The Surprising Way To Soothe A Cranky Baby

crying baby
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We're all familiar with the phenomenon known as The Baby Who Won't Stop Crying. 

I myself am especially familiar with this particular brand of baby, having had one daughter who exhibited non-stop crying for the first oh, six months of her life thanks to infant acid reflux and corresponding colic

Obviously, babies cry and sometimes for no discernible reason. But aside from an underlying medical condition like colic, let's face it--sometimes we want our babies to stop crying.

It's not easy on any parent to hear his or her baby crying and it's natural to want to soothe that distressed little cry.

Geesh, just thinking about my baby crying stressed me out. And does anyone else's baby wake up the exact minute you step in the shower, effectively eliminating any chance of you ever cleaning your hair or shaving more than one leg? No? Just mine.

OK, then, back to the task at hand. So you have a crying baby, what's the best way to soothe him or her?

Surprisingly, science says the answer is singing.  

A recent study in the pediatric journal Infancy found that singing was the single most effective means of staving off a baby's distress (as measured with negative facial expressions). 

The researchers exposed babies 7-10 months old to recordings of adults talking, babies talking, and singing in unfamiliar languages and measured the timing of the baby's distress. Overall, the found the babies listened to the recordings of the singings for twice as long as any other speech-only recording.

"Singing was considerably more effective than speech for delaying the onset of distress," the study concluded.

They went on to also suggest that singing or songs with a "regular beat, metrical organization, and tempo" are the real key in keeping the babies happy. Not only can singing be entertaining to babies (and I would argue, adults alike), but in prompting the babies to listen, it might just keep them too curious and busy to be in distress.


Obviously, one study isn't much of a sure bet. How do they know the person's voices when they were talking didn't scare the kids? What if they just didn't like the tone of the voice? What if they sounded scary? And even more worrisome and unfortunately for me, I'm not much of a singer, but I do believe that this study is on to something. I'll never forget the time my oldest daughter was crying inconsolably and neither my husband or I could soothe her. So I took her out to the kitchen and sang the only children's song I knew -- Twinkle, Twinkle  Little Star. And lo and behold, it did the trick. She instantly stopped crying and craned her neck back to watch me. It was one of those moments that is forever seared in my motherhood memory. Truth to be told, it's one of my favorites. 

Since then, I haven't done much in the song department. My children, on more than one occasion, have been known to actually plug their ears against my singing, but then again, what do kids know? 

But regardless of your skill level, singing to your baby on a regular basis might just keep you both a little more calm and happy.



Corbeil, M., Trehub, S. & Peretz, I. (September 22, 2015). Singing Delays the Onset of Infant Distress. Infancy, doi: 10.1111/infa.12114. Accessed online November 2, 2015:   

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