Want to Quiet a Crying Baby? Try THIS

Canadian researchers have discovered an effective trick to try during baby's next meltdown.

crying baby over mom's shoulder
Photo: Shutterstock

Canadian researchers have figured out the best way to soothe a crying baby, and it involves something you're probably already doing: singing.

Yup, that's it. Turns out, all those rounds of "Wheels on the Bus" can quiet a crying jag much more effectively than baby talk or downright pleading (hey, no judgments!). That's because infants get just as swept up in a song as we adults do, so much so that they stay calm twice as long than when we (try to) talk them down.

The findings, published in Infancy, were based on an analysis of 30 babies ages 6 to 9 months. The kiddos listened to recordings of baby talk and songs in Turkish, a language none of them were familiar with, while their parents sat behind them. Then researchers timed how long it took for the babies to make a "cry face." The results? The songs kept babies calm for a full nine minutes, while baby talk and adult-speak soothed them for about four minutes each.

A similar experiment was carried out in a different group of babies, only this time they listened to songs in French, a familiar language. The results were the same.

"Our findings leave little doubt about the efficacy of singing nursery rhymes for maintaining infants' composure for extended periods," said Isabelle Peretz, a professor with the University of Montreal's Center for Research on Brain, Music and Language, in a press release. "Even in the relatively sterile environment of the testing room black walls, dim illumination, no toys, and no human visual or tactile stimulation, the sound of a woman singing prolonged infants' positive or neutral states and inhibited distress."

Researchers emphasized that music choice plays a role—"Mary Had a Little Lamb" will probably work better than, say, "Blank Space" because it's simpler and has more repetition. Still, this is promising news for parents of teething, colicky or otherwise fussy babies—and another tool to try mid-meltdown.

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Bonnie Gibbs Vengrow is a New York City-based writer and editor who traded in her Blackberry and Metro card for playdates and PB&J sandwiches—and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch her feisty, funny son grow up. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.

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