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Scientists Discover Better Way to Calm Crying Babies

Photograph by Twenty20

Time to warm up those vocal cords, parents.

When Baby is wailing his or her head off, it's instinctual for many parents to try to soothe them by gently talking to them. Well, turns out there's a much more effective way to calm a crying baby. According to new research presented in the pediatric journal Infancy, infants who are sung to stay calmer two times longer than ones who are merely spoken to.

To conduct this study, researchers at Canada's University of Montreal played regular adult talk, "baby talk" and Turkish music to 30 babies, six to nine months old. They picked Turkish music deliberately to make sure it was something that would be unfamiliar to most babies (i.e., not the same rendition of "Twinkle, Twinkle" they were perhaps already used to hearing). After observing how the babies reacted to each type of sound when they were distressed, the results were clear. The babies who were played the Turkish music remained soothed for an average of nine minutes, while the babies who heard either the baby talk or regular adult talk only stayed calm for about four minutes.

The authors of the study say the results are important for new parents to know, especially because there's a trend among Western moms to talk, instead of sing, to their babies. According to study co-author Isabelle Peretz, "Our findings leave little doubt about the efficacy of singing nursery rhymes for maintaining infants' composure for extended periods. ... These findings speak to the intrinsic importance of music and of nursery rhymes in particular, which appeal to our desire for simplicity and repetition."

I guess it's time for us to start brushing up on "Jack and Jill."

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