5 tips from the ‘Baby Whisperer’
Longtime pediatric nurse William Nelson can often be found walking down the halls of Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge with a bundled baby in his arms or charting on a computer with a little one sitting in the crook of his knee.
“Can you believe it?” Nelson asks passersby. “They pay me to do this!”
Known as the “baby whisperer” for his expertise calming even the fussiest infants, Nelson was recognized as Advocate Children’s Hospital’s 2017 winner of The Advocate Nurse Award. He eagerly shares his baby whisperer techniques with nursing students, new nurses, residents and even parents; the following five tips, he says, can help any grown-up seeking to calm their little one:
Swaddle. Losing all boundaries can distress anyone — especially a newborn who until recently was tightly and warmly enclosed in their mother’s womb. Most of the nurses I work with can craft better “baby burritos” than I can, but by wrapping three sides of the baby, you create a safe, warm and calming environment for your little bundle of joy.
Swing. Rocking a hospital crib or sitting with a baby in a rocking chair recreates the swinging environment of baby’s moving environment in utero.
Shush. “Sh-sh-sh” is similar to the sound the fetus hears as their mother’s blood is circulating. Mimic that shushing but be careful not to go too quickly nor too slowly; aim for an adult heart-rate speed of about 60 to 70 times a minute.
Patting. Using the same pace as shushing, take one palm and pat-pat-pat baby’s chest, back or bottom. Sometimes I simply pat the crib mattress.
Suckle. Give baby the binkie. Sometimes babies are so distraught they have to be gently reintroduced to the pacifier several times until they can take it and keep it in their little mouths.
“The main thing to remember is that crying babies are disorganized,” Nelson says. “Their world has become confused. ‘What’s going on? Where am I? What do I want?’ They don’t know. What we can do as caregivers is invite them into an ordered space where they can cope.”
Practice the above techniques and soon enough, Nelson promises, you’ll be baby whispering like a professional.
About the Author
Lisa Parro, health enews contributor, is director of public affairs at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital and Advocate BroMenn Medical Center. A former journalist, Lisa has been in health care public relations since 2008 and has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University. She and her family live in Chicago’s western suburbs.