Study Finds Carrying Infants Triggers Specific Soothing Response

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Mothers who pick up their infants and walk with them when they are crying trigger a specific set of emotional and physical responses, according to a new study published in the journal Current Biology on Thursday. Researchers believe the responses originally developed to promote bonding between a mother and her child.

In a video accompanying the online release of the study, scientists point out that the mothers of many mammalian species demonstrate this carrying behavior. They claim that this is the first time that the anecdotal evidence regarding the efficacy of carrying and other soothing techniques demonstrated by mothers has been the subject of scientific research.

Here is some of the key information that emerged on Thursday regarding this new study into the mother-infant bonding process.

* The behaviors that the scientists measured, which included a specific set of "central, motor, and cardiac regulations" all were triggered specifically by mothers carrying their infants while walking. Mothers who were sitting and holding their babies did not trigger nearly the same level of response in their infants, according to the researchers' report.

* Measured responses to being picked up and carried included a rapid decrease in heart rate, as well as a halt to voluntary movement and crying.

* Researchers who conducted the study believe that the behaviors developed to increase mother-infant bonding. Specifically, that these behaviors in infants, which they defined as "innate," are meant to promote "maternal proximity" by triggering a particular set of responses to being separated from their mothers, according to the report in Current Biology.

* As noted by MyHealthNewsDaily, the study was a particularly small one, involving a sample group of just 12 infants and their mothers. The babies were all between the ages of 1 month and 6 months old.

* Researchers observed that when an infant began crying, if their mother picked them up and began walking around, that there was an observable "automatic change" to the mother's actions, according to the MyHealthNewsDaily report.

* This response has led the researchers to speculate that carrying an infant may be a more effective way to soothe them than other techniques, including rocking.

* Although this particular study specifically looked at an infant's response when picked up by their mother, the scientists were quick to point out that any primary caregiver -- whether father, grandparent, or other adult in the household -- may be able to trigger the same responses.

* The researchers also tested mice to see if the same behavioral mechanisms would reveal themselves, which they did.

Vanessa Evans is a musician and freelance writer based in Michigan, with a lifelong interest in health and nutrition issues.

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