You already know your baby cries less when you're up and walking, but do you know why? It turns out they're not just being temperamental – they're trying not to get attacked by predators.
Imagine, for a moment you're a helpless infant a few hundred or thousand years ago. The safest place for you to be is going to be in your parents' arms (and it may as well be mom's arms, should you get hungry). Being held by your mother while she's sitting is better than being on your own, but best of all is when she's up and ready to whisk you away from anything that thinks you'd make a tasty snack.
While she's on the run you're going to get calm and quiet so as not to alert whatever you both are fleeing where you are, and encourage her to continue holding you.
I'm not just making this up. Researches have looked into the human flight response that developed over a few millennia, paying special attention to babies.
"The infant calming response to maternal carrying is a coordinated set of central, motor, and cardiac regulations," the authors wrote in a 2013 study published in Current Biology.
"Infants under six months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease...The calming responses may increase the survival probability of the infant in cases of emergency escape by the mother-infant dyad."
For the study, scientists monitored the heart rates of 12 healthy infants while their mothers put them down in a crib (you can guess how that went), held them while seated, and carried them around the room for 30 seconds.
It's pretty amazing to see when you put the graph and behavior together.
The scientists found that a little one's heart rate decreased significantly more "during carrying than during holding. These data suggest that infants were more relaxed during carrying than during holding, not only behaviorally but also physiologically."
It's exhausting to be on your toes all the time, but perhaps it helps just a bit to understand the why of what's happening? The researchers hope so.
"A scientific understanding of this physiological infant response could prevent parents from overreacting to infant crying," they wrote. "Such understanding would be beneficial to parents by reducing frustration, because unsoothable crying is a major risk factor for child abuse."
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