Best way to get a crying baby to sleep? A 5-minute walk with mom or dad
Researcher found the best method is to hold and walk with a crying baby for five minutes. After that, sit and hold the baby for five to eight minutes before putting the child back in bed.
Nearly every newborn parent has dealt with it: a crying baby who just won’t go to sleep or an infant who wakes up in the middle of the night and won’t let anyone else in the family go back to bed.
People have endless amounts of remedies and tricks to get a baby back to sleep. Now, researchers say they have figured out — scientifically — the best way to get a newborn back in their crib. It involves moving around.
The findings, published in the peer-reviewed journal Current Biology, suggest the best method is to hold and walk with a crying baby for five minutes.
After that, the researchers say, sit and hold the baby for five to eight minutes before putting the child back in bed.
The walking-to-sit method even worked in the daytime.
The researchers came to their conclusion be comparing 21 infant reactions to four scenarios: being held by walking mothers, being held by sitting mothers, lying in a crib and lying in a rocking motion.
The team found crying babies calmed down and heart rates slowed within 30 seconds of the mother walking and carrying. All babies stopped crying during this exercise, with half of them falling asleep. Heart rates also slowed down when they were lying in a rocking motion.
But, when moms tried to put their baby back to bed after walking — but not sitting with the infant — one-third of the babies became alert within 20 seconds. They also had their heart rates go up and continue to cry when just held while sitting but not carried while walking.
When babies were asleep for longer periods before being laid back down, they were more likely to stay asleep.
“Even as a mother of four, I was very surprised to see the result,” said Dr. Kumi Kuroda, a researcher at the RIKEN Center for Brain Science in Japan and co-author of the study. “I thought baby awoke during a laydown is related to how they’re put on the bed, such as their posture or the gentleness of the movement. But our experiment did not support these general assumptions.”
The research supports what’s called the transport response, something Kuroda and her team have discovered before in that baby mammals — including humans — feel calmness when carried by their mothers.
While this method suggested positive results, it isn’t the only way to get babies to sleep, and it still might not work for everyone. The American Academy of Pediatrics says parents also can try to put their babies to bed when they are drowsy versus asleep and not to rush them back to sleep if they wake up.
About 20% to 30% of infants cry “excessively and exhibit sleep difficulties” for no known reason, the researchers said. Their goal was to provide an immediate solution for parents.
More research is needed to determine whether this method could improve sleep long term, the scientists said.
“Like science-based fitness training, we can do science-based parenting with these advances and hopefully help babies to sleep and reduce parental stress caused by excessive infant crying,” Kuroda said. “We need science to understand a baby’s behaviors because they’re much more complex and diverse than we thought.”
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