You are here

Study: Carrying Proven to Calm Fussy Babies

What’s the cure for a fussy baby? Doing exactly what your impulses tell you to do. Simply picking up your cranky kid will set off a chain of physiological reactions that result in soothing her, according to new research out of Japan

The study is the first to demonstrate that a baby’s response to being carried is the result of a coordinated set of nervous, motor and cardiac regulations, a provides a science-based counterargument to the "cry-it-out" school of thought.

Plus: Rethinking Fussy Babies

"This infant response reduces maternal burden of carrying and is beneficial for both the mother and the infant, " explains Kumi Kuroda, a social behavior researcher at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute who worked on the study. In this way, human babies are surprisingly similar to mouse babies—whose ECG measurements the researchers also studied. Mouse and human children both calm down and cease moving fussily immediately after they are picked up.

Plus: 4 Expert Ways to Ease a Fussy Baby

"The results of this study seem to show what we have known a long time: you cannot spoil a baby," Adiaha Spinks-Franklin, a Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician at the Texas Children's Hospital, tells “It is important for babies to know that their needs are going to be met by their caregivers. When the baby cries, she is alerting her mother that she has a need. When the mother immediately responds to the baby’s need, the baby then feels loved, secure, safe, and protected. In other words, responding to the baby’s needs is critical for mother-child attachment. Therefore, picking up the baby and carrying her around is yet another way of providing comfort and security to the baby."

However, carrying might not completely stop the tears. If your baby begins to blubber again after a few minutes, try these other techniques:

  • Swaddle him snugly in a blanket with his arms down.
  • Hold him while he's on his side or stomach rather than his back.
  • Make shushing sounds, or create other white noise by running a hair dryer or fan (the inside of the womb sounds like a constant pulsing whoosh).
  • Jiggle him gently (the rhythmic swaying resembles the movement of the womb).
  • Give him something to suck on - either a pacifier or a finger.
  • Use your hands. Touch stimulates receptors in the brain that calm your baby, and research shows that long, smooth strokes tend to work better than short, brisk ones. Try caressing your infant's cheek, back, legs, or stomach. Or keep your baby close by wearing her in a front carrier. You don't have to spend all day toting her around, but the more you touch her (giving her a mini-massage during a diaper change, for instance), the happier she'll be.

What are your tricks to soothing a crying baby? Leave a comment and let us know.