Bob Hamilton is, when you get right down to it, a baby whisperer. After 31 years in the baby care business as a pediatrician, Dr. Bob has learned a few things. Like how to keep them quiet.
When his clients are at their ear-shattering best (or worst), when they are screaming to wake the dead-tired and crying to beat a 120-piece brass band, Dr. Bob can quiet them. Like that.
Instantaneously. Completely. Miraculously, it seems.
Maybe you've seen his YouTube video? It went up on Nov. 29 and immediately went viral. By the end of the first week, Dr. Bob's baby-quieting video had been viewed more than 11 million times. Eleven million!
First, that's a lot of people who are interested in that particular skill. Second, that makes Dr. Bob — we're calling him Dr. Bob here because, as you would hope a pediatrician would be, he seems like a gentle and friendly guy — a bona-fide YouTube superstar.
"I'm not sure how to judge that," Dr. Bob says with a laugh from his office in Santa Monica, California. "But I'll claim it. I'll tell people I am no matter what.
"I'm shocked and I'm humbled and I'm kind of overwhelmed," he says of his newfound Internet fame. "I figure there must be a lot of crying children out there. Either that or a lot of frustrated parents."
Even for those without little screaming memes in their households, Dr. Bob's baby-quieting video is kind of amazing. One minute, an infant — right after an in-office inoculation — is screaming as if some stranger has just pierced him in the leg with something metal and sharp. The next, after Dr. Bob lays on those baby-whispering hands of his, the kid is as chill as a teenager during a summer nap.
When Dr. Bob demonstrates his technique — he calls it The Hold — it all appears simple, too.
With one hand (the nondominant one), Dr. Bob takes an infant's arms and folds them across his little baby body. With his other hand (the dominant one), Dr. Bob cups the baby's little butt in his palm.
With the kid essentially in a sitting position, tilted forward at about a 45-degree angle, the baby whisperer holds his patient away from his body and bounces the kid gently, up and down. He swirls the diapered little baby booty in circles. With the hand that is holding the kid's arms to his chest, Dr. Bob uses a few fingers, too, to gently cradle the infant's neck or to cup his chin.
And that's it. Just like that. Sweet, sweet, sweet silence.
"When people look at me when I do it, usually the grandmothers jump out of their chairs: 'What are you doing to my grandchild?' They try to rescue their grandchild," Dr. Bob says.
"By the way, I haven't dropped one kid. I want you to know that."
For those who have dealt with screaming children in their household — or even for those who have recoiled on a plane — it all seems sort of ... magical.
Maybe, even, a little mysterious.
"It really does work. For whatever reason, I don't know," he says with another laugh. "You can make up a reason if you want to."
But, really, Dr. Bob. What's going on here?
"I don't really know," he says, "but to answer people like you, I have to think of something, right?
"I think that what you're doing is that you're neurologically overwhelming them. You're giving them so much input that you essentially overwhelm their system. And so that causes them to kind of quiet down. And that's what I believe is happening."
On a nonscientific level, it makes sense. Cradling the infant's arms to its little baby body is an old trick. It's called swaddling. Gently rocking up and down or in circles? Anyone who ever has tried to quiet a baby has done that.
Holding the kid away from your body, out in the air, to do all this — and Dr. Bob warns that you can't, and shouldn't try to pull this off with an older, heavier baby (roughly two to three months old) — might be something new. But, yeah, that sounds reasonable, too. Certainly, all that combined might be good enough to take a wailing baby's mind off whatever's wrong.
And if Dr. Bob's skill really does work consistently, as his video shows? If you can learn it? If it really does quiet the colicky and calm the messy masses of babydom?
No wonder millions have checked out Dr. Bob's video. It's the holy grail of infant care. It's practically manna from heaven. Or from Santa Monica, anyway.
"I'm sure that I'm not the only guy out there in the world that does that," Dr. Bob says in a totally Dr. Bob, wave-it-off kind of way. "But I did the video. What can I say?"
You don't have to say a thing, doc. The silence out there says it all.