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I remember coming across many suggestions that we add a crib mobile to our crib for our baby.

I believe that they were cited as "providing stimulation", and I recall seeing something about bright, strongly-contrasting colors being "better" for the infant.

I've also seen suggestions that mobiles may provide overstimulation, or hinder sleep.

Are there any reputable studies on crib mobiles? Do they say if they are helpful, harmful, or both?

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I don't have studies but one of the advantages is muscle and movement training - the baby will reach out to try to grab the mobile. –  DanBeale Feb 24 at 16:45
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4 Answers 4

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There have been studies done with healthy infants whose ankles were tied to a mobile with a ribbon (the earliest of these is cited below; it has been oft-repeated with additional variables). The reward of the mobile moving produced more leg-kicking. This confirms not only that infants watch mobiles, but also that they attempt to interact with mobiles and that they remember simple cause and effect. Infants tested 1-3 days after their first training with a mobile remembered the mobile and immediately interacted with it. A 3-minute reminder session would alleviate forgetting after a 4-week interval of not being with the mobile. Researchers also found that if you introduce a new element to a 5-element mobile or moved the mobile to a different environment (new background, different smells or lighting), memory is reduced.

So beyond providing stimulation, mobiles appear to aid in the development of memory and the understanding of cause and effect!

Rovee-Collier CK, Gekoski MJ. The economics of infancy: a review of conjugate reinforcement. In: Reese HW, Lipsitt LP, eds. Advances in Child Development and Behavior, Vol 13. New York, NY: Academic Press; 1979:195–255.

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A crib mobile can be helpful for an infant to develop his senses. He/she can see, touch and hear it, while the motion will help with 3D recognition. It is not going to turn your toddler into the next Einstein, but it helps. You however might need to try a few of them till you find one that your child finds appealing. At that age this is basically random guesswork. Usually a more subtle one might assist on sleeping.

In addition you can actually use it to train your toddler to sleep. If you always put on the mobile when he/she is supposed to take a nap, you might get lucky and he/she will automatically fall asleep once you switch it on or it will at least support the nap time.

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I am against putting any toys to bed with a child, except maybe a teddy bear to cuddle with. I think that a child needs to associate its crib with sleeping. Me and my wife have decided that we will not play with our daughter when she's in the crib, we won't talk to her and perform no activities not related to sleeping. Shushing and stroking, gentle patting or other sleep-encouraging soothening gestures are allowed, but we avoid them if we can. So far this has been working. When she is put to her bed she seems to know we want her to sleep. She doesn't always comply, though;)

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They are helpful to some but not all infants. For some infants a mobile can be a soothing sound, while for others it may become an annoying background noise. I hope this helps!

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Please note that I'm asking for scientific studies or research on this. Your answer would help if it included some references or sources to justify it. Please feel free to edit any you can find in to your answer. –  Beofett Mar 13 at 12:07
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