Created By: CrypticMirror on September 29, 2011 Last Edited By: Morgenthaler on June 14, 2016
Troped

Getting The Baby To Sleep

Parents try increasingly unconventional methods of getting an infant to go to sleep.

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Trope
YKTTW now sponsored by Morgenthaler per Up for Grabs rules.
Babies, they cry a lot. They don't seem to want to sleep much either. In fiction, whenever there is a crying baby there is a parent (or babysitter) at their wit's-end who is prepared to do anything to get the infant to quieten down. And we do mean anything. Often this is something really inappropriate, or at least hilariously out of chracter. A funny dance, a song you really shouldn't sing to children, strapping the crib to the wing of a 747 jet!! These care-givers are going to try it. They've tried everything else. Often this ridiculous measure is the only thing that will quieten the infant down.

Just how bizarre will, of course, depend on the baseline-reality of the work itself. A wacky and bizarre work filled with egregious violations of common-sense and the laws of physics will naturally have a more outrageous stunt than a work that is mostly realistic. The basic principle will remain, something that goes beyond what the character(s) would normally do, or would be considered sane by the rest of the cast. Please note this isn't just a baby fussing and not sleeping with the parent worrying, there must be the silliness element too.

A Comedy Trope and as such always Played for Laughs, if it is played for anything else it is not this trope.

No Real Life Examples, Please!, otherwise it'll turn into tropers tales.


Examples

Advertising
  • An advert for Volkswagen's Start Stop features a father trying to get his baby to go to sleep by driving around and being repeatedly thwarted by the Start Stop feature switching off the engine every time he gets to the traffic lights.

Comic Books
  • In Runaways, Molly Hayes' evil parents used to use their psychic powers to get her to sleep when she was a baby, and continued to do this even as she was turning eleven. In the final arc, she is understandably pissed when Nico resorts to something similar in order to get Klara to sleep.

Fan Fic

Film
  • The three-part 50s era song used as a lullaby in Three Men and a Baby.
  • In the Vin Diesel movie The Pacifier, Diesel's character (a reluctant babysitter) has to learn the "Peter Panda Dance" (and the song that goes along with it), which is the only way to get one of the kids to go to sleep.

Literature
  • The book Go the Fuck to Sleep is entirely this trope, being about the desperation to send a child to sleep.

Live Action TV
  • Friends — Ross and Rachel find the only way to quiten Emma is to sing and perform "Baby Got Back".
  • Doc Martin :
    • Season 5 Ep 3, Louisa is so desperate to get her baby to sleep she does all sorts of bizarre dances, and even gets arch-stick-in-the-mud Martin to do one too.
    • The next episode reveals Martin is willing to place the baby in a car and drive right out to the middle of the moor as a way to lull the baby to sleep.
  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Miles finds to only way to get new baby Kirayoshi to sleep is to place him in the computer-pit of the Station's bridge. Or leave him with Worf. It is debatable which is the most silly.
  • Played with in Up All Night the parents can't get their daughter to sleep at all because of a loud party. Their solution is to call the police to get the party shut down, then quickly infiltrate the party so it looks like they weren't the ones who called the police. The irony is that baby Amy falls asleep immediately in the arms of the coworker they call in to babysit. Guess all they needed was to have Calvin hold her...
  • Murphy Brown — Murphy's son only stops fussing when listening to Barry Manlilow.
  • Dinosaurs — Earl does the Mating Dance to get Baby to sleep.
  • In Stargate Atlantis, Teyla can only get her son to sleep by continually walking around Atlantis. Keller says that when she was a baby, she would only sleep in the car, so her parents had this habit of driving around the block at 3 AM.
    Teyla: Hmm... that would be lovely. At least I'd be sitting down.

Music
  • The Tim Minchin's song, "Lullaby" is a song sung by parent who is getting more and more desperate as their crying child won't go to sleep.
    I don't know what else I can do to try to hush you
    My heart says "I love you", but my brain's thinking "fuck you"
    And hoping a child trafficker will abduct you
    At least then I'll get a few hours in bed

Western Animation
  • The Simpsons — After he and his wife have Octuplets, Apu has to strap on a body harness which simulates teats on a sow as the only way to feed them and keep the babies all quiet.
  • In the Classic Disney Short Fathers Are People, the baby cries in the middle of the night, and Goof— er, George gets up for "the bottle". It turns out to be a glass of martini which George promptly drinks, and the baby somehow shuts up at that moment.
  • In two of the Roger Rabbit Shorts, Roger trying to get Baby Herman to stop crying sets the plot in motion. In "Tummy Trouble", it's giving him a rattle, which Herman swallows, leading to the two going to the hospital. In "Roller Coaster Rabbit", Roger goes to get a balloon for Herman after the one he had flew away, and Herman wanders off in the meantime.
  • One Popeye cartoon had Popeye and Bluto trying to get a crying Swee'pea to laugh. Naturally, it leads to an Escalating War, and Popeye reaches for his spinach... only he opens a can of onions instead, causing him and Bluto to cry. Swee'pea sees them crying and laughs.
  • In the Thomas the Tank Engine episode, "Thomas the Babysitter", Thomas has to deal with a baby on his train, who cries every time the train comes to a stop, but calms down and goes to sleep every time the train moves. This initially gives Thomas the idea not to stop at all, but Annie and Clarabel are horrified at this, reminding him that he has to stop at every signal and crossing gate so all of his passengers will be safe. Towards the end of the episode, Thomas talks to Sir Topham Hatt about a request to miss his break to make a journey without stopping, which Sir Topham Hatt finds a wonderful idea. This journey gives both the baby and his mother some much-needed sleep. At the end of the episode, Albert, one of the workmen, congratulates Thomas on looking after his wife and son for him, and decides to name his son "Thomas" in honor of that day.

Community Feedback Replies: 46
  • September 29, 2011
    69BookWorM69
    The three-part 50s era song used as a lullaby in Three Men and a Baby.
  • September 29, 2011
    TTurtle
    TV example: * Played with in Up All Night: the parents can't get their daughter to sleep at all because of a loud party. Their solution is to call the police to get the party shut down, then quickly infiltrate the party so it looks like they weren't the ones who called the police. The irony is that baby Amy falls asleep immediately in the arms of the coworker they call in to babysit. Guess all they needed was to have Calvin hold her . . . .
  • September 29, 2011
    Bisected8
    If this is Played For Drama then it's a sign of Abusive Parents.
  • September 29, 2011
    randomsurfer
  • September 29, 2011
    SKJAM
    • In the Marissa Picard Star Trek fanfics, her baby is only soothed by "Achy Breaky Heart".
  • September 30, 2011
    CrypticMirror
    ^ Oh god, that is priceless. No wonder those fics fall into So Bad Its Good territory.
  • October 1, 2011
    CrypticMirror
    bump for title suggestions
  • October 3, 2011
    CrypticMirror
  • October 4, 2011
    franzt
    Would Get The F*ck to Sleep count?
  • October 4, 2011
    CrypticMirror
    ^Is that a work or a title suggestion?
  • October 4, 2011
    randomsurfer
  • October 4, 2011
    TooBah
    In the Vin Diesel movie The Pacifier, Diesel's character (a reluctant babysitter) has to learn the Peter Panda dance (and the song that goes along with it), which is the only way to get one of the kids to go to sleep. Ends up being a significant plot point later.
  • October 6, 2011
    SKJAM
    According to studies quoted in Brandwashed, babies tend to be soothed by music the mother listened to and found pleasurable during their pregnancy. Unfortunately, this includes not only Mom's attempts at giving her fetus an intellectual head start, but television show themes and commercial jingles. So if the baby only seems to be calmed by "Theme from Jersey Shore", Mama has no one to blame but herself.
  • October 7, 2011
    CrypticMirror
    ^I think the Brandwashed thing would be too close to Real Life examples, and would probably open the door on natter, tbh.

    I'd love to see more examples though, surely there must be some Silver Age goofy comics examples, and I know The Simpsons must have done this at some point. Does anyone have anything for them? Or webcomics? At all?
  • October 7, 2011
    SKJAM
    ^ Agreed, actually. I just happen to be reading the book and it seemed relevant background info, not an actual example.
  • October 9, 2011
    CrypticMirror
    ^If/when this launched it might be worth preserving on the discussion page, but I think it's probably not main page fodder. You can bet that someone will decide to edit it to take potshots at their least favourite show, or use it as an excuse to shoehorn gushing about their favourite show in. And it'd be MLP:FIM in both cases :o)

    Speaking of launching. Can anyone think of a better title? Is there any obvious spelling grammar issues in the description, and any further examples? I'd really like an example for the Anime section and the comics section at least. C'mon guys, pleeeeaaaassssse?
  • October 9, 2011
    Xitheta
    Tim Minchin's song 'Lullaby' is this trope.
  • October 10, 2011
    CrypticMirror
    ^Can you expand on that just a little please? I'm not familiar with Minchin's work.

    Again, a call for a wittier title, and some comic book and manga examples. I know it has to exist.
  • October 10, 2011
    SKJAM
    I know there are Silver Age Superman and Batman stories that have these, but don't remember issue numbers at the moment.
  • October 10, 2011
    surgoshan
    Also on Friends, shortly after getting home from the hospital, Rachel's inability to get Emma back to sleep forms the B Plot of an episode.
  • October 13, 2011
    CrypticMirror
    ^Does she try anything silly to get Emma to sleep in that episode or is it just Emma not sleeping? The trope is not just a baby not sleeping, but the caregiver doing something silly (and often extreme) to try and make them.

    ^^I know the feeling, this is one of those Seen it a million times tropes, but damned if I can think of specifics.

    I think we're getting all the examples we're going to get in YKTTW though, so it's going to launch soon. I'd still like a better title though, so still open for suggestions. It's just too bland as is.

  • October 13, 2011
    lamoxlamae
    • In one Tomie story, a woman babysitting a "baby" Tomie is charged entirely with feeding the Tomie and getting her to sleep by showing her things that are red like the arson fires happening down the street and eventually the color of her own blood. Failure to show the Tomie red things results in her wailing for hours on end, even refusing food, until she sees something that pleases her.
  • November 2, 2011
    strontium
    bump?
  • November 2, 2011
    Micah
    • In Stargate Atlantis, Teyla can only get her son to sleep by continually walking around Atlantis. Keller says that when she was a baby, she would only sleep in the car, so her parents had this habit of driving around the block at 3 AM.
      Teyla: Hmm... that would be lovely. At least I'd be sitting down.
  • November 3, 2011
    TonyG
    An episode of Mad About You centered on Paul and Jamie letting their baby cry herself to sleep, with much angsting about suppressing the natural instinct to confort her. It was all done in one shot.
  • February 21, 2012
    pawsplay
    Needs A Better Name, since this isn't just about getting the baby to sleep, but about jumping through hoops to do it.
  • February 22, 2012
    CrypticMirror
    I know, that is why I've put it up for grabs, I can't think of one. Honestly, for two pins I'd launch it as Martial Arts Baby Sitting just to delegate the naming to the TRS mob. Knowing my luck, and that load of shirkers, they'd just send it back here though. :o)
  • February 22, 2012
    pawsplay
  • February 23, 2012
    aurora369
    In the Soviet comedy film Operation Y, highly popular in Russia, Shurik (the protagonist, a nerdy student) is doing exactly that for his landlady's little grandchild while the landlady, a night guard, is on duty. Then the landlady returns and asks him to replace her as the guard. He's very happy.
  • February 28, 2012
    HaggisMcCrablice
    Not quite a baby, but Tex Avery's "Legend of Rockabye Point" is one long instance of this gag. A polar bear trying to steal food has to keep a bulldog from attacking him by rocking him while singing the song "Rockabye Baby". It works, but Chilly Willy, also after food, keeps waking the dog up. One gag has him doing it through a door, after the dog has chewed through it and bitten him on the ass.
  • February 28, 2012
    McKathlin
    ^^^ I like the title Babys Bedtime Circus for this trope.
  • February 28, 2012
    chicagomel
    The Golden Girls the ladies were babysitting and ended up all singing "Mr.Sandman" together when the baby wouldn't go to sleep.
  • July 4, 2013
    CrypticMirror
    bmp
  • July 4, 2013
    PapercutChainsaw
    • One Calvin And Hobbes strip had a hyperactive Calvin reluctant to go to bed. His Dad decides to tell him a scary story about "The Disembodied Hand that Strangled People," ending with Calvin's dad sticking his own hand out his shirt collar and pretending to be strangled by it. Calvin promptly faints, and Dad decides his mission was successful.
      Calvin's Dad: I should have thought of that years ago.
  • July 27, 2013
    CrypticMirror
    Needing a title still.
  • July 27, 2013
    Generality
  • July 27, 2013
    DAN004
    The title is as clear as it is.

    BTW do we have a trope for getting the baby to laugh?
  • July 27, 2013
    CrypticMirror
    I'm not sure on that title, but if you think it is okay then anyone who wants to can launch it.
  • July 29, 2013
    Weaver
    An advert for Volkswagen's Start Stop features a father trying to get his baby to go to sleep by driving around and being repeatedly thwarted by the Start Stop feature switching off the engine every time he gets to the traffic lights.
  • September 14, 2014
    jormis29
    • The Tim Minchin's song, "Lullaby" is a song sung by parent who is getting more and more desperate as their crying child won't go to sleep.
      I don't know what else I can do to try to hush you
      My heart says "I love you", but my brain's thinking "fuck you"
      And hoping a child trafficker will abduct you
      At least then I'll get a few hours in bed

  • September 16, 2014
    NESBoy
    In the Classic Disney Short Fathers Are People, the baby cries in the middle of the night, and Goof— er, George gets up for "the bottle". It turns out to be a glass of martini which George promptly drinks, and the baby somehow shuts up at that moment.
  • September 16, 2014
    TonyG
    • In two of the Roger Rabbit Shorts, Roger trying to get Baby Herman to stop crying sets the plot in motion. In "Tummy Trouble", it's giving him a rattle, which Herman swallows, leading to the two going to the hospital. In "Roller Coaster Rabbit", Roger goes to get a balloon for Herman after the one he had flew away, and Herman wanders off in the meantime.
    • One Popeye cartoon had Popeye and Bluto trying to get a crying Swee'pea to laugh. Naturally, it leads to an Escalating War, and Popeye reaches for his spinach... only he opens a can of onions instead, causing him and Bluto to cry. Swee'pea sees them crying and laughs.
  • September 18, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    Comic Books
    • In Runaways, Molly Hayes' evil parents used to use their psychic powers to get her to sleep when she was a baby, and continued to do this even as she was turning eleven. In the final arc, she is understandably pissed when Nico resorts to something similar in order to get Klara to sleep.
  • September 18, 2014
    JonnyB
    Literature
    • "Go the Fuck to Sleep" is a book written by American author Adam Mansbach, written in poetry like a children's book, about a father increasingly frustrated with his child's refusal to go to sleep. Obviously NSFW. Read here by Samuel L. Jackson.

    Edit: Sorry, I totally missed that you had it up there already.
  • June 12, 2016
    Morgenthaler
    Since it seems the OP has forgotten about this one, I'll take up sponsorship.

    Updated to here. Also, given the number of hats, I'll give this a few more days for examples to come in before launching this.
  • June 12, 2016
    FlyingDuckManGenesis
    Western Animation
    • In the Thomas The Tank Engine episode, "Thomas the Babysitter", Thomas has to deal with a baby on his train, who cries every time the train comes to a stop, but calms down and goes to sleep every time the train moves. This initially gives Thomas the idea not to stop at all, but Annie and Clarabel are horrified at this, reminding him that he has to stop at every signal and crossing gate so all of his passengers will be safe. Towards the end of the episode, Thomas talks to Sir Topham Hatt about a request to miss his break to make a journey without stopping, which Sir Topham Hatt finds a wonderful idea. This journey gives both the baby and his mother some much-needed sleep. At the end of the episode, Albert, one of the workmen, congratulates Thomas on looking after his wife and son for him, and decides to name his son "Thomas" in honor of that day.
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