How to calm your baby like Darth Vader

11Oct08

Okay, so I think we’ve finally gotten to the point, more or less, where we know how to keep Buster from going postal on us. There’s so much out there written about calming babies I realize there’s a lot of good places to go for information, but I think I’ve adopted and adapted the best techniques from multiple sources.

No reason for you to also subject yourself to sitting through videos of men with weird hair nor sifting through websites for answers. Here are seven quick tips for calming fussy babies, ranging from basic to advanced and highly proprietary DoB-engineered tactics.

1. Remember the fundamentals. At any given point when your baby is crying, remind yourself to go back and check whether it’s due to the two most common causes of crying – hunger or a dirty diaper. I’ve been surprised about how many times I started get frustrated after going to more advanced calming techniques without success before realizing I forgot to check if he’s just sitting in his own mess. Which is a darn good reason to object. If a feeding was more than two and a half hours ago, he’s probably getting hungry, too. Fed and diapered but still shrieking? Check the temperature too. If all is good there, time to move to the more advanced measures.

2. Believe in the power of the swaddle. After the first few weeks, we got away from the swaddle at night, thinking that it was probably not that great to bind our kid like a mental patient for 10 hours a day. That was a tragic error. Strap that baby in. Dress him like a burrito every single time you put him down for sleep in the first few months at minimum, unless you want to end up in your own straitjacket.

This kind of swing is less helpful when a baby is screaming.

This kind of swing is less helpful when a baby is screaming.

3. Swing = peace. Although not as reliable a solution for when your kid is already super-cranky, swings are absolutely the best for when the baby is fighting going to sleep. Consider buying one smaller, portable one and one that’s more of a power swinger. You can afford both if you don’t buy them new. Get them on Craigslist, and don’t pay more than $20. Look for an ad that sounds like it’s coming from a total anal retentive. That person’s mild mental illness is your ticket to a like-new item. Just in case, wash the padding anyway. I bet you $20 you can sell the swing you buy for $20 when your kid is done with it, too.

4. Pacifiers are a double edged nipple. The headline is that pacifiers do their jobs well, especially right before feeding time, just as you’re getting ready and he’s getting impatient. The small print is that they work only when they stay in the kid’s mouth. I try to avoid the pacifier unless necessary, not because I’m worried about oral fixations, but because I’d rather hold him to soothe him in most instances than be on Pacifier Guard, a game where every thirty seconds to two minutes the pacifier pops out and your baby freaks until it’s back in and you freak slightly more each time.

Milky mallets are gentler.

Milky mallets are gentler.

5. Use an extra feeding before bed like a cartoon mallet. When you are getting the sense it may be a fussy night, “top the kid off” with an extra ounce or two right before bed. An extra feeding is a great way to knock your baby out, er I mean, extend that first sleeping period of the night. It’s guaranteed to add at least one hour of sleep for everyone.

6. Go Sith Lord on the bugger. This does NOT mean you should telekinetically grip your child by the throat. But bear with me. In actuality, one widely trusted source advises to say “shhh!” with long whispery tones in your swaddled baby’s ear to quiet him, while turning him on his side on your slightly jiggling lap. And this actually really does work. But it sounds and looks ridiculous! So here’s where I bring you a genuine DoB innovation. Equally effective and much more suitable for today’s new fathers is what I now will trademark as The Darth Vader The DoB Vader (R) (TM). Like the original method, swaddle him, turn him on his side and place him on your lap as you bounce your legs very slightly but steadily. But instead of the shushing nonsense, start by whispering, “<Your child’s name here>, I am your father,” and then breathe right into your crying baby’s ear just like Darth Vader – as loud and breathy as you can for twenty to forty seconds. I swear on my Tauntaun, it works like a Jedi mind trick. Plus this way you don’t look ridiculous. Ahem.

I find your lack of faith disturbing.

I find your lack of faith disturbing.

7. The “hard reset”. In the first few months, you can take advantage of a vestigal reflex. Only use this as a very last resort because A) you don’t want to reduce its effectiveness and B) it will scare the hell out of your wife. So when I say last resort, I mean, this is for when you have tried everything else and your baby is screaming and bright red. The reflex we’re going to be triggering is the one where your baby flings his arms outward if he feels like he’s falling. It’s left over from when he might be able to grab a tree branch on his way down. It also completely distracts him from whatever was upsetting him and delivers a minimum ten second break from the circular loop of disatisfaction he had created by crying until his face hurt. During that pause you have a chance to console him. To execute the hard reset, bring your arms to shoulder level and allow your baby to drop to your waist level, your hands following beneath him at the same speed as gravity so he doesn’t actually hit your hands hard when you catch him at waist level. One or two of these and your baby should be back to a more reasonable state. Do it over a couch, or a bed in case you’re a clumsy moron. Your wife will NOT understand if you screw this one up. But she will think you’re magical when you get it right.

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20 Responses to “How to calm your baby like Darth Vader”

  1. Well said, Dad! I agree with all tactics.

    And when they start to try to get out of the swaddle, but clearly still need it… I present unto you: the Uber-Swaddle. It was a lifesaver for easily two additional months in my house.
    http://goddessinprogress.wordpress.com/2007/11/27/uber-swaddle/

    I’m also a fan of the WubbaNub pacifiers. They’re the green pacifiers with a little plush animal attached. It means you can kind of prop the pacifier up so it’s less likely to fall out. And when they get older, it’s even easier for them to grab and put back in their mouth on their own. HOORAY!
    http://www.wubbanub.com/

  2. Thanks for mentioning the Dad Jam! You have a lot of great ideas here. I totally agree with what you say about pacifiers being a double edged nipple, so we don’t use one anymore, although we did use one for awhile on our first one. Like you said, every time it popped out, we had to scramble to pop it back in.
    The Darth Vader idea is hilarious, I am going to try it out.
    Interesting idea on the “hard reset” – not sure if I have the guts for it, but who knows. If I do try it, it will have to be when wifey is not in the room 🙂

  3. When our first child was born, we swore that we would never let ourselves become “those parents” who stick a pacifier in their kids’ mouth at the first whimper. Ah, how naive we were! It didn’t take many sleepless nights before we started shoving the binky into little NHL’s mouth. Now, JSL is continuing the tradition by being a binky-addict. We’ll wean him from it when he’s older, but for now it’s nice to be able to quiet him down by re-bink-i-fying him. (Is that a word?)

  4. WOW.

    As usual, DoB is on the forefront of all things fatherhood! (And all things FUNNY.)

    “DOB VADER”

    Love this post!!

  5. 5 Neighbor Greg

    I barely got the opening lines of the Darth Vader out on Wally J before he turned to me and, in a nasal screech in mid-cry, shouted “NOOOOOOOOOOO!!! THAT’S NOT TRUE!!! THAT’S IMPOSSIBLE!” Which unfortunately also happen to have been his first words. I’m wondering if I should take it personally.

  6. Awesome again. This is great. You live through the events. You learn the tricks. You blog it. I read it. I apply it to my new baby in a couple days. Great work DOB.

  7. 7 il

    @Neighbor Greg: I did notice your T-16 out on the front lawn along with a significant drop in the Womp Rat population.

  8. This is genius. With 4 boys. And a husband who is a STAR WARS FAN! I just had my husband sit down to read this. I love it. And so freaking funny!
    – Audrey
    Mom Generations

  9. I’m laughing my Hutt off!

  10. Sometimes you got to use the force. Believe in the swaddle.

  11. LOL @Hard reset…I just let out a good burp and voila, rebooted.

  12. 12 Josh (Dad of a 2 yr old Boy and 5 wk old girl)

    Great advice…the first time I try that last step I might wait until my wife is at the movies.

    Another technique I have used to provide that element of shock is a quick blow of air to their face. It has the same element as in the movies when someone smacks someone in the face, only obviously we are only touching the baby with air. It shocks them into holding their breathe and therefore not crying – this technique is also used when teaching a baby how to go under water.

    It too shouldn’t be used too often, but gives a split second of peace and quiet and an opportunity to try to settle your crying baby.

  13. Really quite helpful advice! In all of these advices, I really like the swinging technique which I can say is the best technique for a baby to stop crying. Whenever my baby cries a lot I make use of this technique or else I use a product that my husband brought from http://www.BabyBoo.com, called the Cradle Me supportive receiving blanket.

    There are swaddling straps inside the Cradle Me supportive receiving blanket, and I was able to put them tightly, but comfortably over my baby’s tummy, and he loved it. He liked the pressure on his stomach, maybe he is a really gassy baby, or coliccy or something, I’m not sure, but he is really happy now when he is swaddled into the Cradle Me ™.” I definitely would like to recommend you this product and this product had provided my baby and me a quite big relief.

  14. great tactics dad

  15. The article is excellent.Thank. I just have to copy it 🙂

  16. registry easy, registryeasy, registry, registry cleaner, registry repair, registry fix, registry clean, error fix, error repair

  17. It is wonderful to see another parents way of doing things. This is fantastic keep it up and thanks for sharing.
    Jan
    BabyCradleSwingReview

  18. Hmm is anyone else encountering problems with the
    images on this blog loading? I’m trying to determine if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog.
    Any responses would be greatly appreciated.


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