It sounds obvious, but crying is the most powerful way that a baby can communicate. It's also the only way of letting you know that something's making them unhappy.
A crying baby may be too hot or too cold, hungry, windy, have a full nappy or just need some attention – so these are all things that you should check first.
If there is nothing you can find that could be making your baby cry, why not see whether there's anything else you could do to calm them down? Maybe singing a song or giving them a baby massage could do the trick. Going out for a walk with them is also a good idea – the change of surroundings will probably do you both good.
And talk to other parents about how they calm down a crying baby, or visit an online forum like Netmums. Other mums and dads probably all have their own ways of soothing their babies, and their suggestions could work for yours too.
Bonding with your baby
When your baby's born, it's not just a miracle, it's the start of a whole new relationship. And, like all relationships, it takes time to develop. The closer the bond you have with your baby, the more you'll be able to cope with stressful situations when they arise.
Sometimes the bond is there from birth. But it can take a bit longer to develop. Just remember, it's not a race. You've all the time in the world to get used to each other and make your baby feel safe, secure and loved.
The bonding process can start before your baby's even been born. Lots of mums and dads start talking to "the bump" even if they haven't even made a final choice of name.
Once the baby's out in the wide world, it's important to have lots of skin-to-skin contact because touch and smell are two of the most important senses in the bonding process.
Take every chance you can to smile, talk, sing, cuddle and play with your baby. You could even learn some massage techniques – which come in handy when you're trying to calm a crying baby.
Eye contact is also very important in forming a strong bond and it's also a great way to pick up on your baby's mood:
- if your baby looks straight at you with bright eyes, reaches out, smiles and babbles, it's a sign they want to interact with you
- signs that they might want to do something different are when they look away, yawn, look a bit bored or cover their face with their hands
- they definitely feel upset, and could be about to cry, if they turn away, whine, kick or pull away from you.
If, for any reason, you don't think bonding with your baby is going as well as it could there's plenty of help and support available. Talk to your midwife or health visitor, confide in a close friend or family member, or you can even speak to one of our helpline counsellors on 0808 800 5000. They'll be only too happy to listen and help.
Coping with toddler tantrums
As babies develop into toddlers, they find new ways of expressing themselves and testing boundaries. And this is when tantrums come in. So when your little one gets upset, you might find they scream, cry or even kick out, hit or bite.
Any mum or dad can tell you that the first time this happens can be upsetting, and if it happens in public it can be embarrassing. But the best thing you can do is keep calm and let them know you love their good behaviour but this isn't going to be tolerated.
If you can't find an immediate reason (they're hungry, tired or need a little tender loving care), try distracting them with a book or something happening nearby. And if they're angry, it can help to tell them you know how they feel.
Tantrums can last a while, but make sure you stay strong. If they're asking for something and you've said no, don't give in and don't try to bribe them with sweets. And if you're feeling overwhelmed, make sure you take a break - perhaps you could call a friend. You might find it easier to manage when you've had a second to think for yourself. You can also get advice on staying calm.
Recognising you're stressed – and how to deal with it
Sometimes stress can become too hard to handle. But when you're looking after a baby or toddler, it's more important than ever that you can recognise when you need to take action to relieve your stress.
Have a few relaxation techniques you can call on to make sure that baby safety is your No. 1 priority. And let's not forget that older children can be a real challenge as well, so all these suggestions could be equally useful if you're dealing with a toddler's tantrum.
- Arrange time for rest
- Feeling tired or trapped can make stress feel even worse, so see if you can arrange set times when your partner or a family member can take over the baby care and you can have a rest or get some exercise.
- Have tricks to deal with stress
- Stressful events are going to happen. But if you already have a strategy in place to deal with them, it'll be a real help. Taking deep breaths and counting to 10 is a favourite but you could also go for a walk or get some fresh air.
- Put on some music
- In fact, music can be one of the best ways to change your mood straight away. So you could make sure that your baby is in a safe place where they can't come to any harm, go into another room and listen to one of your favourites to give yourself a short break.
- Ask a friend or neighbour for help
- See if a neighbour can pop round to give you a little support (and understanding!) or give a friend a ring. And, remember, NSPCC counsellors are also only a phone call away on 0808 800 5000.
- See what others do
- Talk to other people about how they handle stressful situations. They might have a solution that could work for you too.
Hopefully, armed with some of these suggestions, you'll be able to get past the point of maximum stress.
Remember, there's not a parent on earth who hasn't experienced stress or frustration, so there's no need to feel alone. It's all just part of bringing up children.
Keeping your baby safe
It's every parent's natural instinct to keep their baby as safe as they possibly can. For new-borns, even though they're very delicate, they tend to stay where they are put. But as babies develop and become more mobile, you need to be extra careful.
There will naturally be times when you have to leave your baby on their own, so here are some very important considerations:
- If you're going to leave your baby alone, it must never be anywhere they could roll or fall off like a sofa or a bed.
- Make sure that it's not a place where brothers, sisters or pets could accidentally cause them any harm.
- Have a thorough check that there is nothing within reach for them that could hurt them – for example, objects they might put in their mouth or cords they could get tangled up in.
When a baby wakes often in the night, it can be tempting to keep them in bed with you so you can just cuddle them till they go back to sleep.
This is a very bad idea because there is a real risk that a sleeping adult could easily roll over and suffocate a baby.
So if you do want to stay close to your baby through the night, it's a much better idea to either put their cot close to your bed or to sleep on a mattress alongside their cot, so you can easily comfort them through the bars. If it's possible (and if your partner's willing!), you could also agree on a rota so one of you stays awake with your baby while the other grabs some much needed rest.
It might not seem like it now but, before you know it, your child will no longer be a baby. There'll be a whole lot of new ways that you'll need to keep them safe as they become more independent and explore the world around them. But the care you've taken and the bond you've formed in their earliest years will have built a solid foundation for you both.
Download our guides to keeping babies safe
How we can help
Coping with Crying
Parents Under Pressure™
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