How I Dealt with Crying Babies as a Dad

Modern Parent

My wife and I welcomed our second child, a girl, last Friday. Our first week with her has been incredible. She’s been an excellent sleeper, has presented no challenges with nursing and transitioning between bottle and breast, and really is super content as long as she’s full. This experience has really put our experience when our son (now 5 and 1/2) into perspective and I felt compelled to share some encouragement to any Dads out there with a colicky baby or just struggling in general.

With my first child, we really struggled for at least a year when our son was born. He had colic and was very difficult to soothe. As first-time parents, we felt helpless and very much like failures. All we can remember of those first weeks and months were crying and stress. Really the only thing that worked to soothe him was long, long drives in the car. I’m normally a very even-keeled guy and I remember breaking down from stress and exhaustion. It was actually traumatic and none of my friends or family could really understand because they never had a colicky baby. My wife and I always felt like maybe we had failed in some way or maybe we were just not capable of coping with parenting. Despite these challenges, things got better….way better. Our son is a happy, imaginative, fun, sweet, dinosaur-obsessed boy who is living his best life being home with mom and dad for a year due to COVID. 

Second, the relative spa-treatment of parenting that our daughter has been in the first week has caused my wife and me to reflect that *this* is what many of our friends/family imagined when they compared their experience to what we were telling them. While still challenging and at the expense of much sleep, I have found so much joy and pleasure in parenting my new child in ways I hardly remember with our first…which is awful and sad and devastating. We loved our first son, of course, but very little joy could be found back then. It is part of the reason we waited 4 and a half years to try for our second. One of our nurses in the hospital opened up and had a very similar experience with her first….she expressed a longing to have those first 18 months back with her daughter because she felt like colic robbed them of so much connection. 

So, if you are a dad with a colicky baby or are really struggling with how overwhelmed you are feeling, you are not alone. I have felt the way you feel…like you must not be cut out to be a parent, that you expected parenting to be happy and joyful but it's not, that you don’t feel anyone understands just how hard it is. It is awful, it will challenge you in ways you would never have expected to be challenged, but it gets better. You’ll hit a transition point when things go from shit, to tolerable, to OK, to better…and then it’s just the normal amazingly humbling experience of parenting a beautiful and unique kid in the world. 

Be gracious to yourself, practice self-care, and support your partner. All I told myself when everything about parenting seemed impossible was “my most important job is to love this little one…for them to know they are loved and safe”. Even when I felt like I didn’t have any of the answers, I knew that was one thing I could do.

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