A Step-by-step Guide to Calming a Fussy Baby

  1. Insert milk.

  2. Not hungry? Sniff butt.

  3. Diaper smells fine? Change position. A baby’s digestive system is manual not automatic—often a simple tilt, shift, rub, or stretch will help the milk and air on their way.

  4. That made it worse? Ah ha, it must be air! Try your preferred burping and/or farting position.  

  5. Proper wailing now. Damn. Milk again? No. Tired? Doubt it. Try that new bouncing-shushing thing that worked last night.

  6. Try the swaying-humming thing that seems to work on overcast Tuesdays. 

  7. Ignore the glare from the retirees at table 14. They are dyspeptic grumps who’ve had a whole lifetime to realise that being easily offended is an easy way to poison the soul, and yet here they are, offended and poisoned. You can see in his thin-lipped scowl enough repression to drown a hippo. A mouth incapable of expressing love, the type that keeps score, that from his death bed will snark one last, terrible time at his daughter. And the woman. She has done her hair that way since 1983. No harm in that, were her coif not a copper-blonde, resiny, immovable, brutalist cube. She has spent an hour each morning for four decades constructing this testament to poor taste. And wearing that much perfume is a hallmark of those who’ve truly lost their senses; rotted away by bitterness. Whatever meal she orders tastes like chicken, roses smell like ashes, every movie she sees she dislikes just the same. 

  8. Right, baby. Frantically do the opposite. If you’re standing, sit. If you’re sitting, stand. Singing, stop. Babies have a great sense of humour. 

  9. Ask your dinner companions to guess whether the baby is hungry, tired, too full, overstimulated, gassy, or some combination. This won’t help, but it will make them complicit. Who says you have to be the bad guy.

  10. Stare at the cheese congealing on your getting-cold pizza. Mourn your youth. Miss hot pizza.

  11. Baby is calm, somehow. Hold very still.