The Boy Who Screams

Today I’ve been a bit fed up. A bit fed up of seeing people being nasty to one particularly lovely Mummy on twitter about how she chooses to look after her children, amongst other things. This isn’t a post about how in our, mostly supportive, online community we should all just get on and neither it is a post about the pros and cons of various parenting methods. It’s a post about me (duh?!).


Well actually it’s about Wilbur. When I read these debates about attachment parenting, cry it out, controlled patting or whatever I begin to get a bit sweaty. Because here’s the thing: I agree – leaving a baby screaming is not a good idea. Studies have shown (according to Oliver James) that children who are left to cry as part of sleep training have higher levels of stress hormones or something and basically they are doomed. So what about Wilbur? I don’t leave him to scream – but scream he does. In my arms, in his cot, in the car … Anywhere and everywhere he screams when he’s tired. Sometimes at full pelt, very loudly, for what feels like an eternity. Trust me when I say we have tried everything to stop him crying. Even going against all my instincts and giving up and taking him downstairs to watch Peppa has no effect. Changing his bed time, where he sleeps, his routine, how we comfort him … We have tried it. Nothing makes any difference. Last night for the first night in ages he went to sleep without screaming and then he woke up 30 minutes later and screamed for a good 45 minutes. He’s 14 months old. Is it normal? Is it behavioural? Is it driving me ever so slightly over the edge? (Dunno, dunno, defo).

So, is he doomed? Is all this screaming-of-non-parental-choice causing him stress levels that are causing him untold damage??

Please let me know what you think, but be kind … I’m at my wits end as the fear of the screaming bedtime lurks in the doorway to his little room.

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13 Responses to The Boy Who Screams

  1. Fritha says:

    I’ve been off twitter for bit, must have missed that! Silly people! Sounds like you are all having a tough time, I would say though screaming in the arms of a loved one is toooootally different to alone. It’s not pleasant for anyone but I don’t think it causes the same effects at all. Sometimes Wilf likes a good moan, in fact all the way back home yesterday he cried for no reason at all! Hope things get a bit less stressful xx

    • bornin2011 says:

      Thanks you Fritha. That’s my hope – that because at least either Chris or I are there he’s a bit more comforted than if he was alone. I dread bedtime at the moment 😦 xx

  2. habzamaphone says:

    Of course he’s not doomed! You’re there comforting him and babies crying in arms are much less stressed than those crying on their own. Have you considered his diet at all as a reason for the screaming? Eliminating eggs/dairy/soy/gluten? Might be worth a punt.

  3. Jem says:

    I know I’ve said this a zillion times on twitter but this was EXACTLY like Oliver until we got rid of the dairy. I really thought he was just a defective baby but there was a reason! Have you tried an exclusion diet yet? *naggy nag nag* πŸ˜‰

    • bornin2011 says:

      When I was writing it I was thinking you might mention that!! No, but I think we will now. He doesn’t drink much milk or eat much cheese and he can’t abide yogurts. Do you use a substitute for milk??

      • habzamaphone says:

        Oatly FTW! Not rice milk. Too much arsenic.

      • Jem says:

        I’m nothing if not predictable πŸ˜‰

        I use oat milk in his cereal (the ones that are dairy free…) and in some foods (e.g. if I’m making a white sauce or yorkshire pudding). I prefer coconut milk (tinned) but it makes everything taste coconutty which Izz doesn’t really like. I use Pure as a butter replacement. Otherwise it’s mostly just being careful about stupid things that contain dairy that you wouldn’t expect (stock cubes!)

        I keep meaning to write a post about all the nice things we’ve found that are dairy free (like Aldi jaffa cakes) – must get my butt into gear.

  4. Jem says:

    Coming back to this … dairy issues aside, Oliver’s screaming for 9 solid months before we found a reason is the key to why I may choose not to have any more children. The thought fills me with dread. I also think I may have been suffering from PND and it’s only over the last few months or so things have got any better, so whatever happens be kind to yourself and make sure you get plenty of time to yourself to “refill your cup” as they say. I wish I had taken more ME time (and not launched a business 2 weeks post partum, but that’s another matter entirely)

    • bornin2011 says:

      I can totally relate. I do think if Wilbur was my first I would have waited a lot lot longer to have a second. Thank you for the advice, I think you’re right – sometimes I need to just admit that I need an evening ‘off’ and take it without feeling guilty x

  5. Cathy says:

    Cherry was a real screamer as a baby and into toddlerhood. I even have notes in her red book from my first ever visit to baby clinic about ‘mother concerned about excessive crying, reassured that colic is common among young babies.’ Colic my fucking arse. Colic presents in the afternoons/evenings and peaks at 3 months. Cherry was still wailing her way through life at twice that age!

    Like you however I read all the clack about excessive crying being unbearably psychologically damaging and the negative effects of cortisol and whatnot and worried deeply. I was always WITH Cherry when she was bawling her head off, but for at least the first six months of her life it seemed like that was ALL SHE DID. How could it not be damaging her, by the logic of ‘the books’?

    I never left her to cry alone, never did controlled crying, never left her to ‘cry it out’ and never left her to cry herself to sleep. I told myself that made it ‘different’.

    I also worried when I heard other mums talk about how they couldn’t bear to hear their babies cry ‘even for a moment’. I had no choice! And like you, I had no way of comforting or stopping her. She was going to cry until she was ready to stop no matter what.

    If it was caused by a food intolerance, as some of these replies would suggest, then it’s cleared up no problem.

    She’s nearly two now and shows no signs of being overly stressed, anxious or unsettled. She cries frequently and with gusto over normal toddler issues – not being allowed another biscuit, being told it’s nap time when she wants to carry on playing. Her development is normal, eating and sleeping are normal, so as far as it’s possible to tell it’s done her bugger-all harm whatsoever. She may have deep-rooted issues she takes with her into adulthood but thus far I’ve not seen any sign of them.

    I think in all honesty you just get kids like this. Just as you get kids who sleep badly, or kids who are really, really fussy eaters for no apparent reason. I was once chatting on Twitter with somebody whose children are a fair bit older than mine and she mentioned that her second was ‘a screamer’ and I completely knew what she meant. To those with children who do not cry like this, the concept of ‘a screamer’ sounds odd and a bit of an excuse (oh, it’s just the way she is, type thing) but anybody who has ever spent time with ‘a screamer’ knows EXACTLY what it means.

  6. Cathy says:

    (actually on the food intolerances/cutting out dairy point, I wouldn’t personally make any dramatic changes to a child’s diet without consulting a doctor first. Mild food intolerances aren’t abnormal in kids and the solution isn’t always to cut out that food completely – as they can grow out of the intolerance, but in order to do so they need to be exposed to the food, if you see what I mean. Anyway, just another perspective – your kid, your choice and all that! x)

    • bornin2011 says:

      I agree with you Cathy – i’m reluctant to change anything at the moment without medical advice. I’m glad that Cherry has grown out of it – I’m also glad someone else can relate to the screaming. I sometimes think my neighbours must thing we are so cruel ‘letting’ him cry like that!

  7. My daughter was a huge crier as a baby. but that eventually got better. The sleep, we had to ‘train her’ or we would all hit a wall. here is my old post about it.
    igood luck xxx

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