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How to successfully calm a crying baby

Jan 4, 2024News

Most parents of young infants have grappled with the challenges of soothing their crying babies, getting them to sleep, and placing them in a crib or bassinet without immediate awakening. Any parent of a crying and sleepy infant knows the struggle – just getting your baby to calm down can be a monumental task, but then putting a sleeping baby into the crib and NOT waking him up seems like an almost impossible feat!

Never fear, as with most issues that come up in the lives of humans, researchers have tackled this topic as well!  First, they looked at the best way to calm a crying infant.  They rated four different options, holding only, carrying (i.e. holding the infant and walking around), putting the infant in a bed, or putting the infant into a mobile bed, like a stroller laid back into a bed.  They found that when attempting to calm a crying infant, just holding the infant was the least likely thing to calm the baby.  The most likely things to calm the baby and get them to sleep were laying them down in a stroller (or pram or other mobile bed) and then walking them around, or carrying them while walking around.  Most people probably already know this, but now research has proven you correct!  The researchers found that after 5 minutes of being carried and walked, or laid down and walked, almost half of infants had fallen asleep and 20% more fell asleep within a minute of the end of the walk. 

So, what now – yes, they are asleep, but every parent knows that there is more to it.  Now you must put them down in their crib or bassinet.   And as slow as we go, letting our children out of our arms and onto the bed, they ALWAYS seem to wake up.  Why is that?  Those researchers have again asked that question and have come up with some answers.  They find that an infant reacts with an alert response very quickly when they are detached from the caregiver’s body, even before any part of them touches the bed.  The speed of the let-down doesn’t seem to make a difference, nor did the order of the body part that touched the bed first.  It was determined that it was actually the length of time the baby spent asleep in the arms of the caregiver before he was put in bed that made the most difference.  Infants who were left to sleep in their caregiver’s arms for 8 minutes were much more successful at keeping the baby asleep than those that only let their infant sleep for 3 minutes.  This may be because that shallow sleep that infants first go into when falling asleep takes several minutes to stabilize, at which point they are less likely to wake when moved out of their caregiver’s arms.

 So taken together, all this research suggests that to calm a crying infant, let them fall asleep, and put them into the crib, the best protocol is: 

Carry them around for 5 minutes or until they fall asleep, then sit down for 8 minutes with the sleeping infant before gently putting them into their crib.  You may have already figured this out on your own, but if not, you’re welcome!

Dr. Amanda Lovette is a Pediatrician at Delta Health Pediatrics. For more information, contact Delta Health Pediatrics at 970.546.4000 or visit deltahealthco.org/delta-health-pediatrics/. You can also join the Healthy Kids Western Slope – Delta Health Pediatrics Facebook Group online at bit.ly/healthykidswestslope.

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