Science

The scientific method to put a crying baby to sleep

Many distraught parents will finally be able to breathe. An Italian-Japanese study does offer a two-step procedure to soothe and put a crying baby to sleep. These results, published in the journal Current Biology, apply only to mothers, but are valid for any other familiar babies.

Five minutes of wear on the move, then 8 minutes of sitting before putting the baby in the crib: this is a soothing formula suggested by researchers from the Riken Brain Science Center in Japan and the University of Trento in Italy to put a crying baby down. sleep. To come to this conclusion, the researchers used previous observations made on altricial or altricial mammals, that is, those whose young are born unable to move and eat on their own (for example, dogs, mice, monkeys, etc.). In these animals, they describe physiological and behavioral relief during wear, a phenomenon they call “transport response”.

Carry the baby while walking for 5 minutes.

To test these methods in humans, the researchers used cameras and heart rate monitors to monitor the responses of 21 infants aged 0 to 7 months, accompanied by their mothers. To soothe a crying baby, mothers have tried four strategies: carry the baby on the move, carry it while sitting, push it in a moving stroller or rocker, or put it in a stationary crib. Only movement, especially when worn, had a calming effect on babies and their heart rate, and in the first 30 seconds. Observations that contradict the general assumption that simply holding the mother down reduces infant distress. “After 5 minutes of wearing while walking, 5 out of 11 babies (45%) were asleep and none of them cried at the end,” the researchers found. They advise walking on a level, clean path and at a steady pace, preferably without sudden stops or turns, as babies’ heart rates increase when mothers turn or stop walking.

Carry your baby in a seated position 5-8 minutes before putting him down.

As soon as the baby falls asleep or is close to falling asleep, the first impulse will be to put the baby in his crib. Unfortunately, it’s double or nothing, because the fact that a mother puts sleeping babies to bed can either interrupt or deepen babies’ sleep. More specifically, when a baby separates from its mother, its heart rate increases the most, to the point where 9 out of 26 (35%) sleeping babies woke up 20 seconds after being put to bed.

How, then, to put the baby to bed so that 5 minutes of walking can calm him down or put him to sleep? Sit with your baby in your arms, researchers say. Of the 13 babies who continued to sleep after being placed in the crib, 9 were carried by the mother first and then sat up. But be careful, the sitting phase should not be too short, even if the baby seems to be sleeping. The key is to wait 5 to 8 minutes for his sleep to deepen before going to bed, the researchers say. This time window “roughly corresponds to the duration of the first stage of sleep (about 8 minutes in infants 4-5 months)”, they explain.

Prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome

So carrying a crying baby for 5 minutes while walking and then sitting for 8 minutes would be a winning formula for many babies. “Even as a mother of four children, I was very surprised to see such a result. Smoothness of movement,” marvels Kumi Kuroda, who supervised this work. She hopes the data will help advance “scientific parenting education.” “20 to 30% of babies cry excessively and have sleep disturbances for no apparent reason, which causes parental stress and can even provoke impulsive acts of abuse in a small number of cases,” the researcher notes.

Impulsive actions that can have serious consequences, such as shaken baby syndrome (SBS), which is the most common cause of traumatic death among infants in high-income countries. Non-lethal forms of SBS are associated with severe long-term morbidity, such as neurodevelopmental disorders (epilepsy, motor and visual impairments, speech impairments, intellectual impairments, and behavioral abnormalities) leading to lifelong disability. According to the study, due to restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic, the incidence of SBS remained stable in 2020, then doubled in 2021, and its mortality increased 9 times in the Île-de-France region.

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