Tag Archives: baby advice

When Baby Calls For Take-Out

Most babies do not cry much during the first three weeks of life.  This silence is part of a baby’s MO to lull moms into a false sense of security.  “This is so easy,” Mom thinks.  “What’s the big deal about a newborn?”  During the fourth week, however, a strange sound pierces the air, and it’s not a coyote.

We were eating dinner when our newborn son let out a loud wail.  His big sister, only twenty months old, looked at him with disdain and said, “What do you mean, Waaaaah?”  That was exactly how I felt when she first cried.  No one ever told me that newborns typically sleep eighteen hours a day for the first three weeks of life.  Had I known this, I could have prepared myself for what was ahead.

With so many meanings behind cries, the only truly obvious cry from a baby follows from a witnessed injury.  If you see your baby get hurt and he cries, any Sherlock can deduce that the cry is due to pain.  Nothing gives a greater warning of the intensity of a coming scream like The Pre-Scream Factor.  After an injury, the longer the preceding silent scream, the louder the actual scream.  If your child gets hurt and starts to cry immediately, you are safe.  If, however, an injury is followed by a long gape-mouthed look of frozen horror as your child writhes in agony – take cover.  The blood-curdling scream that is to come will be explosive.

In your efforts to help your baby stop crying, start with the most obvious clue:

Hunger.  The hunger cry is the easiest to recognize, as it is the one that will jolt you out of sleep in the middle of the night for the first few months. It is not as loud and sudden as a pain cry, but it is usually persistent. Keep in mind that sometimes during a growth spurt, more frequent feedings are required.  Forget about whining, “But it’s only been two hours!”  If your baby is showing signs of hunger, you might as well use your carefully crafted schedule as a diaper wipe.

Signs of hunger include: fussing (hunger cry), rooting, and sucking on fingers, his or yours. “Rooting” refers to the turning of your baby’s head toward your breast.  He will often open his mouth in frustration and move his head like he’s bobbing for apples.  Of course, consider it a major hint if your baby starts dialing for take-out at 2 a.m.

Plenty of adults still seek food or drink as a solace for stress or frustration.  Be careful not to use milk as a weapon to silence your baby every time he cries.  You may gain peace and quiet, but he will gain unnecessary weight.  If polite people start referring to your baby as “healthy-looking,” it may be code for “obese.”

Check back next week for more clues…


A Van Halen Lullaby

How do the babies of rock stars ever get to sleep?  The innate desire to perform for an audience must cause these famous parents to break out the stage lighting and pyrotechnics.  Not many babies could sleep through a Steven Tyler shriek or an Eddie Van Halen guitar solo.   

For the rest of us, we resort to soothing our crying babies to sleep with gentle rhymes or lullabies.  Once you discover the lyrics to some classic favorites, however, you might want to start inventing some of your own.

The first time you try to comfort your baby with a lullaby, you will probably select the obvious choice, “Rock-a-Bye-Baby.”  As the words come out of your mouth, you will be Mother Goosed, suddenly shocked into awareness of the horrible meaning behind the lyrics of a nursery rhyme or lullaby.

How exactly is this supposed to be comforting?

Rock-a-bye, baby,
In the treetop,
When the wind blows
The cradle will rock;
When the bough breaks
The cradle will fall,
And down will come baby,
Cradle and all.

Because nothing soothes a baby to sleep like the fear of falling from a tree. 

Children’s songs and nursery rhymes are replete with disturbing images. London Bridge is falling down, Old Mother Hubbard’s dog starves to death, Miss Muffet is frightened by a spider, Humpty Dumpty is cracked open, the farmer’s wife cuts off the tails of the three blind mice with a carving knife, and some abusive husband named Peter keeps his wife locked up in a pumpkin shell.  What happened to the old lady who swallowed a fly?  She swallowed a horse and died, of course! Don’t you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? 

Consider the following heartwarming nursery rhyme:

Goosey, goosey gander,

Whither shall I wander?

Upstairs and downstairs

And in my lady’s chamber.

There I met an old man

Who would not say his prayers;

So I took him by his left leg

And threw him down the stairs.


 “Violence in the workplace” stories always put me to sleep.  Zzzzz… 

How about this childhood classic?

Ring around the rosie,

A pocket full of posies,

Ashes, ashes!

We all fall down.

Sounds innocent enough, but this rhyme is supposedly about the Bubonic Plague of the 14thcentury.  Get your afghan and snuggle up, ’cause it time to sing about Black Death!   

And don’t forget:

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe;
She had so many children she didn’t know what to do.
She gave them some broth without any bread;
Then whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.

A soothing rhyme about a lunatic who should have been given birth control and visited by Social Services. 

A Van Halen lullaby is looking pretty good right about now. 

The words that are passed down to your baby should be gentle, loving, and reassuring.  But I’m too practical to suggest that you create your own soothing lyrics and rhymes.  No one enjoys a poetry assignment in high school, and they certainly don’t have time once a baby comes along.  You will end up doing what mothers have done for generations.  Stick to the old-fashioned, ridiculous songs that have been passed down by our ancestors.   And pray that your baby has no clue what you are talking about. 














Sam Hill and the Spider Monkeys

Once you finally get your baby to sleep, it is time to meet Sam Hill.  He will come to your bedroom every night and wake you from blissful slumber.  It is a little known fact that babies usually cry out IN THEIR SLEEP once or twice per night.  If you were in a deep sleep, every hair will stand at attention as you bolt upright in bed and yell:


When an older baby is no longer feeding during the night, but he wakes up crying, parents instinctively jump out of bed and rush to the baby to see what might be wrong.  This action can cause some problems.  First, your nerves are frayed from going from deep slumber to wide awake faster than a bullet leaves a gun.  You may need some winding down time before you can fall back to sleep.  Second, your baby now wakes up and expects you to pick him up and/or play with him.  Finally, your baby learns that if he cries, you will immediately come running to the rescue.

When your baby cries at night, try not to rush out of bed unless it sounds like an emergency.  Most likely, your baby will go right back to sleep.  Remember, this is referring to babies who are no longer feeding at night.  A baby who is six months or older may also awaken because he is teething.

After a while, you will learn to recognize the sound of Sleepcrying, and you will save yourself a lot of sleep if you adopt a wait-and-see attitude.

CRYING IT OUT (Warning:  not for wimps!)

Parents usually have a hard time breaking away from their baby and letting him learn how to fall asleep on his own.  Sometimes it is harder on us than it is on them.  Do you know any adults who are bitter towards their parents for making them “cry it out” for a few nights during infancy?

While you do not want to leave your baby crying for hours, you can simply check on him every five to ten minutes.  Do not pick him up!  If you are trying to teach him to go to sleep on his own, this action sends conflicting messages.  He will then expect you to pick him up every time, which let’s face it, you probably will.

If you are trying the Crying it Out technique, every few minutes or so you can reassure your baby by talking to him and patting his back.  Do not feel like a failure when you leave the room and he cries even harder.  You have to endure this a few times, so BE STRONG!  A few nights without sleep will result in future peace and quiet for the household.

When it is time to transition from a bassinet by your bed to a crib in your baby’s own room, you may have some anxiety over how well he will make the switch.  For a few weeks before the actual nighttime transition, put the baby down for naps in the new crib and room.  As long as you use room darkening shades and curtains and turn on a humidifier or fan, your baby should get used to a new bed quickly.

During a baby’s first few months, you usually put him down when he is sound asleep.  Once he moves to a crib in his own room, however, you should start putting him down when he is just starting to fall asleep, so he can learn to fall asleep on his own.  A key to your success will be if you move the same humidifier or fan to the new room.  By this time, he will associate that sound with bedtime.  Again, make sure the room is completely dark, as streetlights can shine through the SIDES of shades and create distracting shadows on the wall.

Many parents let their children watch a TV show or movie every night before bed.  Studies have shown that the light that emanates from a TV keeps children restless and awake.  Some better methods for unwinding are: a warm bath (especially with chamomile or lavender scents), nature music, and fresh air. 

If you use sounds of nature music to put your children to sleep, make sure you listen to the CD’s first before you actually play them.  You might be drifting off to sleep one night to the gentle sound of the rain forest, when suddenly a large tropical bird starts screeching, “CAW!  CAW!  CAW!”  Then the thunder starts booming, and you hear the shriek of spider monkeys. As a general rule, ocean waves are more relaxing than sounds of the jungle.



The School of Rocking

Rocking is pleasant for a baby, but it is more for the sanity of the parent.  By rocking back and forth, the frantic parent is actually calming herself while chanting, “I WILL get some sleep, I WILL get some sleep…” 

Most parents instinctively rock their infants, but each baby responds differently to various types of rocking.  Sometimes you even need to vary the rocking techniques during the same session. 

1.  The Time Warp:  A woman once told me she had rocked her baby so hard that the rocking chair flipped over backwards.  While mother and baby survived without injury, I do not recommend this dangerous form of The Time Warp rocking method.  This technique is best performed on a couch, but you can also use a rocking chair if you are careful. 

The Time Warp works well for an infant who is crying frantically out of control.  Sit at an angle with your back to the corner of the couch, and place a large pillow for a buffer behind your back.  Rock vigorously back and forth while being careful to hold your baby close to you and support his neck with your arm.  Put his head against your chest so he can hear your heartbeat.  After a few minutes, this should calm the baby down enough to move to a less vigorous technique.

2The Gelatin Jiggle:  Once a baby is only mildly fussy, he can be lulled to sleep by this technique.  Either standing or sitting, hold your baby close to you with his head against your chest so he can hear your heartbeat.  Rest his bottom on one arm and gently jiggle him up and down.  This movement should be very light; never shake your baby!  Move on to The Rocking Boat once he seems to be falling asleep. 

3The Rocking Boat:  The Gelatin Jiggle is an up and down motion, but The Rocking Boat gently sways back and forth.  If you have been standing, you may as well sit down and be comfortable for this stage.  Still holding your baby to your chest, GENTLY sway your upper body back and forth to rock your baby to sleep.  Since the baby will be nodding off to sleep, this is a perfect opportunity to relax with a book, movie, or TV show.  If you use this technique often enough, you may catch yourself rocking back and forth while reading, even though you’re not holding a baby! 

4.  The Speed Skater:   This technique is similar to The Rocking Boat, except you STAND UP and gently rock from side to side.  You will be doing side leg lunges, much like a speed skater.  While this move can zap your energy at night, it is perfect during the day for firming up those post-partum thighs.

 5.  The Long Distance:  Whenever you are on the phone, hold your baby in one arm and the phone in the other arm.  As you are talking, pace back and forth across the room.  After about twenty minutes, your baby may be sound asleep.  You won’t know if this was from the monotony of the pacing or your conversation.  Unfortunately, you cannot start calling your friends at 3:00 a.m. just to get your baby to sleep, or you might not have any friends left to call!


You did it!  After hours of rocking, pacing, and shushing, you finally managed to get your baby to sleep.  Carefully tiptoeing down the hallway and side-stepping the obstacle course of squeaky toys, you quickly deposit your precious bundle into his crib.  Exhausted, you climb into bed and sink your head into the pillow.  Suddenly, you hear, “Waaaaaaaah” No!  It can’t be!  Time to start all over again… 

By using the Direct Deposit technique, you can avoid this ugly scenario.  As tempting as it may be to immediately return a sleeping baby to his crib, you need to wait at least ten minutes.  In your haste to return to dreamland, this may seem like an eternity.  Believe me, ten minutes is nothing compared to how long it may take you to get your baby back to sleep again!  Your baby needs at least ten minutes to fall into a deep enough sleep to make a smooth transition back to the crib. 

The sudden drop from being up high in your arms to being lowered to the crib can seem like a roller coaster to your baby.  To make sure that he sleeps through the transition, keep your baby close to your chest as you bend over, only “depositing” him when he is an inch away from the mattress.  In other words, YOU do the “falling,” not your baby.  And by now you’re so tired, you should have no problem falling.


King Tut Burrito

When our daughter was born, I was surprised when the nurses presented her bundled up tightly like a mummy.  Only her big blue eyes were peeking out at me.  I later learned that this was the “swaddling” that I thought ended a couple of thousand years ago when baby Jesus lay in the manger.  The nurses tried to convince me that babies actually like to be swaddled, but I couldn’t believe them.  Who wants to look like King Tut? 

Eventually, I came to the conclusion that the nurses were correct.  Since the coziness of the swaddle resembles the womb, babies who are swaddled well do sleep extra hours at night.  Some babies will Pull a Houdini on you, as they mock your swaddle by instantly breaking free. After a few weeks, you only have to swaddle the lower body, not the arms.  Many babies do not enjoy having their arms swaddled because they need to suck on a finger or thumb for comfort.  Wrapping the lower half works just as well for these babies.

Even though you may decide to swaddle your baby, the question then becomes HOW?  Fortunately, this is the perfect job for dads.  Any dad who enjoys wrapping a tasty burrito can apply this skill to parenthood.  To set the mood, simply serve chips & salsa, play some mariachi music, and you will soon have your own little Baby Burrito in no time. 

1.    Put a square baby blanket on a flat surface and fold down one top corner about 6 inches.

2.    Lay your baby on his back with his head on the fold.   The top of the fold should be even with his shoulders.

3.    Pull the bottom corner up under your baby’s chin.

4.    Gently hold your baby’s right arm down by his side.

5.    Pull the left bottom corner tautly across his body and tuck the blanket under your baby on the opposite side.

6.    Gently hold your baby’s left arm down by his side.

7.    Bring the loose corner over your baby’s right arm and tuck it under the back on his left side. You can also swaddle under the arms if your baby prefers to have his fingers free to suck.

By following these simple steps, you will have your very own King Tut Burrito, who will be back to sleep in no time.  Then you can make yourself a real burrito and get some much needed rest.

This Little Piggy Exercises

Once you have a baby, you will stop worrying about Murphy’s Law, because a whole new set of rules will apply.  Even the hapless Murphy would admit that nothing can compare to the true nature of Mommy’s Law.  

According to Mommy’s Law, if you are home alone and holding a crying baby, you will inevitably drop something.  A few useful exercises will help get you in shape for these harrowing moments.  It is time to learn how to maximize your appendages. 

The Toe Toss is a simple exercise that does not even require stretching.  In fact, you will not even break a sweat.

  1. Take a deep breath and relax.
  2. While balancing on one leg, carefully use the other foot to SCOOP up the item onto the base of your toes.
  3. Gently TOSS the item up onto a couch, table, or chair.
  4. Pick up the item with your free hand.
  5. Do a victory dance to celebrate your accomplishment.  (No one is home.)

The next move is a more complicated version of The Toe Toss.  Only move on when you have mastered the above exercise.

Sometimes you will not even have time for The Toe Toss.  In an emergency, you need a move with faster, more efficient results.  Let’s say you are running late to an important meeting, and you drop something on your way out the door while holding your baby.  Now you need The Reverse Toe Toss with a Twist.

  1. Skip the deep breathing.  (There will be plenty of time for breathing later.)
  2. While balancing on one leg, carefully use the other foot to SCOOP up the item onto the base of your toes.
  3. Lift that leg off the ground and TOSS the item UP and BACK towards you in one swift motion.
  4. Catch the item with your free hand. 
  5. Do a victory dance while running to your car

If you miss, you will need to start over again.  This move takes PRACTICE, but you will not believe how many times it will come in handy.  Once you become an expert, you can use it to entertain at parties.  Imagine the look of awe inspired when you do a Reverse Toe Toss with a Twist to recapture a stray Shrimp Ball.

Some dropped items, like a pen, are too awkward to balance and toss.  In this difficult situation, you must do The Claw and grasp the item between your big toe and second toe.  Carefully lift and bend your leg until you can grab the item.  I recommend watching My Left Foot, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, before you try to master this one.  It would be helpful if they would release the sequel, My Big Toe

Until the release of a toe workout video, you can use this as your guide.  With these simple exercises, you can get your little piggy who went to market and the little piggy who stayed home to cooperate and be your friends. Just remember to pace your breathing.  And watch out for Mommy’s Law.

Great Adaptations

Any mom who spent her childhood perfecting the three-legged race knows that a one-armed cooking contest would have been better preparation for motherhood.  As a new parent constantly holding a baby, it can be shocking to suddenly lose the use of one arm.  Now add a squirming, floppy ten-pound weight to that arm and try to cook a soufflé.  Sound impossible?  Even though it seems daunting at first, it does get easier over time.  After a third baby, some mothers are able to hold a crying infant, cook dinner, vacuum, talk on the phone, and do their taxes simultaneously.  Sometimes they even do it blindfolded just to show off. 

After childbirth, parents inevitably develop a chronic case of The Dropsies.  This trend can happen in one of two ways.  One way is to drop something after you just spent considerable time rocking your baby to sleep.  The Theory of Dropsies Relativity states that there is a direct relationship between how long you spend rocking a baby to sleep and how loud the noise will be when you drop something.  For example, after ten minutes, you will only drop a penny.  After an hour, it might be your unabridged copy of War and Peace.  If you rock for an entire night, you might actually knock over the refrigerator. 

One night when our daughter was a newborn, I had spent several stressful hours rocking her to sleep. When my husband was getting ready for bed, the coins from his pocket crashed onto the floor, rolled down an entire hallway and landed outside the door of our sleeping baby’s room.  (Much like the Warren Commission investigation of the JFK assassination, he is still on trial as to how the coins actually managed to make a ninety degree turn.)  This strange phenomenon is an example of The Doghouse Theory: When one parent is trying frantically to soothe the baby to sleep, it is usually the OTHER parent who drops something. 

The other case of The Dropsies occurs when you drop something while holding a crying baby, but you are home alone.  To save your aching back, you will need to use your toes to help retrieve it. Prior to motherhood, you probably did not think much of your toes, other than to apply an occasional coat of nail polish.  Now that you are beginning your octopus metamorphosis, you need to start thinking of your toes as extra useful tools.  Next week we will review some useful exercises to maximize your appendages.