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You're baby won't stop crying. Everybody's staring. Now what?

Dianna Graveman |22, November 2011


Your baby crying in a public place can be downright frustrating and embarrassing, especially when you can't calm your little one, and everyone is staring. Now what?

If you've found yourself in a department store, the bank, or--worse yet--a restaurant when your baby starts to fuss (and who hasn't?), you know the feeling. Perhaps at first you are hopeful your baby will take a pacifier and the crisis will pass. When it doesn't, you attempt to hold or rock your little one. Nothing works. The whimpers turn to wails.

It's easy to feel like an ineffective parent when you can't calm your own child in public, and the annoyed glares of other patrons make it worse.

If you have determined that your baby is not hungry and is not wet and that all of his basic needs have been met, there are still a few things you can do aside from gathering your belongings and hightailing it out of the store or restaurant as fast as you can.

First, realize that your baby may sense your own growing distress, and this can make things worse. When we are feeling particularly tense, our heart rates speed up and our muscles become taught. Your baby may react to this by becoming more fussy than she already is. As tough as it is, try to breathe deeply and relax the muscles in your arms and shoulders. It may sound ridiculous, but scientists tell us that if we physically force ourselves to smile, our demeanors will change. Try giving a shrug and a smile to those around you, a nonverbal request for understanding and patience. (Not everyone will oblige, but some will. You may even get a few smiles and encouraging words in return.)

Wet diapers and empty tummies aren't the only stressors for wee ones. If you are in a particularly loud or busy environment, your baby may feel over stimulated. If so, there may be no remedy but to go someplace else. Your baby could be too hot or too cold. Blankets can help with a draft, of course, but too much heat again may mean that you'll need to take your leave.

Toddlers, on the other hand, have a lot of energy and need some stimulation. Many just won't tolerate sitting too long. If you've already exhausted your supply of healthy snacks, juice, and portable playthings, your excursion may need to end.

Could your baby be getting sick? Does he feel warm? Is she pulling her legs up or tugging on her ears? Sometimes ailments can come on very quickly. If you suspect your little one is coming down with a bug, it's also time to go home.

Many a parent has learned that the occasional answer is to stand up and find a quiet out-of-the-way place to pace. If you are dining or shopping with your spouse, one of you can remove the child to a less-stimulating area and attempt to calm her, while the other continues the errand or meal. Sometimes just the motion of walking back and forth will put a tired, fussy child to sleep.

When all else fails, remember that it happens to everyone. Do not feel embarrassed, even if you do get some annoyed stares. Anyone who has been a parent remembers what it's like and will empathize with you. However, respect goes both ways. Those other customers who were hoping for a relaxed evening out at their favorite restaurant have every right to feel angry if your child continues to scream and you don't address it. If your child simply won't stop crying, ask your server for "to-go" containers and call it a night.

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