Nearly every newborn parent has dealt with it: a crying baby that just won’t go to sleep, or an infant who wakes up in the middle of the night and won’t let anyone go back to bed.
Regardless of the countless hours of sleep lost, 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, and it involves moving around.
The findings, published Tuesday in the peer reviewed journal Current Biology, suggest the best method is to hold a crying baby and walk with them for five minutes. After that, researchers say to sit and hold the baby for five-to-eight minutes before putting them to bed. The walking-to-sit method even worked in the daytime, the results showed.
Researchers came to their conclusion be comparing 21 infant reactions to four scenarios: being held by walking mothers, 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, researchers said. Heart rates also slowed down when they were lying in a rocking motion.
Pandemic babies: After years of stress, isolation affected brain development
Study: Stress levels during pregnancy linked to 3-month-old babies who cry, fuss more
However, when moms tried to put their baby back to bed after walking – but not sitting with them – one-third of the infants became alert within 20 seconds. Babies also had their heart rates go up and continue to cry when just held while sitting, but not carried while walking.
Also, 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. 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,” Dr. Kumi Kuroda, researcher at the RIKEN Center for Brain Science in Japan and co-author, said in a statement. “But our experiment did not support these general assumptions.”
The research done supports 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 may not work for everyone. The American Academy of Pediatrics says parents could put their babies to bed with they are drowsy versus asleep, and not to rush them back to sleep if they wake up. Pregnancy, Birth and Baby also suggests multiple ways to get babies back to bed.
About about 20%–30% of infants cry “excessively and exhibit sleep difficulties” for no known reason, the researchers said, and their goal was to provided an immediate solution for parents. More research is needed to determine if this method could improve sleep long-term, the team determined.
“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.”
Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @jordan_mendoza5.