Scientists reveal the best way to calm a crying baby

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After being held and taken for a 5-minute walk, all of the babies in the study fell asleep.

According to scientists, the best way to calm a baby is to take him for a 5-minute walk.

The majority of parents have been frustrated by their babies’ excessive crying and refusal to sleep. According to recent research, holding them for five minutes and walking with them is the most effective method of calming them down. This evidence-based soothing method is detailed in an article recently published in Current biology.

“Many parents suffer from babies crying at night,” says corresponding author Kumi Kuroda of the RIKEN Center for Brain Science in Japan. “It’s such a big problem, especially for inexperienced parents, that can lead to parenting stress and even child abuse in a small number of cases,” she says.

Soothe crying baby

What action best soothes crying babies? Scientists now have an answer. Credit: Current Biology/Ohmura et al.

Kuroda and his colleagues studied the transport response, an innate reflex exhibited in many altricial mammals, including mice, dogs, monkeys and humans, whose offspring are immature and unable to care for themselves. They found that when these animals pick up their newborns and start walking, their young’s bodies become docile and their heart rates drop. The goal of Kuroda’s team was to compare the effects of the transport response – the relaxed response during transport – with those of other situations, such as immobile maternal holding or rocking. They also wanted to determine if the effects persist with longer wear in human infants.

Researchers looked at the reactions of 21 newborn babies when they were in four different situations: being carried by their walking mother, being held by their sitting mother, lying motionless in a crib, or sleeping in a rocking crib. . The research team found that after 30 seconds of the mother walking with the baby, the crying newborns’ heart rate decreased and they stopped crying. When babies were placed in a rocking cradle, a similar soothing effect occurred, but not when the mother held the baby seated or laid him in a stationary crib.

This suggests that holding a baby alone may be insufficient to quell infant crying, contradicting the traditional assumption that holding a baby reduces infant distress. At the same time, the movement has calming effects, probably activating the baby’s transport response. The effect was most evident when the holding and walking movements were continued for five minutes. All of the crying babies in the study stopped crying and almost half of them fell asleep.

But when mothers tried to put their sleeping babies to bed, more than a third of participants became alert again within 20 seconds. The team found that all babies produce physiological responses, including changes in heart rate, that can wake them up the second their body detaches from their mother. However, if infants slept longer before being put to bed, they were less likely to wake up during the process, the team found.

“Even as a mother of four children, I was very surprised to see the result. I thought that the awakening of a baby during a lie down was related to the way he was put on the bed, such as his posture or the smoothness of the movement,” Kuroda explains. “But our experiment did not support these general assumptions.” While the experiment only involved mothers, Kuroda expects the effects to be similar in anyone what a caregiver.

Based on their findings, the team proposes a method to soothe and promote sleep in crying infants. They recommend that parents hold crying babies and walk with them for five minutes, then sit and hold babies for another five to eight minutes before putting them to bed. The protocol, unlike other popular sleep training approaches such as letting infants cry until they fall asleep on their own, aims to provide an immediate solution to infant crying. Whether it can improve long-term infant sleep requires further research, Kuroda says.

“For many, we intuitively parent and listen to other people’s advice on parenting without testing the methods with rigorous science. But we need science to understand a baby’s behaviors because they are much more complex and diverse than we thought,” Kuroda says.

Reference: “A method to soothe and promote sleep in crying infants using the transport response” by Nami Ohmura, Lana Okuma, Anna Truzzi, Kazutaka Shinozuka, Atsuko Saito, Susumu Yokota, Andrea Bizzego, Eri Miyazawa, Masaki Shimizu , Gianluca Esposito and Kumi O. Kuroda, September 13, 2022, Current biology.
DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2022.08.041

The study was funded by the RIKEN Center for Brain Science and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.

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