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Can’t Calm Your Crying Baby? Scientists Say Singing May Help

Can’t Calm Your Crying Baby? Scientists Say Singing May Help

Keeping a baby calm can be one of the most stressful things for a parent or caretaker to do. The baby is unable to communicate their needs. There are many tears, and only some of them are from the baby. Studies have been trying to discover whether singing is a key to combatting some of the fussiness. If singing does work, how does that stack up against just talking to your infant to calm them?

Study findings

A study done in Montreal found that babies remained calm for twice as long when listening to singing compared to talking. Talking was tested both in “baby talk” as well as adult talk to see if there was significance in the tone of the communications. According to professor Isabelle Peretz, “Many studies have looked at how singing and speech affect infants’ attention, but we wanted to know how they affect a baby’s emotional self-control.” Peretz works in the University of Montreal’s Center for Research on Brain, Music and Language.

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What is entrainment?

“Entrainment” is the word that the study researchers use for the reactions that adults and children have to music. This reaction is visible when you see a foot tapping, fingers drumming or dancing to the music. Babies don’t have the capability to move to the beat, leading researchers to believe they could not be “entrained.” If infants cannot be “entrained,” will the music have any affect on them whatsoever? This question was posed from these observations of the different way ages respond to music.

How was the study conducted?

The babies listened to talking and music in the Turkish language to make sure that it was unfamiliar. No other stimuli was placed in the room with the baby. This means the walls were black, there were no toys, and there were no humans in sight. The parents were in the room, but they were placed behind the babies to avoid any visual clues from the parents. There were no live concerts given to the infants, all were recorded to make sure that the experience was uniform.

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The study started when the babies were calm. When they reached a calm state, parents took a seat behind the infants and the researchers played recordings until they noticed the baby was about to cry. The cry was predicted by facial cues in the baby such as eyebrows being lowered, lip corners turning down, and mouth opening.

Scientific results

Listening to the Turkish music resulted in the infants staying calm for an average of nine minutes. While speech (baby talk and adult-directed talk) came in around four minutes. In another facet to the study they ran the test again with French nursery rhymes being sung. Since this study was done in Montreal the infants were familiar with the French language. They found that the nursery rhymes resulted in six minutes of calm from the infants. The French nursery rhymes contained repetition and simplicity, like the nursery rhymes familiar to other cultures.

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Why does this matter?

The study indicates that being sung to helps infants regulate their emotions. Singing to our children has become less common in western civilizations, though parents routinely speak and interact with their babies. However, they are not singing as often. This study seems to indicate that an important tool is being missed.

“Although infant distress signals typically prompt parental comforting interventions, they induce frustration and anger in some at-risk parents, leading to insensitive responding and, in the worst cases, to infant neglect or abuse,” Peretz said. “At-risk parents within the purview of social service agencies could be encouraged to play vocal music to infants and, better still, to sing to them.”

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Last Updated on December 2, 2018

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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Review Your Past Flow

Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

    Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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