This name was given to me by 2 sets of parents recently. I happen to turn up for work and their babies just happen to be going through a fractious phase. I step in, say hello, and offer to have baby and, voila… baby calms down and quietens. The parents stare at me in disbelief and awe, which I am almost unaware of. Then they say, “What did you do?” Or, “How did you do that?” In all honesty, I don’t know myself, but I have some theories to explain what is happening. I am penning this right of the top of my head and it’s by no means evidence based. It may be interesting to explore the evidence in support some of my techniques for settling babies… I guess that will be in Baby Whisperer Part 3.
The early days of parenthood are wonderful and amazing times. It can also be a time of stress and these precious miracles called babies are very adept at feeling the stress their parents feel. So, my theory is that when I take over from them, being the calm, confident postpartum doula that I am, the babies sense this too, and calms down, as the stress around them has been removed.
Once the babies are clam and quiet, stop crying and fussing, the stress levels in their parents drop too, so that when I hand the babies back to them, all is calm and great.
Now, in the back of my mind, I see a potential drawback. I want to empower my clients to become confident parents. I don’t want to be the only one who can calm their fractious baby. So, I explain to them about the stresses of the early days of parenthood and discuss ways of dealing with these stresses and anxieties. It’s a huge learning curve becoming a parent for the first time and of course they are going to be anxious and have a lot of concerns and questions.
Why do babies cry? Babies cry primarily because it’s their only means of communicating with us until they learn how to talk. And it is our duty as ‘Sherlock Holmes’ parents to decipher what that crying means. They are trying to communicate to us that they may be hungry, they may have wet or soiled their diaper, they may have gas or they may have been startled. It may even be too quiet for them. They are not used to being left alone, after all, they have spent the last 40 weeks in their mother’s uterus listening to the swishing, pulsating of the placenta and their mother’s heartbeat. Not to mention all that borborygmi! They can also hear mum’s voice and that of others all through their watery world of amniotic fluid.
And so they are born. All of a sudden their noisy world becomes a relatively quiet one. It must take a bit of getting used to. Maybe this is why white noise machines seem to be a must thing to have these days, though I must admit I did not have one for my children. I co-slept with them, and I guess that having us close to them comforted them enough to negate the need for any white noise.
So, in order to calm a baby, go through the list of why she/he may be crying, one by one until you solve the mystery. Eventually, you’ll get used to baby’s cries and reactions, and discover the reason fairly easily. In the early days though, going through the list mentally in your head may help. If baby is rooting – opening her mouth as though searching for a breast – feed her. If she has been fed, and is not settling, burp her, check her diaper and maybe check if she needs topping up. Swaddling is going out of fashion and there have been some recent recommendations by the Ontario Nurses Association advising against swaddling. The following link is just one write-up of many written about the new guidelines.
Bearing this in mind, I do not advise my clients to swaddle their babies, if they decide to do so, I advise them of the risks so they can make their own informed decision.
In conclusion, I don’t think I am a baby whisperer nor do I profess to be one. I am an enabler and educator. There are many ways of settling a baby and it may seem like a mystery but if you go through the possible reasons as to why a baby may be unhappy, you’ll soon discover the cause and solve the problem. It’s all about learning, learning to be confident parents and babies learning to communicate with their parents.