Jul. 29--The vacuum cleaner is a miracle, asserts LT Sugg of Delta, Ohio -- and she's not talking about what a great job it does on carpet.
She marvels at it for the same reason that Melissa Dimmerling of Perrysburg used to run the washer and dryer when the laundry didn't really need doing, and why Melissa Dubiel of Sylvania, a Bowling Green State University graduate, sometimes sings the University of Toledo fight song three or four times a day, "even though it does drive me a little crazy."
Because those things have silenced their wailing babies when nothing else would -- not a meal or a burp, a dry diaper or a pacifier, walking or rocking, adding a blanket or taking one off.
"We burnt one vacuum cleaner out by using it so much," Mrs. Sugg said via e-mail after The Blade invited readers to share creative ways they've found to stop their infant's crying jags.
When a friend mentioned to Mrs. Sugg that her DustBuster wouldn't pick anything up anymore, Mrs. Sugg eagerly took it off her hands and gave it a new mission: tranquilizing her daughter Ellie, now 7.
"I'd put her on the bed and she'd be screaming bloody murder and I'd turn on the DustBuster and she'd start cooing and moving her little feet," Mrs. Sugg recalls. "The crying would stop instantly. Lots of times she'd go to sleep."
Just as other young parents hang on to essential baby equipment for future arrivals, "We actually kept that DustBuster for several years until we were sure we were done having kids just in case we had another child with colic," Mrs. Sugg said.
The other technique that worked was to "wear" Ellie in a baby carrier, Mrs. Sugg said. She'd wear the carrier during the day, and her husband, Scott, would wear it at night.
But what silences one fussy baby can be a dud with another. The vacuum-cleaner strategy didn't work well for Mrs. Dimmerling as she looked for ways to soothe her middle daughter's colic. Kaitlyn, now 13, cried for four hours every evening, she said, and the pediatrician had mentioned that any kind of vibration might help.
Mrs. Dimmerling would put Kaitlyn's carrier seat on the floor, up against the washer or dryer as it was running. "I had a lot of clean laundry during her first year," she said.
Another trick that brought some peace was to record the baby in full cry, then play it back when she was winding up for the evening. "She would instantly stop crying," Mrs. Dimmerling said.
As for the strange calming effect of the UT fight song on little Julia Dubiel, now 1 1/2 , Mrs. Dubiel credits (or perhaps blames) her sister, Amy Siffer, a UT graduate.
"When Julia was born my sister was one of the first people to come up to the hospital to meet her. She picked her up and sang the UT fight song to her, and ever since then ... I have to sing the UT fight song to her to get her to calm down," Mrs. Dubiel said.
Any style of delivery will do, she said: fast or slow, loud or soft. Her husband, Dan, isn't keen about it, either, as a University of Iowa graduate, but the UT alums in the family "think this is just a hoot."
If those approaches don't work for your cranky infant, here are some others that might:
-- Mara and Randy Lizcano of Old Orchard swear by their Jeep Overland jogging stroller with audio electronic hookup. Baby Veronica's current favorite artist is Jack Johnson, Mrs. Lizcano reports. Mom and Dad plug the iPod into the stroller and head out with their 5-month-old and "it goes from like crazy, crazy, very fussy baby, then halfway down the block she stops and chills," Mrs. Lizcano says.
-- Even a low-tech stroller works wonders, according to Lisa Lowry of Ida, Mich. She packs up Trevor, 8 1/2 months, when he's out of sorts, and "it works like a charm, within a couple minutes," Mrs. Lowry says. If weather doesn't permit the outing, she allows him to watch a little television. It's not the perfect solution, she admits, "but you have to do what you have to do."
-- Judy and Phil LaPorte of Oregon were dealing with more than the usual mysteries of parenthood when they brought their daughter, Jadin, now 2 1/2 , home from China when she was 10 months old. Turns out there was a cultural issue as well: Jadin had had a cribmate in China, and she missed her.
"When I would put her in bed at night she would cry and cry and cry," Mrs. LaPorte said. "My husband had the idea to put a Chinese baby doll in the bed with her."
-- Lisa Marie Benko of Port Clinton, mother of 2 1/2 -year-old Ethan and 9-month-old Grant, promotes "babywearing" -- wrapping the child close to one's body on the hip, back, or chest in a sling or other style of carrier -- as a way to keep little ones happy while keeping her hands free.
Mrs. Benko adopted the practice when Ethan was about 6 months old, and has been wearing Grant "literally since he's been hours old," she says.
"It's a comfort to him to know Mom's there or Dad's there," says Mrs. Benko, leader of the Toledo Babywearers group.
-- Carol Leonard of Napoleon, mother of two and grandmother of four, writes that "for years the best thing that has worked for me is to pet the fussy baby's head. Talk soothingly while gently petting the baby's head in the direction the hair lays (from back to front or front to back) over the top of the head. After a short while the baby relaxes and seems to enjoy the feel of the warm hand gently caressing its head. It works every time."
Try to stay calm yourself, she added. "When one is upset and riled up the baby can sense it and knows something is wrong and then cries all the more, but when you are calm and quiet the baby can relax."
-- Marissa Smith of South Toledo, mother of three children now ages 4, 6, and 9, says she found so much comfort by listening to relaxation CDs that were made for her when she was undergoing treatment for anxiety attacks that she asked the psychologist to make one to help calm her baby during fussy times. "It's amazing," she said, adding that she now has several that she also plays some night for her older children.
-- Likewise, Theresa Rumbaugh of the Franklin Park area said that a kinesiologist she consulted because of muscle spasms also helped her colicky son, Nathan, by using a gentle, fingertip stroking motion on his chest and tummy. The effect "would last for a couple weeks at a time," Ms. Rumbaugh said.
They tried all the usual stuff, too. "We took him for [car] rides, we had the rocking chair, I'd walk and walk and walk and walk," Ms. Rumbaugh remembers.
One night, she laid Nathan on his back on a rug as she drew a bath for her older son. "Nathan was in full yell," she said. "When I turned the water on, he started settling down."
Eventually, "he outgrew whatever it was," she said. Nathan's now 14.
-- Celia Reynolds of Oregon, a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, advises parents to hold the baby close and sing nursery rhymes -- with expression, please. The child remembers the words and the rhythm, Mrs. Reynolds said.
"I think the first thing they should buy is a rocking chair," she continued. "You can almost feel the child relax."
She said her children joke that she rocked them until their feet dragged on the floor.
-- Finally, mother/grandmother/registered nurse Debbie Fritz of Point Place shares a technique that will appeal to parents who are both athletically and musically inclined. "I do standing rhythmic short knee bends while holding the baby upright," she writes. "The up-and-down movement usually distracts them and brings them to alert attention, then soothes them."
She pairs the movement with the nursery rhyme "This is the Way the Ladies Ride."
"I walk around singing and doing the knee bend motions. If the baby is ready for sleep, it is not long before the eyes close. I have sung probably 50 verses of the song at a time, getting quieter and quieter as the baby falls to sleep and for a while to make sure they fall into a deep sleep," Ms. Fritz said.
Still, there are times when you've ruled out all the obvious reasons for a baby's unhappiness and the magic has gone out of all your usual tricks -- when you're are at your wits' end and feel like having a good cry yourself.
"You can choose to put the baby down on [his or her] back in a safe crib," Ms. Fritz said. "There is only so much you can do sometimes, and you have to take care of yourself."
Sit down, take a deep breath, and think about how much fun adolescence will be.
Contact Ann Weber at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6126.
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"Parents reveal their secrets for quieting crying babies." Blade [Toledo, OH] 29 July 2007. General OneFile. Web. 12 Nov. 2009.
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