How to Calm Crying Babies, According to Science

Science may have found the answer to calming crying babies. In fact, this Japanese study is really interesting.
How to Calm Crying Babies, According to Science
Laura Ruiz Mitjana

Written and verified by the psychologist Laura Ruiz Mitjana.

Last update: 05 October, 2022

If you have children, it’s likely that you’ve sometimes wondered how to calm their crying. In fact, seeing a child cry and not knowing why is one of the most stressful situations for any father or mother. Furthermore, not being able to calm them down generates even more anguish and upset.

A recent Japanese study, published in the journal, Current Biology, suggests a scientific formula to calm babies down and make them sleep when they’re crying.

How to calm crying babies

Science has long been concerned with the study and understanding of the human being in all its phases, including the infant stage. Within this volume of research, a really interesting study has just entered the arena that focuses its attention on the crying of babies.

This study was published in the journal, Current Biology, and conducted by the scientist, Kumi O. Kuroda and his collaborators, from the Riken Center for Brain Science (CBS) in Japan. He identified the importance of movement for calming crying infants. The research highlights the role of walking with babies in arms to calm them. In fact, it claims it’s the most effective way to calm their crying in a relatively short time.

Baby crying, depicting the research to calm crying babies

The study

To study how to calm crying babies, the research, in which the University of Trento (Italy) also participated, included a sample of 21 babies up to seven months of age. Although it was a small sample, the rest of the methodology was solid and was a way to start studying this aspect in children. In fact, it will serve as a basis for future research.

The study was developed from 32 sessions in which infants were monitored using electrocardiograms, with the aim of measuring their heart rates. They also used video cameras to record their expressions and movements.

Four methods to calm babies down

The researchers compared four methods: walking with the babies in arms, sitting while holding them, placing them in a stationary cradle, and using a rocking cradle.

The first and last methods managed to calm them, which suggests that it’s not enough to hold the children, but that they need movement. After five minutes of walking, no baby was crying and 45 percent of them had fallen asleep.

How to calm babies

The results of the research showed that the fastest way to calm a crying baby is when the mother holds them in their arms and moves with them. In other words, they walk while carrying them. The study also determined that this should be done for a period of between five to eight minutes, after which time the babies calmed down.

However, it doesn’t only concern the cessation of crying, but this practice also helps to lower the heart rate of babies. It allows them to calm down in a shorter time, even helping them to fall asleep more easily.

The study also recommends continuing to hold babies for an equal amount of time afterward, i.e. five to eight minutes while sitting on a sofa, and not putting them to bed immediately. It means the effects of the technique are more entrenched and the baby’s sleep becomes more stable.

This technique requires a maximum time of 16 minutes in total and is highly effective. In fact, for many parents, 16 minutes is a really short time compared to the time they spend calming their babies using other strategies.

Father calming a baby

An interesting find

This study showed that, when it comes to understanding how to calm crying babies, the movement produced by walking with the baby in the arms helps calm them down and fall asleep more easily. However, interestingly, the technique was also found to be highly effective on crying infants, but not so on calm infants.

In other words, when children who cried were kept moving, they usually calmed down in a maximum time of eight minutes, after which time they usually fell asleep. Nevertheless, this technique didn’t seem to work in helping non-crying babies fall asleep. 

Although the technique may not work in all cases, it’s a strategy with which positive results have been obtained. On the other hand, this and other studies currently underway could open exciting new doors for scientists who continue to study early childhood and child development.


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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.