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Here's the Best Way to Soothe a Crying Baby, According to Scientists

This simple 15-minute method proves to be the most effective.
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profile picture of Wyndi Kappes
Assistant Editor
Updated
September 16, 2022
father comforting baby at home

It’s a familiar story. It’s late into the night, and despite trying dozens of TikTok hacks, book recommendations and tips from family members, you just can’t seem to get baby to sleep. While every baby is different, and what soothes some to sleep may have no effect on others, scientists recently set out to determine what methods might have the best chance of helping parents get their little ones to sleep across the board.

The study, recently published in the journal of Current Biology, filmed parents employing four different methods to soothe baby. The researchers observed when baby stopped crying and used heart monitors to determine baby’s level of calm associated with each method.

After analyzing the data from the films scientists settled on a simple 15-minute method that worked for a majority of the babies. During this 15-minute period researchers recommend that parents pick up their crying baby, walk around with them for five minutes – without any abrupt stops or sudden changes in direction – and then sit down and hold them for five to eight minutes before laying them down again.

Of the four methods utilized—holding the child while seated, putting them in a cot, holding them while walking, or rocking them—scientists overwhelming found that movement matters. Crying only stopped when parents walked around or rocked baby, with no change among the other methods.

While movement soothed most babies to sleep, many awoke when put straight to bed after time spent walking around. To ease the sudden separation from parent which scientists believed caused babies to be roused from their sleep, they incorporated a short sitting period with the sleeping babies before laying them down. This led to a greater number of babies falling asleep and staying asleep.

As any parent knows though even the best planned and researched soothing plans can fail and the scientists from the study are quick to acknowledge this method might not be a quick fix for everyone.

“Babies can have sleepless nights for very different reasons,” said Gianluca Esposito, a co-author on the paper told The Guardian. “If the baby has a stomach ache, I don’t think this will do much.”

If you are struggling with those sleepless nights right now, know you aren’t alone and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. In the meantime check out these tips for helping baby sleep through the night.

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