FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Rock-a-Bye Baby

with Jennifer Walker, RN, Laura Hunter | March 31, 2008
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Are you having trouble getting your baby to sleep? If so, you won't want to miss today's broadcast when Dennis Rainey learns how to coax a baby to sleep through the night from experienced moms and pediatric nurses, Laura Hunter and Jennifer Walker. Also joining them in the studio is expectant mom Sabrina Beasley.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Are you having trouble getting your baby to sleep? If so, you won't want to miss today's broadcast when Dennis Rainey learns how to coax a baby to sleep through the night from experienced moms and pediatric nurses, Laura Hunter and Jennifer Walker. Also joining them in the studio is expectant mom Sabrina Beasley.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Are you having trouble getting your baby to sleep?

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Rock-a-Bye Baby

With Jennifer Walker, RN, Laura H...more
March 31, 2008
| Download Transcript PDF

[baby crying]

Bob: You've been a parent of a newborn.  Have you ever wished your baby came with an on/off switch?  Well, as you know, they don't, and nurse Jennifer Walker says, as a parent, when they're crying don't be alarmed.

Jennifer:  For a 24-hour period, we'll see that probably two or three hours, not necessarily in a row, but moreso in the evenings, babies will cry.

[blues singer "Baby, Why Are you Crying So?"]

And the parents feel like they're scrambling to make sure that the baby doesn't cry all day – like that is their job, to prevent any crying.

[baby blues song]

But I'll tell you a great secret, and that secret is good parents of babies that cry.

[baby blues song]

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, March 31st.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  There is no on and off switch for a baby, but we do have some instructions for you today on the proper care and feeding of your newborn.  Stay tuned.

[baby crying]

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  I know it's been a while since you've had a newborn around the house, you're a grandfather now.  What is your grandpa name?

Dennis: Papa.

Bob: Papa?  Did you come up with that yourself?

Dennis: No, it was – I had no choice in it.

Bob: Who picked Papa?

Dennis: I'm really struggling with my identity as a grandfather because I have some other cool names that I was going to pick but, you know, it's okay.

Bob: Like, what did you have?  Because I've already picked mine -- I'm not a grandfather yet but I know what I want to be.

Dennis: And yours is?

Bob: G-Daddy, kind of a rap name.  G-Daddy, I want the kids calling me G-Daddy.

Dennis: So do you have a rap song that goes with it?

Bob: I'll work on one.  I don't have one yet.

Dennis: I think we need to have you work on that.

Bob: "The Grandpa Rap."

Dennis: There you go, and come back at some point in the future …

Bob: "The G-Daddy Grandpa Rap."

Dennis: There you go.

Bob: Oh, baby, I'm feeling it now.

Dennis: I don't even want to mention – whatever I say at this point is going to be vanil-lah.  Well, you know, we are talking about newborns here, and so we have a couple of guests here in the studio – Laura Hunter and Jennifer Walker, who join us, who are going to provide all of the answers.

Bob: Everything.

Dennis: Every answer that a mother of a newborn could ever imagine.

Bob: And since we don't know the questions that mothers of newborns would be asking …

Dennis: We invited Sabrina Beasley to join us, and Sabrina is an employee here at FamilyLife; has worked here seven years; and she's got her notepad out.  She's going to be taking notes.  She's got all the questions.

Bob: Are you still eating crackers in the morning all the time?

Sabrina: I'm getting to the point where I can eat real food, but cracker days are not over.

Bob: You're on the verge of the second trimester – hoo hoo!

Dennis: Well, Laura and Jennifer, I want to welcome you to the broadcast.  Both of you are pediatric nurses, so you have more than 20 years experience between the two of you.  You also have some experience as parents.  Laura, you're a mother of five, and, Jennifer, you're a mother of three, and you've written a book that is called the "Moms On-Call Guide to Basic Baby Care," and it targets the first six months of a baby's life. 

And I had to notice in the literature that came with it.  Bob, there was like five or six pages of quotes of satisfied customers who have used this material in their own family.

Bob: Right.

Dennis: The phrase, "My baby sleeping through the night was mentioned unashamedly no less than two dozen times in four pages."

Bob: Is that like the one thing that every mom is asking?

Laura: That is the main thing they want to know – when is my baby going to sleep through the night?

Bob: And so what's the answer?

Laura:  They can sleep through the night as early as six to eight weeks of age.

Bob: Six to eight weeks.

Jennifer:  You have to identify, though, what sleeping through the night means.  Your pediatrician will tell you, "Oh, if they're getting," you know …

Laura: Five hours.

Jennifer: For three or four hours, that's good.

Bob: No, no, no, no.

Dennis: That's not acceptable.  I've talked to the Rainey women, and I'm telling you, they're looking for more consecutive hours of sleep than three or four.

Jennifer: We've never met a mom that was satisfied.

Laura: When we say through the night, 9:30 at night until 6 in the morning.

Jennifer: Yeah.

Bob: And a baby will do that six to eight weeks.

Laura: As early as six to eight weeks.  We have 99.9 percent of our parents, if they come home from the hospital using our method, the Moms On Call method, the night they get home from the hospital will have a baby that eats at 9, goes down at 9:30, sleeps until 2 or 2:30, eats again, and sleeps again until about 6:00 in the morning.

Bob: And this is the Benadryl method, is that what you …

Laura: Absolutely not.

Dennis: Bob!  Bob!


Bob: There have been nights …

Dennis: Are you talking about drugging and infant, Bob?


Bob: There have been nights, you've had them, too, haven't you?

Jennifer: But I'll tell you what we do that was acting like a drug.


Laura:  We will have parents who will call us and say, "What did you do?  What did you put over my baby when you left?

Bob: Okay, so what is the Moms On Call method?

Jennifer:  The Moms On Call method is what Laura and I put together as pediatric nurses.  We thought, what is everything that we can do to help a baby sleep through the night?  One of those things, one of the most important things, is swaddling a baby.  A swaddle is a blanket that you tie around so it's real tight around the area of the elbow but can let their little legs kick around so they can work out the gas and has plenty of room for them to breathe.  So it has to be done correctly, it has to be tight in the right places.

Bob: Is this like a burrito?

Laura: Pretty much.

Jennifer: Baby burrito, absolutely, and they love it.

Bob: And how do you, I mean, walk me through the swaddling.  What do you do?  You put the blanket on the bed …

Jennifer: Put the blanket on the bed.

Dennis: Well, now, wait a second, you have to begin with the right size blanket.

Laura: It's got to be the right size – 44x44 square minimally.

Dennis: You say that the blankets that are being sold as baby gifts, many times, are too small?

Jennifer:  All the time they're too small.

Laura:  There's not one out there that you can just walk in Wal-Mart and grab off the shelf.

Jennifer:  And they have to be made out of a certain material, too.

Laura:  That's correct.  Lightweight flannel that stretches on the bias.

Bob: One hundred percent cotton?

Laura:  One hundred percent cotton.

Bob: Because I've got one of your blankets – where did I put it?  You took the blanket.

Dennis: I did not take your blanket.

Bob: I had a blanket, but it's not here.  Anyway, you've come up with your own blankets, and moms are getting these blankets, and so you lay it out on the bed, 44x44 square, and you put the baby right in the center of the blanket?

Jennifer:  I'll tell you what, Bob …

Laura: Slightly off center.

Bob: We've got it right here.

Jennifer: I would love to be able to talk you into the swaddle. 

Bob: Talk me through this?  Okay.

Jennifer: However, what we found was that given just a description, parents would not get it correct, they would not get it tight enough, by far, and not tight enough in the right places.

Bob: Oh, this is why you've got the DVD in the back of the book.

Jennifer: Exactly.

Laura: It's one of the only books that has a DVD in the back of the book.

Bob: All right, but we can't show the DVD on the radio.  Actually, we could put a clip of this, perhaps, on our website.

Laura: Oh, that would be great.

Bob: We'll do that.  But just help me with the basics of the swaddle.  I lay it out, the baby is now in the middle of the …

Laura: Slightly off center.

Bob: Okay.

Laura: So we fold over this top corner, so the blanket is laid down on a diagonal, and then we put the baby slightly off center, and we come from the bottom.  So your right hand is here, left hand about 12 inches, and you go right across the waist.  This corner goes underneath the back …

Bob: We're wrapping their book, by the way, in the swaddling blanket.

Laura: It's a beautiful thing.

Dennis: I think we're going to need the DVD on the Internet.  But the point is, is you're wrapping the baby so that it's feeling snug around the chest, still so they can breathe and feeling a sense of security but, at the same time, there is some freedom in there for them to move around, and so that gives them that – I guess what you're saying is back to the womb a little bit?

Jennifer: A little bit, but I'll tell you, primarily, babies are born with what's called a "startle" reflex, and that means that the arms just fly out to the sides sometimes and startle them, and that is no fun when you're trying to get a good night's sleep.  So one of the purposes of the swaddle is it keeps those little arms down by their side.  We like to say that it replicates your tender embrace, but it helps to prevent the startle reflex from waking this baby up in the sleep cycle every 45 minutes to two and a half hours.

Bob: Now, Sabrina, did you know anything about this swaddle?  Has anybody talked to you about this?

Sabrina: I've heard of swaddling babies before.  I didn't know there was a certain method of swaddling, and I was going to say that one of the interesting things about that, that I wasn't aware of is, number one, how tightly you do swaddle the baby but also that the legs are free, and they talk about that in the book when they're telling you how to do the method.

But, basically, you're swaddling a baby to make it feel warm and embraced while not keeping it from being able to function correctly.

Dennis: Okay, Sabrina, I have a question for you.  Now, this is kind of zooming out a ways. Do you have a first question that has kind of been percolating that you'd like these ladies to answer for you as a first-time mom?  Because I'm wondering if it's the same first question that other moms ask you ladies.  Do you have a first question?

Sabrina: I do have a first question, but it's based – well, let me put it this way.  I was reading through the book and looking through it, and I kind of started to panic a little bit going, "Am I going to have to deal with every one of these issues?  Is my baby just going to be sick?  I mean is this a situation where" …

Dennis: Yes.

Sabrina:  … I just have buck up and say, "Okay, prepare."

Dennis: That's correct.

Sabrina: Or do I just say, "Okay, well, I have a guide here in case something happens."

Dennis: Yes, you have that, too.


When you say yes to a baby, Sabrina, you accept God's plan for that little life.  You know what?  And you don't know what God is up to in that baby's life and in your life and in your family.  I mean, it's a risk, but you know what? It's one of the greatest privileges on the planet.

Bob: Well, here is Sabrina's question, though – how much of what's in your book will she actually be doing?

Laura: One of the biggest differences in our books and the other 10 that you'll probably have on your bookshelf is our book is only 160 pages.  It has large font, and if it's in there, it's important, unlike the other books that are 300, 400, 500 pages long, if it's in our book, it's important.  The reason we wrote the book and the way we wrote the book were the way we took phone calls.  What were parents calling us about in the middle of the night for our real jobs? We're pediatric nurses after hours – what were they calling about?

So if it's in the book, chances are somewhere down the road – it doesn't mean in the first two weeks you get home that you're going to have a sick baby.  But somewhere down the road, you're going to probably come across everything that's in that book.

Sabrina: And one of the things that this book covers, a wide variety, it's not just for newborns, it's up to about six months or so, so that was another thing that kind of calmed me when I realized that this isn't everything that's going to happen to me in the first month of my baby's life, you know, this kind of carries over for a while, and it's a little less overwhelming.

I think another thing that's really neat that you haven't mentioned yet is the fact that a lot of moms – like my mom could probably answer a lot of questions for me, but she's not completely available all the time.  She has a job, she's working, so when I'm home with my baby, I'm not just going to be able to say, "Mom, I'm having a problem, come over here really fast," and this is one of those books that is written in such a way where it doesn't take a medical degree to figure out what you're doing with your baby.  It's written very plainly, kind of like from a mom to a daughter.

Laura: That's very important to point out that we wrote it – if this is what's going on, this is what you can do at home, and this is when we're going to get worried.  So our goal is to, one, give you confidence in that day-to-day care of this precious gift that's coming, but to also be able to say, "Okay, you know what?  I've crossed the road.  Now I need to call the pediatrician," so that you're not running in the office for every runny nose so that we know those parameters, those boundaries.

Dennis: Sabrina, there is one thing I would encourage you to do – when possible, call your mom.  A book like this really can be invaluable, and it ought to be in every young mom's library to turn to at points, but I think, if at all possible, calling your mom, inviting her into your life, and there's a wealth and a reservoir there.  She knows you, and she's likely going to know a little bit of the genetic structure of that baby and disposition because of the experience around that.  This is a great opportunity for you to connect your heart to your mom's.

Bob: And I'll just add to that.  We called my mom – I'll never forget this – it was when Amy was still real little, this was our first child, and she was just not wanting to go to sleep, was just not – she was fussy, and we'd go up, we'd lay her down, we'd close the door, 10 minutes later, 15 minutes later, she's still crying.  And I’m going, "Something is wrong," and so I remember calling my mom and saying, "Mom, Amy doesn't want to go to sleep.  What do we do?" And I remember my mom laughing on the phone.  She just started laughing, and she said, "How long have you had the baby in there?" You know, for like 10 or 15 minutes, and she just won't settle down."

And she just – you could hear the smile in her voice.  Two things – she was thrilled that she was being called, right?  But the second thing is she knew the answer, which was just let her be.  She'll be fine.  She's not hurting, crying.  In fact, that's one of the thing that you ladies tell young moms.  It's normal and natural for babies to cry, let them cry, right?

Jennifer:  Yes, absolutely.  I'll tell them, I say, "I have a great secret, and that secret is good parents have babies that cry," and over a 24-hour period we'll see that probably two or three hours, not necessarily in a row but moreso in the evenings, these babies will cry, and the parents feel like – they're scrambling to make sure that the baby doesn't cry all day, like that is their job – to prevent any crying.

But when you're meeting the basic needs, and we talk about how to meet a lot of those when you're feeding the baby, when you're keeping that diaper dry, and you have a nice, loving faith environment for the baby, then they're going to need to cry.  That crying is actually going to be helpful, and it's helpful in two ways – the first way crying is helpful is it gives this baby a workout, and it helps to get their lungs moving, their heart pumping.  You know, if you sit in the bed all day, and you're sick, and then you try and sleep at night, it's hard.

Well, the babies have a certain amount of energy they need to expend, and crying a little bit is going to be able to help them do that.  And the second way that crying is helpful is it motivates them, and it helps them to reach their developmental milestones.  For instance, when I put the baby in their tummy, and they don't like it, and they're drying, that's a great motivation.  They're going to learn how to get their little arms underneath them and push their head up.  They're going to learn subsequently how to roll over – if I give them that opportunity in a safe and loving environment where they can cry for five and 10 minutes at a time, you know, under a month old, five to 10 minutes of crying is okay if their basic needs are met.

And so a lot of parents just feel a great freedom to know that, "Oh, this is okay," and some of that can actually be beneficial.

Dennis: There is a point where crying can signal there is something wrong, and I don't want to sound like I lack compassion, but Barbara and I experienced, in raising six, that there has been no scientific evidence that crying causes brain damage in a child.

Laura: That's absolutely correct.

Bob: It may in a parent.


Dennis: That's the rest of the sentence – it does in a parent.  I do want so ask you this question since you hit on it.  I know a young mom who has got the schedule down during the day, she's been able to keep the baby up during the day, you know, gives it a bath, feeding, playing, toys, reading, and the like just to keep stimulating and keep the child awake so that when it is time for the 9:00 feeding, she can begin to move through the evening and see more of an extended period of time.

But it seems like when the sun sets, the baby starts crying.

Laura: Absolutely.

Dennis: What's going on there?

Jennifer: Well, I'll tell you, they've spent the whole day not knowing how to use their arms and legs.  They've got this startle reflex happening all the time.  There's lights and stimulation and especially in the younger ones …

Laura: The toys.

Jennifer: Yeah.  By the evening, this is just frustrating.  They're just going to let some of that out.  That is their only communication method, and I really believe that God designed them in that way to be able to get some of that energy out and then to be able to sleep well at night, just like you were talking about.

Bob: So, Laura, how will Sabrina know the difference between "This is an okay cry and I can let it go on for 10 or 15 minutes," and "This is a cry that may signal that there is pain?"

Laura: I am a firm believer in that mommy and daddy intuition.  There is just something that's not quite right, especially if a baby's been crying inconsolably for more than half an hour to an hour.  You need to take the temperature is the first thing.

Bob: I will tell you, Sabrina, that I think Laura is absolutely right.  We could tell.  We could hear the difference in the cry that is just kind of that fussy cry and the cry that says there's something wrong.  You hear a tonal difference that your sense kick up, and you go, "That's a different cry than I'm used to."

Laura: And there's things that lead up to that.  You know, maybe earlier during the day you notice that baby wasn't eating as much.  Maybe he was a just a little more lethargic, a little kind of out of it.  You'll know.

Dennis: Maybe they're squirming a lot.

Laura: They're squirmy, a little more fussy.  You know, typically, especially if people are following the routine, I mean, we feed them, we keep them up for a little while, we swaddle them, we put them down.  We use a sound machine, a white noise machine – not one for babies, one that you buy for adults, and that sound machine helps to trigger their bodies to relax.  It relaxes them, they are able to get good sleep, then when they wake up, guess what?  They're ready to eat, and they eat without fussing, so they're able to eat well, they're ready to play, they're ready to go to sleep.

And that's pretty much how the day goes on, okay?  And then as we get into those evening hours, if you notice that, hey, something is just not right.  I'm feeding him, we're keeping him awake as we usually do, but they're not settling down when I go to put them down for their nap.  Something may be a little off.

Dennis: You mentioned that you wouldn't use a baby sound machine instead use an adult.  Why?

Laura: One, the baby sound machines typically have lights and the fish in the ocean and we don't want all that stimulation, and they're not loud enough.  The decibels of white noise need to be pretty loud.

Bob: We had – I don't know if they even still make these – we had the placenta bear.  Do they still have the placenta bear?

Dennis: You bought one of those?

Bob: We had the placenta bear.  You turn on the little switch and, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh.

Laura: It kind sounds a little Friday the 13th.


Bob: We got rid of placenta bear, and we got one of those white noise, the little round jobs, cost about fifty bucks.

Dennis: Bob, this explains a lot about your kids.

Bob: I'm telling you, that white noise machine – not only did the kids sleep with it throughout their childhood, but when they got old enough, we moved it to our room, we sleep with it every night, because it drowns out teenage noises at night.  We love it now.  It's the greatest.


Dennis: Barbara and I did believe in scheduling, though, and we think – you're going to operate on a schedule regardless.  It's either going to be the baby's schedule …

Laura: … or yours.

Dennis: Or yours.

Bob: And better you set it than the baby.

Dennis: Exactly, again, all these things that we're talking about here, I think, demand prayer, they demand conversation with your spouse, certainly flexibility and not a sense of brittleness or boxiness to just do it exactly this way regardless of what is taking place with the baby.  But I think every young mom, every young family, needs an outside source.

For us, it was a book that's no longer in print called "Dr. Turtle's Babies," okay?  But you know what?  It was your book, a good bit of your book, except it was like 500 pages long …

Bob: And didn't have a DVD in the back.

Dennis: And had very small print, as I recall, but it discussed those major issues, and I want to tell you, we wore that book out in the early years, because we didn't always know what we were doing, and we couldn't always call my mom or Barbara's mom, and it just helps to have a great resource at your bedside and in your library to be able to turn to.

Bob: And since "Dr. Turtle" is no longer available, we do have copies of the "Moms On Call Guide to Basic Baby Care" in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and our listeners can go to our website at  If they click on the right side of the screen where they see "Today's Broadcast," it will take them to an area of the site where there is more information on how to get a copy of the book, which, as we said, comes with a DVD in the back so that you can see some of this stuff demonstrated in addition to reading about it.  And there is information on how you can get a swaddling blanket for a newborn, one that is cut to the right size.  Again, the information about that is on our website as well. 

Go to, click on the right side of the screen where you see "Today's Broadcast," and that will take you right to the area of the Web where you need to be.  Or call 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and someone on our team can let you know how you can get the resources we have sent out to you.

I'll just mention, we also have a great devotional book for moms with small children, busy moms, it's called "Are you Talking to Me?" and, again, there is more information about that book on our website as well, or you can ask for it when you call 1-800-FLTODAY.

We want to take just a minute and acknowledge those folks who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today; listeners like you who, from time to time, will contact us to make a donation either online or by phone to help support this ministry.  We appreciate your financial partnership with us.  It really is your donations that make it possible for us to be on the air on this station and on other stations all across the country each week, and we appreciate hearing from you.

This week, if you are able to help the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount, we have a thank you gift we'd like to send you.  It's the brand-new FamilyLife Marriage Bible.  This is a complete Bible, the new King James translation, that includes devotions for couples, romantic tips and quotes, parenting counsel, resources that are designed to help you understand what God's Word has to say about building a stronger marriage or about raising spiritually strong children.

The brand-new FamilyLife Marriage Bible is our gift to you this week when you make a donation of any amount to the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  You can do that online at, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY and make your donation over the phone.  If you're donating online, when you come to the keycode box on the donation form, just type in the word "Bible," and we'll know to send you a copy of the new FamilyLife Marriage Bible, or call 1-800-FLTODAY.  You can make a donation over the phone and just ask for a copy of the FamilyLife Marriage Bible, it's our way of saying thanks for your partnership with us, and we appreciate your financial support of this ministry.

Well, tomorrow we're going to continue to talk about some of the challenges facing parents in the first months after you bring your baby home from the hospital, and I hope you can be with us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

[song "What Do We Do With a Crying Baby?"]

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today, hope for tomorrow. 


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