Soothing Methods To Avoid

Author: Ronald G. Barr, MDCM, FRCP(C)

In the section on soothing methods we mentioned one soothing technique that comes with a significant danger for the infant if parents or care givers are not aware of it; namely, putting a baby on top of a washer or dryer. As with all interventions, there are often good things and bad things to be aware of that are important in deciding whether a technique should be used.

There are many, many interventions that have been marketed to parents to help them soothe or calm their babies or to make them stop crying. If you look at them, you will see that they all use one or more of the soothing features we described before. However, what is likely to be the case is that they will make unrealistic claims about how effective they are. It is rare that any of them have been studied scientifically to see whether or not they are effective and, just as importantly, whether there are any bad effects. It can be confusing to parents as to what they believe. It is important to state here that parents should only consider commercial methods and interventions that have been tested in scientific studies. Otherwise, they may be paying considerable amounts of money for products that are not effective. As a general rule, it is better to look at ideas that have been assessed by independent reviewers, are associated with professional organizations, or are reviewed or published by those reputable organizations before you decide to believe in the promises that a technique or product will work.

I am very reluctant to recommend any commercial program. There are two main reasons for this. The first is that, as you can see, it is unlikely that a commercial program can offer you any technique that you cannot already do yourself as a caring parent. A second reason is that the claims made by many of these programs can create unrealistic expectations about their ability to soothe your baby. Just as is true for all of the soothing methods that parents around the world use, the first principle of soothing is true for any technique or product: some soothing strategies work some of the time, but nothing works all of the time. This should not be a surprise; after all, babies are not machines, and do not act like machines. The problem is, of course, that programs that claim to be successful, especially when you “do it right,” can raise expectations that you should be able to soothe your infant. Then, if you can’t and the infant continues to cry, you can feel even worse than you felt from the crying alone, because you have now “failed” somehow. The saddest thing is to hear about parents who say, even when they do the all the things they are promised would work and their baby keeps crying, “I feel like such a failure.”

This is a very unfortunate, and sometimes dangerous, situation. We all know how frustrating crying can be, especially in the first few weeks and months of life. Soothing methods are important to try and can help sometimes. In fact, as the Period of PURPLE Crying says, soothing should be increased if your baby cries. But if the baby does not respond to your best soothing efforts and continues to cry, that is understandable too. This does not mean that your baby is a bad baby or that you are a bad parent or caregiver. The worst thing that can happen is that a parent or caregiver gets so frustrated with the crying, or their lack of success in soothing their baby, that they shake or otherwise hurt their baby. This is the most dangerous outcome of getting frustrated when something does not work as it was promised to do.