DEC 04, 2015 12:58 PM PST

How to Calm Fussy Newborns with

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

It can be heart wrenching to listen to a newborn baby crying, especially when all of your attempts to soothe the baby haven't worked. Dr. Robert Hamilton thinks it all has to do with how you hold the baby.

His technique is called "The Hold," which is a broad name for a very specific maneuver. There are 4 steps to "The Hold":

1. Fold the baby's arm together to his/her chest and use your left hand to support the baby's head
2. Support the baby's bottom with your dominant hand
3. Tilt the baby forward at a 45-degree angle
4. Gently rock, shake, or even "stir" the baby's bottom with your right hand

The maneuver looks precarious but there's some science to it. First the folded arms mimic swaddling, whereby secured arms reduce the baby's startle reflex. Second tilting the baby forward helps to lower abdominal pressure, which could help colicky babies. And finally, the gentle motions are soothing. Dr. Hamilton says the technique works best for 2- and 3-month-old infants.

"The Hold" seems to work well for babies in Dr. Hamilton's hands. But he's also had decades of experience with holding infants, during which time he's probably developed unexplained intuitions about how to calm fussy babies.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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