Want to keep your baby calm and not wailing? Talking in your own voice will work for an average of just under four minutes, at which point the "cry face" typically sets in—the lowered brow, open mouth, and raised cheeks that signal distress. Employing baby talk buys you a few more seconds. But singing, or even playing a recording of others singing, gets you up to nine minutes of calm baby time. So find researchers at the University of Montreal, who report in the journal Infancy that the results held even when the singing was in an unfamiliar language, like Turkish.
At just 30 babies, the study's sample size is small, but researchers say the findings were consistent. They add that because Western mothers in particular speak more than sing to their babies, the findings could prove especially useful for those facing socio-economic or emotional challenges: "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." The best approach of all, they say? Sing to your kids. (Some companies now let new parents bring their babies to work.)