Understanding and Coping with a Crying Baby: Advice for Parents

Crying is necessary for a baby to communicate. It helps parents understand their baby’s needs. A baby’s persistent crying which continues despite parents best efforts is the most shattering and piercing sounds you can hear. The sound can churn up parents emotionally and can lead to weariness, frustration and a sense of failure. Society often suggests that a good baby is quiet and that a good parent is one with a calm baby. A poor parent is seen as one who fails to stop their baby crying or making demands.

Parents often wish their babies never cried at all. If they didn’t, however, you could not be sure of meeting your baby’s needs. Babies cry when they need something. When parents identify crying as a positive communication by their baby rather than as a negative action they can be sure that in normal circumstances a baby who is not crying is not in need. Only serious illness, smothering, neglectful under-stimulation or severe cold would make a baby suffer in silence.

Helping parents to interpret crying as positive communication is important in helping parents to establish a positive relationship with their child at an early stage. By understanding their babies’ needs, parents will have a real sense of their competence in responding to those babies’ needs. Parents need to feel competent and effective if they are to be sufficiently calm and relaxed in handling and relating to their baby. Lack of such calm and relaxation can in itself cause the very crying which the parent is anxious to avoid.

 Count to 10 and Think Again

When your baby cries persistently there is a chance that you could say or do something that might harm them or make them feel bad. The following tips should help you to cool down. [checklist]

  • Breathe slowly and deeply count to ten.
  • Remind yourself that you are the adult, and that it is perfectly normal for babies to cry, it is their way of talking.
  • Think about what you’re about to say. How would you feel if another adult said it to you? Think of the things your baby might be trying to say. Could it be hunger, a wet nappy, frustration at not being able to reach a toy, or just wanting a cuddle?
  • Put the baby down safely, go in to another room on your own for a minute and think about why you are angry. Is it really because of your child or is something else upsetting you?
  • Ring your partner or someone you can talk to. The problem may not seem so bad once you’ve shared it with another adult.
  • Make sure the baby is safe and go outside for some fresh air.
  • When things really get you down, plan a treat for yourself. Choose something that makes you feel good – a quiet cup of tea alone, a hot bath, or a visit to the shops.
  • Humour is sometimes the best remedy. Try to see the funny side of things if you can.
  • Leave the room and scream if you feel like it. It’s better to shout at the walls than at your baby.
  • Visualise a beautiful peaceful scene, or your own idea of paradise. This can help calm you down.[/checklist]Provided by “ISPCC” Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children www.ispcc.ie