It's tough to listen to a crying baby. Understand how to manage your frustration — and know when to ask for help.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

All babies cry, but the tears can take a toll. When nothing you do soothes your crying baby, you might feel anxious about your inability to help your baby. If the crying is keeping you up at night, your exhaustion might make it even harder to maintain patience and cope. What if you lose control?

Consider ways to manage your stress and frustration — and recognize when you need help.

It's normal to get upset when your baby cries. Since most people cry when they are hurt or upset, you might assume that your crying baby is in pain or distress and you are somehow failing as a parent because you can't stop the tears. It can be even harder to deal with a crying baby if you are tired, depressed or irritable.

But you are not failing your baby if you can't stop a crying spell. Sometimes babies cry even after parents have tried everything to soothe them.

Keep in mind that babies can cry for any number of reasons, including simply feeling bored or overstimulated. If you can begin to think about your baby's cries as a method of sharing feelings, rather than as only an expression of pain, you might find it a little easier to cope.

If you've tried everything to calm your baby and he or she is still crying but seems otherwise OK, take a deep breath. Unfortunately, getting tense or upset might only make your baby cry more.

To stay in control of the situation, you might:

  • Take a timeout. If you're alone, put your baby in a safe place, such as the crib. Let your baby cry while you take a few minutes to regroup in another room. You might call a friend or loved one, have a cup of tea, take a shower, listen to a song, or meditate. Do what you can to calm yourself.
  • Ask for help. Let your partner or another loved one take over for a while. Take advantage of babysitting offers from trusted friends or neighbors. Use the time to relax.

When your crying baby can't be calmed, you might be tempted to try just about anything to get the tears to stop. It's OK to be creative — but always be gentle. Never shake, throw or hit your baby.

Babies have weak neck muscles and often struggle to support their heavy heads. If a baby is forcefully shaken, his or her fragile brain moves back and forth inside the skull. This can cause bruising, swelling and bleeding. Shaking your baby might have devastating consequences — including blindness, brain damage or even death.

Taking time to care for yourself can improve your ability to cope with the stress of caring for a baby. To practice self-care:

  • Get as much rest as you can
  • Ask for help and accept offers of help
  • Go easy on yourself
  • Get rid of unrealistic expectations about what life with a baby should look like
  • Take a little time each day for yourself, if possible

In addition to relying on the support of family and friends, you're also likely to benefit from befriending parents of babies. These connections can be a great source of understanding. They can also remind you that you aren't alone.

Managing the stress of parenthood can be challenging. If you're worried about your ability to cope with a crying baby, don't be afraid to seek help. Contact a family member or friend, your doctor, a local crisis intervention service or a mental health help line for support.

April 21, 2021