The word lullaby means “sing to sleep.” The sweet tunes of lullaby music mimic the reassuring rhythms of a mother’s pulse, about seventy beats per second. This pace is perfect for singing—and rocking—our baby as he drifts into the land of Wynken, Blynken and Nod.
However, soothing baby lullabies are often powerless to end crying frenzies. Once in meltdown mode, babies get so lost in their screams, they just can't hear us. Just as adults get “blind with rage,” babies become “deaf with distress.”
Fortunately, many infants can be rescued from their shrieks by switching to a zippier rhythm (2-3 beats per second) to catch their attention. If you’re a Beatles fan, try jiggling your little fusser to “It’s Been a Hard Day’s Night.” As he settles, slow down to “We Can Work It Out” or “All You Need Is Love.” And when he's putty in your hands, downshift all the way to “Golden Slumbers” (or the number-one-new-parent fave, “I’m So Tired”).
When Margie and Barbara’s son, Michael, was 6 weeks old, he screamed so loudly at night that their downstairs neighbor would bang on the ceiling. Margie tried to placate him with gentle rocking and soothing songs, but nothing worked until she discovered what she called the “ancient war dance.”
Clutching Michael to her chest—his stomach pressed against her and her arms around him like a straitjacket—Margie loudly chanted, “HA ja ja ja, HA ja ja ja.” With each accented “HA” she doubled over and bent at the knees, making Michael feel as if he’d fallen through a trapdoor. With each “ja” she ratcheted her body partway back up. By the third “ja” she was standing straight again, ready for the next “HA.”
Margie said that the vigor of the rhythm and the loudness of the chant were the keys to success. Usually, Michael was snoozing again within minutes!
Learn the 5 S's, Dr. Harvey Karp's easy method for calming infant crying.