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Bringing up baby ....

Bringing up baby ...

Q: What could be more normal than a burblingly blissful baby? A: A baby with its face squeezed into an angry howl.

In industrialized societies, cyring is as normal in a baby as diapers are on it: Crying generally peaks when the baby is around six weeks old, at which point the squalls taper off. A weary parent might ask, are these tears really necessary?

Urs Hunziker and Ronald Barr, at Montreal Children's Hospital Research Institute, have identified one way to change infant crying patterns: Increase infant-carrying by parents.

In their study, mothers were assigned to a group asked to carry their infants for at least three hours a day, or to a group asked to provide their infants with extra visual stimulation. The 99 mother-infant pairs were tracked for the first three months of the baby's life. The extra carrying produced a "rather impressive change," the researchers write in the May PEDIATRICS. Two extra hours of carrying was associated with a 43 percent reduction in crying and fussing. The six-week crying peak was eliminated in these babies; instead, the mothers reported "increased awake contentment" in their babies.

Incessant crying, the researchers note, can lead to erosion of coping skills in parents, even child abuse. The supplemental carrying may have allowed mothers to detect infant distress more quickly. And, the researchers say, it may prevent many cases of "infant colic," a syndrome associated with excess crying and often without any underlying disease.

The study's results imply that the usual pattern of infant crying is normal only in the sense of being typical, the researchers write. They note that anecdotal reports from cross-cultural studies suggest that babies fuss less in societies where they are held more, adding that "[s]upplemental carrying may be a more effective approach to feeding and crying problems than the more traditional supplemental bottle."
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Title Annotation:research shows carrying controls infant crying
Publication:Science News
Date:Jun 21, 1986
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