Songs to soothe the savage baby

Nicholas had a very difficult first month: He wasn’t used to being in this world outside me, he didn’t understand the day-and-night thing, and when he was the slightest bit uncomfortable his immediate response was full-throttle shrieking.  One thing I learned during that month–which has proven useful ever since–is that singing may calm him, and even if it doesn’t it will improve my mood.  Oddly, I found that as a sleep-deprived, hormone-saturated new mother I was more verbally clever than usual and able to think up long strings of rhyming lyrics to fit familiar tunes.  Many other moms have told me that their postpartum minds were barely able to form sentences for basic communication, so I know that “Make up songs to sing to your baby!” is not very useful advice.  Instead, I’ll share the lyrics to the two songs I composed in that era that I remembered long enough to repeat and thus memorize:

Sing to the tune of “Ode to Joy”:
There is just no need for screaming.
We can hear you loud and clear.
Use your indoor voice to tell us
All of your concerns and fears.
Try some prayer or meditation.
Strive toward an inner peace.
If you need some entertainment,
Gaze upon your colored fleece.

That last line only makes sense if your baby has a colored fleece.  Ours is a wall-hanging that we made out of two yards of the most eye-poppingly colorful poly-fleece we could find, to decorate the nursery, stimulate baby’s vision, and dull the screaming so that maybe our neighbors wouldn’t call the police.

Sing to the tune of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”:
I’m telling you, my temper’s on a short and burning fuse.
I must resist the urge to feed you opium or booze.
I do not want to see myself upon the evening news,
So please please go to sleep!
Close your eyes and go to sleep, now.
Close your eyes; don’t make a peep, now.
Close your eyes and go to sleep, now,
Before I lose my cool.

Other inspirations:
Many phrases said in daily life will fit the tune of either “When You’re Happy and You Know It” or “The Farmer in the Dell”.  The latter is particularly useful as you only need one phrase to complete an entire verse, for example:
Stop screaming, or I’ll snap.
Stop screaming, or I’ll snap.
Hi ho, the derry-O!
Stop screaming, or I’ll snap.

Sing in your sweetest voice and most precise pronunciation.  Pretend you’re Mary Poppins.  Remember, your baby does not understand English yet and has no idea that your charming, soothing song is in fact gruesome and horrifying.  It’s amazing how quickly singing about bashing his fuzzy little head in will make you stop wanting to do it.  The contrast between lyrics and singing style quickly becomes hilarious, especially if you haven’t slept more than 40 minutes at a stretch all week.

Try some bagel songs.

When all else fails, listen to recorded music.  This does not have to be saccharine lullabyes, classical music specially selected to make baby a mathematical genius, or the kind of dreck dentists think is soothing.  Play whatever you want to hear and baby will tolerate.  And since you’ve already got a screaming baby, you may as well crank up the stereo to equal volume.  Hug that baby and bounce to the rhythm of Jane’s Addiction, Rammstein, Eminem, the Gethsemane track from Jesus Christ, Superstar, or whatever helps to get your frustrations out.  Again, the nice thing about a newborn is that you don’t have to worry about him repeating the lyrics in public!

6 thoughts on “Songs to soothe the savage baby

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