Article| Volume 29, ISSUE 2, P145-155, March 2015

Hush Now Baby: Mothers' and Fathers' Strategies for Soothing Their Infants and Associated Parenting Outcomes

Published:October 23, 2014DOI:



      The purpose of this study was to examine the types of soothing behaviors used by mothers and fathers of infants, differences in use trajectories over time, and associated parenting outcomes.


      A longitudinal study of 241 families expecting their second child was performed. Data were collected at 1, 4, and 8 postnatal months and included measures of parental soothing techniques, involvement in soothing, distress in response to infant crying, and parenting self-efficacy.


      The average number of soothing techniques used was 7.7 for mothers and 5.9 for fathers. Soothing frequency decreased over time, and change patterns of soothing differed over time by gender. In couples who shared responsibility for soothing, fathers felt more efficacious in parenting and mothers were less upset by infant crying.


      Clinicians are encouraged to support fathers' engagement in infant soothing, facilitate the development of fathers' parenting confidence, and promote fathers' involvement in children's health and health care.

      Key Words

      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to Journal of Pediatric Health Care
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • American Psychological Association
        The Report of the APA Presidential Initiative on Work and Families.
        Author, Washington, DC2004
        • Barr R.G.
        The normal crying curve: What do we really know?.
        Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology. 1990; 32: 356-362
        • Barr R.G.
        Colic and crying syndromes in infants.
        Pediatrics. 1998; 102: 1282-1286
        • Barr R.G.
        Preventing abusive head trauma resulting from a failure of normal interaction between infants and their caregivers.
        Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2012; 109: 17294-17301
        • Barr R.G.
        • Paterson J.A.
        • MacMartin L.M.
        • Lehtonen L.
        • Young S.N.
        Prolonged and unsoothable crying bouts in infants with and without colic.
        Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. 2005; 26: 14-23
        • Bianchi S.M.
        Family change and time allocation in American families.
        Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences. 2011; 638: 21-44
        • Boivin M.
        • Pérusse D.
        • Dionne G.
        • Saysset V.
        • Zoccolillo M.
        • Tarabulsy G.M.
        • Tremblay R.E.
        • et al.
        The genetic-environmental etiology of parents' perceptions and self-assessed behaviours toward their 5-month-old infants in a large twin and singleton sample.
        Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 2005; 46: 612-630
        • Bryanton J.
        • Gagnon A.J.
        • Hatem M.
        • Johnston C.
        Predictors of early parenting self-efficacy: Results of a prospective cohort study.
        Nursing Research. 2008; 57: 252-259
        • Doi H.
        • Kato M.
        • Nishitani S.
        • Shinohara K.
        Development of synchrony between activity patterns of mother-infant pair from 4 to 18 months after birth.
        Journal of Physiological Sciences. 2011; 61: 211-216
        • Dubowitz H.
        • Black M.M.
        • Kerr M.A.
        • Starr Jr., R.H.
        • Harrington D.
        Fathers and child neglect.
        Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. 2000; 154: 135-141
        • Ehrenberg M.F.
        • Gearing-Small M.
        • Hunter M.A.
        • Small B.J.
        Childcare task division and shared parenting attitudes in dual-earner families with young children.
        Family Relations. 2001; 50: 143-153
        • Esernio-Jenssen D.
        • Tai J.
        • Kodsi S.
        Abusive head trauma in children: A comparison of male and female perpetrators.
        Pediatrics. 2011; 127: 649-657
        • Garfield C.F.
        • Isacco A.
        Fathers and the well-child visit.
        Pediatrics. 2006; 117: e637-645
        • Hossain Z.
        • Roopnarine J.L.
        • Masud J.
        • Muhamed A.A.-H.
        • Baharudin R.
        • Abdullah R.
        • Juhari R.
        Mothers' and fathers' childcare involvement with young children in rural families in Malaysia.
        International Journal of Psychology. 2005; 40: 385-394
        • Hughes S.O.
        • Shewchuk R.M.
        • Baskin M.L.
        • Nicklas T.A.
        • Qu H.
        Indulgent feeding style and children's weight status in Preschool.
        Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. 2008; 29: 403-410
        • Jahromi L.B.
        • Stifter C.A.
        Individual differences in the contribution of maternal soothing to infant distress reduction.
        Infancy. 2007; 11: 255-269
        • Jones L.C.
        • Lenz E.R.
        Father-newborn interaction: Effects of social competence and infant state.
        Nursing Research. 1986; 35: 149-153
        • Kaitz M.
        • Chriki M.
        • Bear-Scharf L.
        • Nir T.
        • Eidelman A.I.
        Effectiveness of primiparae and multiparae at soothing their newborn infants.
        The Journal of Genetic Psychology: Research and Theory on Human Development. 2000; 161: 203-215
        • Lee C.
        • Barr R.G.
        • Catherine N.
        • Wicks A.
        Age-related incidence of publicly reported shaken baby syndrome cases: Is crying a trigger for shaking?.
        Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. 2007; 28: 288-293
        • Lewis M.
        • Ramsay D.S.
        Effect of maternal soothing on infant stress response.
        Child Development. 1999; 70: 11-20
        • MacDonald K.
        • Parke R.D.
        Parent-child physical play: The effects of sex and age of children and parents.
        Sex Roles. 1986; 15: 367-378
        • McGlaughlin A.
        • Grayson A.
        Crying in the first year of infancy: Patterns and prevalence.
        Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology. 2001; 19: 47-59
        • Paquette D.
        Theorizing the father-child relationship: Mechanisms and developmental outcomes.
        Human Development. 2004; 47: 193-219
        • Reijneveld S.A.
        • van der Wal M.F.
        • Brugman E.
        • Sing R.A.
        • Verloove-Vanhorick S.P.
        Infant crying and abuse.
        Lancet. 2004; 364: 1340-1342
        • Richardson P.
        Women's perceptions of change in relationships shared with children during pregnancy.
        Maternal-Child Nursing Journal. 1983; 12: 75-88
        • Schor E.L.
        Family pediatrics: Report of the Task Force on the Family.
        Pediatrics. 2003; 111: 1541-1571
        • Shah P.E.
        • Muzik M.
        • Rosenblum K.L.
        Optimizing the early parent-child relationship: Windows of opportunity for parents and pediatricians.
        Current Problems in Pediatric and Adolescent Health Care. 2011; 41: 183-187
        • St. James-Roberts I.
        • Halil T.
        Infant crying patterns in the first year: Normal community and clinical findings.
        Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 1991; 32: 951-968
        • Stewart T.C.
        • Polgar D.
        • Gilliland J.
        • Tanner D.A.
        • Girotti M.J.
        • Parry N.
        • Fraser D.D.
        Shaken baby syndrome and a triple-dose strategy for its prevention.
        Journal of Trauma. 2011; 71: 1801-1807
        • Stifter C.A.
        • Anzman-Frasca S.
        • Birch L.L.
        • Voegtline K.
        Parent use of food to soothe infant/toddler distress and child weight status. An exploratory study.
        Appetite. 2011; 57: 693-699
        • Sun L.-C.
        • Roopnarine J.L.
        Mother-infant, father-infant interaction and involvement in childcare and household labor among Taiwanese families.
        Infant Behavior & Development. 1996; 19: 121-129
        • Volling B.L.
        Family transitions following the birth of a sibling: An empirical review of changes in the firstborn's adjustment.
        Psychological Bulletin. 2012; 138: 497-528
        • Wolke D.
        • Meyer R.
        • Gray P.
        Validity of the Crying Pattern Questionnaire in a sample of excessively crying babies.
        Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology. 1994; 12: 105-114
        • Worobey J.
        • Laub K.W.
        • Schilmoeller G.L.
        Maternal and paternal responses to infant distress.
        Merrill-Palmer Quarterly. 1983; 29: 33-45
        • Zeman J.
        • Cassano M.
        • Perry-Parrish C.
        • Stegall S.
        Emotion regulation in children and adolescents.
        Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. 2006; 27: 155-168
        • Zeskind P.S.
        • Barr R.G.
        Acoustic characteristics of naturally occurring cries of infants with 'colic'.
        Child Development. 1997; 68: 394-403


      Carolyn Joy Dayton, Assistant Professor, School of Social Work, Wayne State University, and Associate Director, Infant Mental Health Program, Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute, Detroit, MI.


      Tova B. Walsh, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI.


      Wonjung Oh, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.


      Brenda Volling, Professor, Department of Psychology, and Director, Center for Human Growth and Development, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.