Dealing with a crying baby while travelling (and the inevitable over-reliance on the soother/dummie/pacifier that occurs).
A downside of travelling and living in close quarters with a baby and other people, is that there were suddenly other people around who could hear Daniel crying. We partially realized this as we took Daniel out and about to local destinations. We would do our utmost to keep Daniel quiet on buses, in restaurants and at events. This involved distractions, a run-through of the checklist (hot/cold/diaper/food/discomfort), and eventually the dummie deployment. We felt we did a good job of being empathetic to the ears and comfort of those around us.
But, what we didn’t appreciate when we were planning our first overnight trip, was that D-man was still waking us up multiple times a night, and this meant that he might wake up our hosts or other guests. This discovery occurred on our first weekend away to Herstmonceux Castle. Suddenly, it dawned on us that we had the potential to ruin every guests’ weekend. To make matters worse, it was warm, so we had the windows open, meaning anyone else in the dorms with their window open, would likely wake up and hear Daniel screaming at the top of his lungs. One thing we knew all to well, was that a baby crying in the middle of the peaceful night, would pierce through that tranquility like eagle talons to the eyes. And because we don’t want to disturb our fellow guests, we would bolt out of bed at the slightest beginnings of a cry.
Unfortunately, by doing this, we were likely disturbing Daniel’s sleep as much as he was disturbing ours. He may have been on the verge of falling back to sleep, instead of waking up. At home we liked to wait 5 minutes before intervening, and normally little-D would settle himself.
I like the theory that Ask Moxie described about Tension Increasers or Tension Decreasers. In the beginning Daniel seemed to be more of a Tension Increaser – if we didn’t sooth him soon enough, he would become increasingly agitated and it would take longer and longer to calm him down; but as he got older, he would only cry for a few minutes (often less than 4 – I give him 6 just to be sure) and he’d go back to sleep. By not giving him that time settle back to sleep on his own, we were likely disrupting the process of him going back to sleep.
And the more we traveled, the more often we were conditioning him to a faster response time than we used at home (as I mentioned before, this applied more when he was a bit older – I still think he needed the quick-attention when he was younger). For us, at home, we’d chosen the parenting-style of practicing, ‘The Pause’ (from Pamela Druckerman’s, ‘French Children Don’t Throw Food‘). But in the middle of the night as a guest, there was no ‘Pause’.
Doubly unfortunate, was that we applied the same quick-responsiveness to daytime crying while travelling as well, meaning we kept a soother at-the-ready when we were on tours, at restaurants, or really anywhere we were around others.
Giving Little D the dummie in itself wasn’t SO unfortunate in the short-term. Daniel was calmed by the it, and his preferred state would likely be to keep it in his mouth at all times. If he ever saw a dummie lying within eyesight – he bee-lined towards it using his fastest crawling speed in an attempt to acquire the soother.
The trouble occurred when he already had the pacifier in his mouth when he wasn’t upset, should he then become agitated, we had nothing in our reserve tank (other than distraction) to help calm him down.
What this looks like in practice is that we would go away and have a lovely vacation. Daniel would be happy because he had gratuitous use of the pacifier. We were happy because we would get complimented on what a well-behaved baby we had and we felt like parenting champions. And other guests (fellow plane-travelers included) were happy because they didn’t have to listen to a crying baby. Then we would come home and we spend the next few days weaning Daniel back to a normal-level of dummie-use meaning greater-than-normal fussiness from him which requires greater-than-normal energy from me in the form of distraction and extra attention. So far, this trade-off has worked for us.
Now that Daniel is 10 months, we’re starting to consider taking the dummie away entirely. Except, although I hate to admit it, I can’t imagine travelling without a soother. To be continued, I’m sure…
How do you handle a crying baby in public? What about while travelling? Do you use a pacifier/soother/dummie (and what do you call it?).