Pediatrician baby whisperer demonstrates how to soothe crying newborn

A California pediatrician's simple demonstration on how to calm a crying newborn in seconds is starting to rack up views on YouTube.

'Facilitated tucking' can reduce pain and distress in babies, but there are other proven strategies

In this frame from YouTube, Dr. Robert Hamilton demonstrates his approach on how to support a baby to calm them after a vaccination. (YouTube)

A California pediatrician's simple demonstration on how to calm a crying newborn in seconds is starting to rack up views on YouTube.

Dr. Robert Hamilton of Pacific Ocean Pediatrics in Santa Monica explains the technique he uses to quiet infants during office visits, such as after they get their shots.

Hamilton shows four main steps of what he calls The Hold:

  • Fold and cross the baby's arms across his or her chest and gently secure them with one of your hands.
  • Pull the baby's bottom down with your dominant hand.
  • Gently hold the baby at a 45-degree angle to maintain control in case the baby rocks its head back.
  • Gently rock the baby up and down or stir clockwise or counterclockwise.

Jerking movements should be avoided.

Hamilton also describes what part of your hand to use and how to support the baby's chin.

If the hold doesn't work then the baby may be ill or hungry, he says in the video, posted on Sunday. It shows how it worked on two infants in his practise.

The technique works best on babies younger than about three months. After that, they tend to be too heavy to hold this way, he said.

Christine Chambers, a clinical psychologist and a professor of pediatrics at Dalhousie University in Halifax, isn't surprised the video is going viral, given how every new parent would like a magical solution to calm a crying baby.

"The video shows a variant of a newborn care strategy called facilitated tucking," Chambers, a mother of four, said in an email to CBC News.

Normally in facilitated tucking, the baby is held in a flexed position, usually in a crib or incubator, rather than in the air as Hamilton demonstrated, she said.

"There is some evidence that facilitated tucking is effective to reduce pain and distress in babies undergoing painful procedures, but it is not as effective as breastfeeding, skin-to-skin, and sucrose, all of which are proven pain control strategies for babies."

If those proven strategies were used, perhaps the babies wouldn't have been so cranky in the first place, she suggested. 

Chambers suspects the babies in the video are reacting to the novelty of the positioning and experience.

But the calm isn't likely to last, she said, and the parent would then need to try something else.

"I think social media can be a very powerful tool to reach parents more directly with evidence-based information in fun and engaging ways, as we are doing for pain management in children."

Chambers spearheads #ItDoesntHaveToHurt, a social media campaign to put credible information on how to manage children's pain directly into the hands of parents through the Canadian parenting website

While it's important that the information shared on social media is based on research, Chambers isn't aware of any controlled research studies to evaluate The Hold.

It's also possible a parent might drop their baby while trying to get the child into the position, she cautioned.