I ADORE BABIES and I cannot simply disregard the cry of a baby. It’s a frustration many parents know all too well. You’ve finally hushed your crying baby to sleep, so you put it down in the crib … and the wailing begins again. Now science may have a trick for you.

Carrying a crying infant for about five minutes, then sitting for at least another five to eight minutes can calm and lull the baby to sleep long enough to allow a parent to put the child down without waking them.

Other researchers previously showed that carrying a crying baby soothes the child and calms a racing heart rate. For this study, the team looked at what it takes to get that crying baby to nod off and stay asleep.

The researchers put heart rate monitors on 21 crying babies, ranging in age from newborns to 7 months old. The team also took videos of the infants, monitoring their moods as their mothers carried them around a room, sat holding them and laid them in a crib. That allowed the team to observe how the babies responded to different environments, whether they were crying, fussy, alert or drowsy, heartbeat by heartbeat.

They tested the physiology behind these things that tend to be kind of common knowledge, though it’s not really well understood. The babies’ heart rates slowed and they stopped crying when their mothers picked them up and carried them around for five minutes. Some infants even fell asleep.

But the researchers also noticed that the babies tended to respond to the movement of the parent, whether they were in deep sleep or not. For instance, a baby’s heart rate quickened if a parent turned quickly while walking or tried to put the baby down.

Sitting seems to ease that transition from walking to bed, the team observed. Babies cradled in mom’s lap for at least five minutes tended to settle into a slower heart rate and stayed asleep once they were put in their crib. In contrast, the heart rates of six babies whose moms sat with them for less than five minutes accelerated once they were laid down and they woke up soon after.

There’s a lot of research about the relationship between infants and mothers, but it has not been shown that infants were responding to mothers’ behaviors while infants were sleeping.

This method isn’t a magic wand for all babies. It doesn’t rule out sleepless nights, but still, it’s something that parents can try. And while this study was done with mothers, anyone that an infant is comfortable with can do it. Especially for very, very young kids … as long as these babysitters are familiar with the kid, it’s going to work. By Manny Palomar, PhD (EV Mail March 13-19, 2023 issue)