Calming Tactic: Don't Be Afraid to Take a Break
McManus still vividly remembers the day when her daughter, Caitlin, was 7 weeks old and was squalling so inconsolably she finally put her in the crib and walked away. "I couldn't deal with it anymore," McManus admits. "I said, 'I love you, but I have to get away from you right now.' It's terrible, saying this to your little baby. But you're exhausted, you've done everything you can, and you've reached your limit." Sitting outside for 10 minutes, while still within earshot, allowed McManus to regroup. "I told myself that it was going to be okay. And then I went back inside, picked her up, and tried to calm her down again."
New moms often feel guilty or self-indulgent for wanting a break from their newborns. But doctors say that putting the baby in a safe place, such as the crib or the playpen, and walking away -- even for a couple of minutes -- to take a shower, brush your teeth, make some tea, or call a friend or a counselor is exactly what you should do when crying threatens to push you past your limit. "It's not selfish, it's smart," Dr. Weissbluth says. That's because there's a strong association between excessive crying and infant injury. A survey of parents of more than 3,250 infants in the Netherlands revealed that more than 5 percent had slapped, smothered, or shaken their baby at least once because he or she was crying.