According to my parents, I was one of the fussiest babies on the block. In addition to some problems with colic, I would get upset about the slightest disturbance. After trying everything to calm me down, they eventually realized that I turned into a content angel every time we went for a drive. Eventually my dad started driving me around when I started to get fussy. As soon as the engine was on and the car was ambling out of the driveway, I would gaze out the window with a slight smile and the tears would dry on cheeks. Luckily, my dad loved driving, because we would sometimes go to New York and back on a silent, peaceful journey. My mom was reminding me of these days recently, and I began to wonder if car rides are a widely used antidote for fussy babies. In my research, I actually discovered that my contentment as a baby was probably not caused by an enthusiasm for automobiles, but instead was a response to the motion of the ride.

Many studies have proven that babies enjoy slight motion. That’s way many mothers bounce their babies in their lap or rock them to sleep. Essentially, riding in the car is just a bigger version of the rocking motion. Experts agree that babies enjoy motion because it reminds them of the womb. Even if the mother is stationary for the most part—at the dinner table, for example—the baby is moving because the liquids inside the womb are easy to jostle. Every time the mom pushes her chair in, moves her arms, talks expressively or brings the fork to her mouth, the liquid in the womb will rock gently. Water picks up movement easily, which is why you can see vibrations in a glass of water even at the slightest rumble. In that way, it’s easy to see why babies love the movement of the car. It calms them, because it mimics the feeling of being safe and sound in the womb.

Most parents will do anything to get a fussy baby to calm down. In my dad’s case, the cost of gas and tolls to travel from southwestern Connecticut to New York City and back was worth every penny. In most cases, you can find simpler and cheaper ways to get your baby moving gently, such as a rocking seat or swing.

Source: Harvey N Karp: A Randomized, Controlled Trial of a Behavioral Intervention to Reduce Crying Among Infants. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine Volume 23 Issue 5 pp. 689-690 October 2010