Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Too Quiet

by Christina VanGinkel

A friend's daughter had a baby a few months ago, and a few weeks after the baby was born, in talking about how things were going, she remarked to me that the baby was extremely fussy. The new mother had tried different formulas, walked the baby, rocked the baby, and had consulted with her pediatrician who had assured her everything was fine, that some babies just were fussier than others were. You name it she tried it.

Just this past week, I had run into my friend again. I asked her how her daughter and son-in-law were holding up and how the baby was doing. She remarked to me that the baby was coming along tremendously, and I would never believe how the new parents had solved their daughters incessant crying. At their wits end one afternoon, when they were both sure that they had checked everything they possibly could, had fed her, changed her, rocked, put her in her swing, even taken her for a drive in the car around the block a few times. They then came home and put on some music, a bit louder than normal, but not so loud as to hurt the baby's ears, but loud enough to slightly drown out her screams. She stopped crying. They turned the music off and she started to cry. They turned it back on, she settled right down.

This got them thinking about their house's usual sound level. While pregnant, they had carried on a very normal noise level. Listeners of music, their stereo often played morning, noon, and night. In addition, it was normal for one of them to be upstairs and holler down to the other to ask a question, etc. When they had brought baby home, they had immediately altered their noise level. Music was never turned on, and if it was, it was turned to such a low level they could barely hear it. They talked in whispers, never shouted, ideally changing their noise level to a near zero. With baby so fussy, they did not want to do anything to irritate her more than she was. Little did they know that what she was possibly craving was the comfort of the sounds that she had already been listening to while she was in the womb, awaiting her arrival.

Keeping a household below a level of noise that might hurt baby's ears is smart, but stopping all activities that create sound is just as bad. An infant both needs to learn to live in a world that is very sound oriented, not to mention that to some babies, sound can be a very soothing alternative to total quietness. While they talked to her, and it would seem to soothe her a bit, she was apparently craving a much more vocal environment. Imagine raising a child in an environment that is a quiet zone, and then several years down the road, sending that child off to a kindergarten class with twenty or thirty other screaming five year olds! Now that would be traumatizing.

Well, all is well for now the parents have been heard saying, as long as their little bundle of joy does not grow up and request a drum set for a future birthday present!

No comments: