Study Shows Universal Reaction of Moms to Babies Crying

What’s Your Reaction To Baby’s Cries?
ByNatalie Neusch
Contributing Writer
Published
Oct 2017
Baby boy with a baby fever crying
Photo: iStock

The sounds of a crying baby can be truly gut-wrenching, and now a new study shows that how you respond could go beyond sheer instinct. While it’s the most common audible cue for a mom, an infant’s cries may also be a new scientific measure of the relationship between a mother and child—and it seems to be applicable worldwide.

In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers observed moms from 11 countries interact with their infants—aged around five and a half months—when they started sobbing to determine the “neurobiology of culturally common maternal responses to infant cry.”

The team used behavioral studies and brain-imaging MRI scans on a group of 684 new mothers in Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Cameroon, France, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, South Korea and the United States during hour-long interactions of picking up, holding, and talking to their babies. The results of the scans showed heightened activity in areas linked to movement, speech, and caregiving.

Marc Bornstein, chief of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development’s section in child and family research and the study’s lead author, said this type of research can lead to further understanding of mistreatment and abuse in babes.

“Infant cry excites some adults, mothers included, to respond with empathy and care but others with neglect or even abuse. Infant cry is a trigger to maltreatment. So understanding how mothers normally respond to cry at the behavioral and nervous systems levels is potentially telling. We hope this research will spur others to study brain responses associated with non-normal variations in parenting, such as mothers who maltreat."

Researchers noted that mothers’ responses to their crying babies had been consistent, “and in a very short amount of time from the start of the cry, five seconds, they preferred to pick up and hold or to talk to their infant,” Bornstein said.

The studies concluded that, “Overall, the findings suggest that mothers’ responses to infant cries are hard-wired and generalizable across cultures.”

H/T CNN

A New Way to Treat Colic: Baby Acupuncture

Anisa Arsenault
Associate Editor
Published
01/18/2017

When Baby Will Start Crying Less

Bonnie Vengrow
Contributing Writer

New Charts Determine 'Normal' Amount of Crying Worldwide

Anisa Arsenault
Associate Editor
Published
04/03/2017

A Case for 'Crying It Out'

Anisa Arsenault
Associate Editor

Colic 101: Everything You Need to Know

Stacey Feintuch
Contributing Writer

Need to Decode Baby's Cries? There's an App for That

Anisa Arsenault
Associate Editor
Published
12/31/2015

Q&A: Dairy and Colic?

Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA
Lactation Specialist

March of Dimes Composes Lullaby of Baby Cries

Anisa Arsenault
Associate Editor
Published
09/26/2017

Study Shows Universal Reaction of Moms to Babies Crying

Natalie Neusch
Contributing Writer
Published
10/28/2017

No More Tears: How to Stop Baby From Crying

Kristen Kemp
Contributing Writer