Parents with a new baby are no strangers to nighttimes disrupted by crying. It can be quite a frustrating time for parents when their infants cry excessively and refuse to sleep. Although many parenting books and articles have outlined several ways to soothe crying infants, new research has proposed another method.
A study from the RIKEN Center for Brain Science (CBS) in Wako, Japan, published in the journal Current BiologyTrusted Source, has suggested the best way to stop a baby from crying without special gadgets or skills. Instead, researchers stated that parents should carry their baby while walking for 5 minutes, then hold them still for 5 to 8 minutes before laying them back down.
The researchers have been studying the transport response, an innate reaction seen in many altricial mammals, and in this study, they unraveled the complex infant responses to maternal holding and transport by combining subsecond-scale, event-locked physiological analyses with dynamic mother-infant interactions.
The study’s researchers have long been studying the transport response, an innate reaction seen in many altricial mammals — those whose young are immature and unable to care for themselves, including mice, dogs, monkeys, and humans.
They observed that the young become docile and their heart rates slow when carried by their mother, an effect called the “transport response.” In their new study, the researchers aimed to compare the effects of the transport response with other conditions like motionless maternal holding or rocking and determine if the effects last with longer carrying in human infants.
The study compared 21 infants’ responses under four conditions:
Based on their analysis, the researchers were able to arrive at the following findings:
The study’s findings suggest that holding a baby alone might not be enough to soothe crying infants, as opposed to the traditional assumption that maternal holding reduces infant distress. Also, the movement has calming effects, possibly activating a baby’s transport response.
Based on their findings, the researchers recommended a method for soothing and promoting sleep in crying infants: “5-min carrying, 5- to 8-min sitting before bed.”
The researchers shared the following guidance on effectively using the walking-holding-laying technique:
It is also recommended for parents to sit and hold babies longer for another five to eight minutes after carrying and walking them within five minutes before putting them to bed.
The study provided evidence that infant transport significantly reduces crying and potentially promotes sleep and a new behavioral protocol. However, it is still crucial to note that unlike most behavioral interventions for infant sleep difficulties, the said technique does not affect infant sleep in the long term and would require further studies to verify. But what is evident now is how it can provide an immediate solution for infant crying and may be helpful, especially when regular sleep routines, breastfeeding, or pacifiers are not effective or available.
Ohmura, N., Okuma, L., Truzzi, A., Shinozuka, K., Saito, A., Yokota, S., Bizzego, A., Miyazawa, E., Shimizu, M., Esposito, G., & Kuroda, K. O. (2022). A method to soothe and promote sleep in crying infants utilizing the transport response. Current Biology. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2022.08.041