When Baby's Cries Disrupt the Neighbors

When the neighbors can hear your baby's colicky cries through their condo walls, is it time to say something?

Q. Our baby has colic and cries nonstop a couple of hours every evening. We live in a small condo, and from the dirty looks my neighbor has been giving me, I think she hears it all. Should I say anything to her, or just ignore it?

A: And so it is decreed: This colic, too, shall pass (thank heavens!). Your neighbor, however, will not. So playing dumb is not a smart option.

First, of all the issues that neighbors in close quarters contend with, those pertaining to noise are the most likely to cause lasting enmity. Second, when you're living cheek by jowl, especially with young children, peaceful coexistence is a pretty worthwhile goal. Wouldn't you prefer your neighbor greet your child -- who eventually will know the difference -- with a smile rather than the evil eye? Or, let's be Machiavellian here. One day you may need your neighbor's help so it might be nice if you were on speaking terms before a crisis sends you running next door.

Our mantra: Be polite, be proactive. Don't wait for your neighbor to complain -- it's undoubtedly as unpleasant for her as it is for you. No matter how busy or fatigued you are, seek her out, preferably with a neighborly offering (a bottle of wine, a bouquet of flowers) in hand; at a minimum, drop off a handwritten note apologizing for any distress your little one may be causing.

Next, try one of our favorite tactics for raising kids in condos: "Keep 'em where your neighbors ain't." So simple, so effective, and so often overlooked. Ask your neighbor where she's likely to hang out during your child's high-colic hours and then make every effort to keep the baby in the most distant corner of your unit when she's doing her yelling thing.

Finally, remind your tired self of this: One day very soon, the colicky misery will be but a memory, while your new-and-improved neighborly relations will be very real.

Check out these articles on other ways to deal with baby's colic:

Kathy Bishop and Julia Whitehead are the authors of The City Parent Handbook: The Complete Guides to the Ups and Downs and Ins and Outs of Raising Young Kids in the City (Rodale).

Originally published in American Baby magazine, May 2005.

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