Singing and Talking
A few more words here about a subject we've already discussed in connection with your baby's bedtime routine:your voice. It's a real soother. Though lullabies are great, just talking to your baby can calm and relax him, too.
Watch That Tone
You have to be mindful of your tone of voice. Were you harried and hassled and running late this afternoon because the baby wouldn't stop crying or your toddler kept getting into mischief? Have you just rushed through what should have been a half hour of dinner preparation in barely 15 minutes, trying to get dinner started early enough so that you wouldn't wind up eating at 9:00 P.M.? Did you just have to hang up on three telemarketers in a row, all of whom caught you at a very frazzled and frenzied juncture of your day? Are you now in a hurry to get back to the kitchen before the water for the potatoes boils over?
Take a deep breath and calm down before you start talking to your baby, or your voice won't be soothing at all! Your voice has a powerful ability to calm and gentle your baby, but only if you sound calm and gentle yourself. If you've been rushing, feel harried, or are having a bad time of it, you're going to reflect it in the tone of your voice.
Any soothing voice will help calm and relax your baby, but Mom's voice or Dad's voice is especially powerful in its ability to help soothe Baby. The familiar tones of her Mommy or Daddy's voice are especially welcome, more so than recorded music, even by someone who's a far better singer than you are.
Once you've gotten control of yourself and you know your voice is going to sound calm and soothing, you can talk to your baby, sing to her, or do both. If you're talking, it doesn't much matter what you say.
You can reiterate the events of the day, as long as it hasn't been a bad day. If it has been a bad day, you're likely to start sounding agitated as you recount the day's happenings. Why not tell her a story that makes you happy, maybe the story of the day you met her dad or some other story that will put a glow (but not excitement) in your voice? You can even recite a list of stations on the local train line or the grocery list, as long as you speak it in a soft, soothing tone.
If you're singing, any quiet, slow song will do. It doesn't have to be an actual lullaby. You can sing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," "The Bear Went Over the Mountain," or another folk song; any soft, slow, popular song you know; or almost anything else with the right slow tempo. Many hymns are slow and soothing. You can even sing her a commercial jingle or TV theme song, if the tempo is right.
The words aren't what's important. It's the slow tempo and the sound of your voice that count. You do not have to have operatic-quality vocal cords. You can even go off tune, and your baby won't know the difference. Just don't screech.