ASMR (which is the acronym for this node's title) may well be one of the least studied, and most talked about, phenomena. It is the use of various sounds to induce a tingling sensation, often accompanied by relaxation and even sleep. One source states that there are fifty-one million YouTube videos about it. Contrast that number with the existence of few enough controlled studies which explore it to be able to use your fingers to count them and you would be forgiven for dismissing this trend as pseudoscience. This discussion is not an effort to convince you otherwise. It is also not an attempt to define ASMR in more detail. The hard link above leads to a good description, as does this one.

What I would like to do, instead, is discuss a more specific use of the method that may, or may not, qualify as an example of ASMR. It is an effect that I've found very useful in getting restless babies, and stubborn toddlers, to sleep. To some extent it may also work with adults. Before I describe the techniques, here is some background. If you are only interested in the ASMR connection, you may wish to skip to the last paragraph, where I finally get around to that.

Doing child care in my home for the past two years has been a rewarding, and at times humbling, experience. As with most endeavors, it gets easier the longer you do it. My wife (and childcare partner) and I have both raised children to adulthood so we have combined experience. The main difference in providing daycare and raising kids is that with daycare we get to send them home to their parents after eight or nine hours. We divide up duties and switch off as each other's relief or team up as necessary. One of my strengths has turned out to be an ability to get the youngest to relax and go to sleep quickly. Some of the methods used for this are very similar to techniques used in ASMR and I will share them in enough detail that a reader might be able to try them out.

When we started keeping Cruz, he was six months and had been "spoiled". I don't mean this in any derogatory sense. I mean that his mother rocks him to sleep and keeps rocking him until he wakes up. She also co-sleeps with him at night. We wanted to handle nap time differently but found it to be an uphill battle. The first trick that I found happened quite accidentally. We had put up a swing set in the backyard which included a disk shaped swing large enough to lay a six month old across. One day, Cruz was restless and my wife was tired. I had found that taking him outside would calm him down so I did that. It was warm out and I thought he might like to do some swinging.

I laid the six month old across the disk shape face down and gently swung it. He froze. Never moved a muscle. I stuck my face down low enough to see if his eyes were closed. They were. I ran ten steps and told my wife to come see what had just happened. We tried the trick again the next day with the same result. I soon rigged a way to move the sleep-inducing disk into the walk-in-closet/utility room of our home where it could be used regardless of the weather. This worked well, but someone (usually me) had to stay and keep the swing going and make sure the baby didn't fall out. We would have saved a lot of time and effort if I had figured out the next trick sooner.

Any parent who has experienced a few years of parenthood can tell you that as kids grow, their needs change. Cruz outgrew the disc swing in a few months and became a struggle to get to sleep again. The swing was moved back out to the swing set. My wife once again grew frustrated with rocking him and then attempting to lay him in the crib (usually with little or no success).

Finally, I convinced "Granny" to let me try and, after a bit of trial and error, came up with a "Baby Whispering" solution. It has been working very well for a little over two months and involves several factors. I take advantage of the utility room/closet mentioned above, which is adjacent to the bedroom where the crib that Cruz sleeps in is located. I take him into the walk-in closet and close doors so that light is very low but not "pitch dark". I place him on my shoulder comfortably. If he struggles, I let him move around but guide him back to a comfortable position firmly but gently. I hum softly and pat or rub his back. I have a favorite tune which seems to serve very well; the melody line from the adagio (second movement) of the Concierto de Aranjuez (seriously!), but I'm sure any lullaby will work. Here is where the ASMR part comes in. Cruz begins to relax and, at that point, I brush my fingers and hands over clothes that hang nearby. He will go to sleep without this trick but I'm convinced that he relaxes sooner, and goes into a deeper sleep, with it. Once sound asleep, he can be laid in the crib. How long he sleeps will depend on how tired he was but I can get him to sleep almost every time, usually within just a few minutes. There is also a white noise machine near the crib to help him stay asleep. Mostly that is to help mask sounds which might otherwise wake him up. Sweet dreams, little one!

The Baby Whisperer