How to Deal With a Difficult Baby

A mother comforting her crying baby

Dealing with a difficult or overly fussy baby can be quite trying for the mother.  Apart from the obvious annoyances or problems—sleep deprivation, endless crying, a baby who never wants to be held, ect.—a difficult baby can make a woman feel inadequate as a mother, particularly if this is her first child.  I was my mother’s second child, and she has frequently admitted to me that, had I been her first, I would have been an only child, and she would have been in therapy due to her feelings that she was a terrible mother.  Fortunately for her, my older brother was a wonderful, easy and happy baby, which spared her a lot of heartache and therapy bills.

If you have a difficult baby—one that is fussy, cries all the time or hates being held—relax.  Take a deep breath.  You are not a bad mother.  Contrary to popular belief, babies are not tabula rasas, or empty vessels waiting to be filled with knowledge and a personality; babies are born with certain innate tendencies, tendencies that can lend themselves either to easy parenting or to near-constant heartache and stress.  Depending upon the nature of the problem, there are a number of different steps that parents can take when dealing with an overly difficult child.  If your child has a physical or mental disability, or has some other physical problem such as colic, consult with your pediatrician and take the appropriate steps as outlined by your baby’s doctor.

A Baby Crying

As with any baby, but particularly when dealing with an overly fussy and stress-inducing baby, it is important that the primary caregiver is able to take some personal time, preferably without the baby in tow.  Go shopping with friends, take a long bubble bath, go out to dinner with your partner—it doesn’t matter what you do, so long as you find it relaxing.  With economic times as difficult as they are, not all parents can afford to go out, or to pay for a babysitter.  In that case, it might be advisable to make an arrangement with another mother for reciprocal childcare a few hours each week.  Even if this is impossible, you should do something to restore your depleted energy levels.  It may feel unnecessary and self-indulgent, but it will make you a better—and less-frazzled—parent later.

With a baby, there is a limited amount that you can do in order to mitigate your child’s unwanted behavior.  As your child grows older, however, more avenues for punishment or correctional behavior emerge.  At this point, you as a parent need to ask yourself exactly how far you wish to curb your child’s difficult behaviors or tendencies.  I was always a very stubborn and strong-willed child, which made it very difficult for my parents, particularly when I was young.  Despite this, my parents made the decision not to break me of these tendencies.  Instead, they took steps to mitigate the effects rather than remove the underlying cause, because they felt that these traits would be of benefit to me later in life.

Remember, the ultimate goal of parenting is to produce an adult who is capable of surviving on her own; applying parenting techniques that create the perfect child while making said child ill-suited for life as an adult are ultimately counterproductive.  Raising a child is hard work and can frequently be stressful, but it is worth it both for the end result, and those precious moments each day—your child’s delighted smile, a whispered “I love you” as you tuck your child in for bed, your child’s laugh and the memory of her first steps—moments that are far too numerous to list in total.

A Baby Crying, Head Partially Covered by a Blanket

Good luck, and happy parenting.


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