to 8 minutes. By this time, the child has settled down and you can put him or her down again.

Different methods

Researchers arrived at this optimal strategy after studying different methods to calm crying babies. They filmed a series of situations in which parents hugged, carried their children around, gently rocked in a pram or simply laid them down. From these images, they could deduce what worked best.

‘Intense baby crying, especially in the middle of the night, appears to be one of the biggest causes of parental stress. The recommended method, which takes about 15 minutes to complete, is definitely something parents should try before they suspect something is wrong with the baby,” says Dr. Kumi Kuroda of the Riken Center for Brain Science in Saitama, Japan.

All babies stopped crying

The method was tested on 32 babies from zero to seven months and their birth mothers in Italy or Japan. And it turns out to work. In addition to using video images, the researchers fitted the babies with small heart monitors to measure their heart rates. They found that all the babies had stopped crying after being carried around for 5 minutes. Half of them had even fallen asleep.

Yet about a third of the babies woke up as soon as they were put back in their cots or cribs. The heart monitors showed that in some cases the baby’s heart rate increased to such an extent that the baby woke up when physical contact with the mother was lost. Putting the baby down more gently didn’t help. What made the difference was if the mother sat with the baby for 5 to 8 minutes after carrying it around, before putting him or her down.

Inspired by animal behavior

The inspiration comes from research into cats, mice and squirrels, which – just like humans – are helpless at birth. For example, research has shown that when mothers carry their offspring around, it has a calming and soothing effect. This is called the ‘transport response’. Because animals often move their young to eliminate imminent danger, this response may have evolved evolutionarily as a result of higher survival rates among the offspring.

Although the recommended method of soothing a baby works better than the other methods tested, the researchers emphasize that it should not be seen as a panacea for parents who suffer from sleepless nights.

“Babies can be awake for all sorts of reasons. For example, if the child has a stomachache, this method will hardly help. As a parent, you should definitely expect to sleep less than usual,” says Gianluca Esposito, a professor of developmental psychology at the University of Trent in Italy.

Nurse and health care provider Sine Ditlev Bihlet, who runs a sleep website and is an expert on children’s sleep, explains that research on young children’s sleep is sometimes conflicting.

‘One solution works for some, and something else works for others. This study is relatively small, but it is good that a concrete study shows that holding your baby in your arms and putting them to sleep can be effective. I find that the ‘transfer method’ – putting the baby to sleep and then putting it down – works for many. In fact, I often recommend it. But for other parents, it only works to teach the baby to fall asleep and then continue sleeping. Otherwise, the child will wake up after 30 or 45 minutes and you can start again,’ says Sine Ditlev Bihlet.

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Research fastest calm crying baby

PREV More people sick because of food from their own kitchen
NEXT New corona wave: ‘Animo with district nurse for vaccination’