Screaming & Screeching
Archived Q&A and Reviews
Our 4 1/2-month-old has the most unusually ear-splitting scream. He's been very loud since birth. Evidence for this: 1) my grandma who's 84 and has 7 great- grandkids says he has the loudest 'cry' she's ever heard 2) in a classroom with about 25 other fussy babies, everyone stopped and stared when my baby woke up crying/ screaming 3) last time I was at the gym, the folks from childcare came to get me because they couldn't calm him down. ''He sounds like he's in pain,'' said the woman. I got there - he was fine. He was tired and fell right asleep.
OK, so he's got a VERY loud scream and while he is often smiley, giggly and lots of fun to be around, he has certainly been a challenging baby. He was colicky 'til 3 1/2 months. He often cries/sreams upon waking and to get himself to sleep. And he just seems like such an intense little guy. My husband and I have two concerns:
1) Could there be something wrong with him? Most likely he's just loud and I'm, of course, hoping he gets less loud with time. (ha) But again, he's so intense. He always checks out fine at the Dr's and otherwise seems happy. We can't help but worry that he's got some kind of a developmental, sensory or physical problem. Have any of you had really loud 'screamers'? Have your babies had any issues later in childhood? Have any of them turned into mellow kids? (My husband and I were both 'easy' babies and mellow kids.)
2) We'd like some help for dealing with our baby when he's screaming. Aside from wearing earplugs, which helps but which I can't do all day long, what tips do you have for not 'losing it' a little? I sometimes scream back - this can't been good for him. We worry that our negative reaction to his screaming can't be good for him or for us 'bonding'. My husband also sometimes handles him a little more roughly than he should. We'd both like to change our behavior. It's this reaction to frustration and intense screaming that overwhelms us both sometimes. Also, can you recommend any low-cost classes or counselors or books that might help us with ideas for how to deal with our somewhat 'challenging' baby. (remember, he's only 4 1/2 months - we want to modify OUR behavior, not his) We really feel that we'd be much better parents if we had an 'easier' baby - or at least one who didn't seem like he was taking years off of our ability to hear. But we got what we got, and we need some help.
By the way, there is no abuse or physical harm to our baby. My husband just handles him a little rougher than either of us feels comfortable with. Please only kind responses! Thanks! Buying More Earplugs Tonight!
My sympathies. I had a shrieker/screamer too. I had people come out of their houses to see what was going on, I had kind strangers offer to help out, I had not-so-kind strangers give me all kinds of stupid advice, my mom refused to even hold him, I had one doctor say ''God, that's just awful. I don't know how you can stand it.'' (Sheesh, what am I suppose to do, send him back because I ''can't stand it''???) My husband also had a more intense reaction to it, and I'll never forget watching him roughly picking our 1 month old son up after a particularly noisy diaper change, and, (he'd cringe now to remember this) my husband yelling at him ''What the @#&@(#$) is the problem???!!!''. Ickiness all around. These kids are INTENSE! I still shudder when I think about that dark, dark time.
Beyond earplugs, what helped me personally was to basically ''run a different tape'' that was kind to the both of us in my head whenever he was screaming (which was anytime he was awake)...I basically chanted over and over, ''You poor baby, I know this isn't about me, something just doesn't feel good to you does it, you have such strong lungs, I'll do what I can buddy'' etc. I tried to be his ''sympathetic escort'' through whatever this horrible journey was. I just took the mindset that if this were a random person on the street, screaming like this, I would have to presume that they were in serious pain, and I'd endure the noise to see if I could help out.
When he was an infant, we took him to Catherine Henderson (now on Santa Fe off Solano) for cranial-sacral work, which really did amazing things for his comfort level. It did turn out that our son had a sensory processing disorder, and within 2 months of starting intensive treatment at about age 3, we had a wonderfully mellow little boy. He's a complete joy to be with. Sympathetic
[Editor Note Nov 2017: Catherine Henderson has notified us that she is no longer practicing in California.]
My son went through a phase of about 3 months, around 4 to 7 months, where he had the most amazing scream - if he did it in public places, EVERYONE would stop and stare and I was sure all the glass in the room would break. The very first time he did it, I made up my mind to COMPLETELY ignore it. I never responded verbally at all, neither told him to be quite nor screamed back. I would try to take some action to calm him down, but he got no unusual attention at all for this behavior. It was very hard to enforce this decision, especially when he would scream in public places, and everyone would look at me like ''why doesn't she do something about her son?''. But after 3 or 4 months, he simply stopped doing it, and has in fact been quite an early and good talker (he is just over 2 now, speaking in sentences). It sounds like you and your husband have already established a pattern of positive reinforcement for this behavior--any unusual attention at all is conceived of as positive for an infant--which may make it a lot harder to reverse. But I'm sure it will get better once talking begins. eardrums finally recovered
Honey, what does this mean? there is no abuse or physical harm to our baby. My husband just handles him a little rougher than either of us feels comfortable with. Why does your husband handle the baby more roughly than he is comfortable with? I don't get it, please clarify! As for the baby, he'll probably grow out of it IMO.
I totally empathise with you. I had a baby just like yours... and it was 13 years ago.
I've found a text I wrote at the time: ''I can't stand it anymore, why is she screaming like that, it has to stop, I will leave...'' We tried everything, I nursed for hours so she wouldn't scream, we put the crib on the dryer, we drove her in the car for hours.
Babysitters called us because they couldn't take it when we went out for a break... and then... it stopped, probably gradually and I will always remember when she entered her pre-school a little before 3 years of age: she had a big smile and didn't turn back to wave. We had given her enough unconditional love and she was ready for the world. Today she is a beautiful teenage girl with a huge heart, and a happy life. I know it's hard to see past those first months when you're in the middle of it.
Hang on, it is likely there won't be anything wrong with your baby and you will go through this period, and you will mainly remember the good moments you're having with him. anon
I don't think there is anything wrong here. When people say ''demanding baby'' this is what they are talking about. I know it seems like it can't be true but it is.
I found that extended nursing was the only cure. When they cry, you change the diaper and nurse 'em. I did it untill they were 3 years old and I am a wreck. I would probably be a wreck anyway and I didn't know what else to do so there you have it.
Also want to give you this jewel of a platitude: ''When you think you can't stand it anymore, it changes.'' That from my aged aunt who also said ''Just when you think you are going to pinch their heads off, they do something cute.'
Hopefully, you will have enough cute stuff to balance the bad. My back used to ache when they yelled. But, I'm tellin' ya; put the boob in the mouth & snuggle in and it gets sweet real fast. Someone who lived through the screaming baby years.
Also, wanted to mention that if you hold your baby really close to you, hold his neck/head up, hold him tight & listen to music like George Clintin, Funkadelic, something with a really strong beat? And bounce, just bounce. It gets all the bubbles up and they love it. Yelling back doesn't work.
run, do not walk, to your nearest bookstore (or your computer) and get this book: The Happiest Baby on the Block by Dr. Harvey Karp. He has a host of techniques for soothing a baby. and the book comes in DVD also, which helps a lot if you don't have time to read :-) I'm telling you , I buy this for every new mom I know and they all call to thank me--my 1st cousin said ''It taught me how to care for my baby'' . I used it after my 2nd baby and really wish I'd had it with the first. Good luck, you'll get through this! mom of 2 happy kids!
My daughter was also absolutely the loudest screamer anyone had ever heard. An ear-splitting cry when she was upset. Like your son, she was an intense baby, although generally good-spirited and smiley and happy, too. Her loudness lasted from about 1 month of age until 11 months old, and then the volume of her cries just melted away. I don't know why, but now she's just a normal volume girl. (She's two.) I actually think that her extremely loud cry melted away right about the time she had her first serious cold. Her voice got hoarse and then the ear- splitting just never came back. SO, my advice to you... just wait it out. I bet he'll outgrown it, and then you and your husband will just laugh about it. As for dealing with it at the present time, we found that bringing our daughter outside or to the window when she was screaming helped to jolt her out of it and she often quieted down. In the nighttime, we found that bringing her to see a lighted candle also seemed to work magic. I think just seeing the light is suddenly captivating and snaps them out of the screaming rut they're stuck in. Good luck! Hang in there! also used a lot of ear plugs
I had to respond to your post. I have a four year old daughter who sounds a lot like your son. She has always had an exceptionally shrill, loud, piercing voice. As a baby her screams were always the ones to draw attention and, even now as a preschooler her voice is loud, and if she is upset, shrill and piercing. She's an intense little person, although delightful, smart, amusing and often sweet. I wouldn't trade her for anything, but oh if I could only dull down her voice a bit. Hopefully with a boy you won't have the shrill problem. I don't really know what to say to help. I am from a quiet, soft-spoken family, relish silence and am deeply effected by too much noise. It can get on my every last nerve - especially now that I also have a fairly loud two year old boy as well, nothing compared to his sister, but no shrinking violet and getting louder to compete with his sister. For me it has been and continues to be the single hardest part of parenting. The noise, if it just wasn't for the noise I could be a perfect parent, I swear. As it is, it is the one thing that makes me lose my temper - more often than I would like. All I can offer as advice is to, first of all not worry - it sounds like you already know it's just the way he is. Secondly, get silence where you can - relish it, savor it, bathe in it. Turn up the music really loud in the car when you have too. Try to frame it positively - they are sure to be confident, exuberent, fun, lively people. I also watch my daughter when she is really emotional - happy, silly, upset, angry, and she really can't help it. Even when I try and work with her on modulating her voice and tone, she has a really hard time controlling it when she's upset. When I see her trying, it helps me feel less angry about it, because it does make me angry sometimes. I also try to look at it as my karmic test in some way. The universe seems to know where we are most in need of a challenge and throw that at us with our kids - here, you find too much noise difficult? take these two kids and work it out. Deep breathing helps. Holding my crying child with my ears ringing has certainly been one of my greatest tests. When they're old enough I swear I'm going to run off to a Zen monastery for a month long silent retreat. Good luck! Karen
Hi ''Buying More Earplugs,'' We had a screamer (colicky too) who is now going on four years old. I wore earplugs with those plastic strings attached around my neck for over five months. Some days I frantically search for them (great wardrobe accessory). We were a little rough too due to sleep deprivation, walking into doors & the like. There was nothing physically wrong with him that we/the pediatrician could tell besides mild gas. I did take him to a chiro. & tried everything--he enjoyed that & baby yoga. I brewed a weak version of chamomile tea which calmed & soothed and stocked up by the case in gripe water (much cheaper online). He's fine now and a very spirited child. Genes on both sides contribute to this behaviour, we're pretty calm & also wondered how we got what we got. Hang in there and check out Helen Neville's ''Spirited Child'' classes at Bananas as well as Meg Zweiback's classes & keep her number handy --their books are helpful. Banana classes very reasonable & Meg's advice was very calming & effective at the time (there's light at the end of the tunnel).
My husband couldn't handle fifteen minutes with the screamer which resulted in me doing most of the work and burning myself out. Make sure you take care of yourself and go away for a much needed vacation; I went on a women's retreat which helped but one wkend is not long enough. Word of advice: Don't forget to always, always wear your IPOD, it really helps when you're stressed out & look into audio downloads. I listened to quite a few books and it helped me to get out of my pyjamas on a daily basis. I know exactly how you feel, I couldn't go to many places & was worn out mentally & physically (my sweet little angel didn't sleep through the night for 18 months) phew! I can't believe I made it & you will too. Recovering 1st time mom. Reg
I also had an extremely loud baby. ''My what a loud baby,'' someone once said. I always felt incredibly embarassed at the mother's group because my baby had two stages: nursing and crying. It started to get better about six months, though there were often loud tantrums until about 3. The good thing was my baby turned into an early talker and could start complaining in words (though it was kind of strange that the kind of things you expect in toddlers who don't have words would come up in yelling words). She was intense, but appropriate in preschool, and bonded strongly with several of the teachers. Now, years later, my child is an emotionally intense, smart, creative, empathetic, school-age person.
What helped: nursing (whatever was the cause of the lack of balance, nursing helped settle her), moving about in the world -- the screaming was most at home, or in other people's homes, help from friends, the baby swing, time off (babysitting didn't work until 10 months, but then it was a lifesaver.) I was also advised that if the screaming didn't stop to put her down for 10 minutes and go into another room. My husband and I would also spell each other, so each got some time ''off.'' I think being as gentle as possible with a hard baby is helpful, because they are so unsettled that they need more external help to calm down.
In my experience, we didn't end up with a mellow child, but we have a fun, affectionate child. Take care. Been there
Hi, I am responding to the parents who are concerned about their ''screaming'' infant. I can suggest that you take your child to see our family's chiropractors to have some cranial sacral work done. There may be some tension in your baby's skull or spine from normal growth that needs to be alleviated. I have found this type of care to help a lot with my son. He has had chiropractic adjustments since his birth and he's a relatively calm boy at six years. He also never had a serious ear infection. The one time that he complained of ears hurting, it was corrected after a couple of adjustments. Also, they specialize in child healthcare and I trust them with all health concerns for my family. Please call Drs. Aaron Rosselle and Eileen Karpfinger at (510) 444-4443 to speak with them about your child's issue. They are in Oakland at the Upaya Center across from the Grand Lake Theatre. Andrea
Hi, I was wondering if anyone has advise on dealing with an 11 mos old girl that loves to scream or screech.( It's extremely high pitched and hurts the ears.) She does this for various reason, wanting something, she's eating, upset, just because... It's driving us crazy! I saw some old posts but was wondering if anyone has any new suggestions. Thanks! Tracey
Our daughter does this too. We try to ignore it. We definitely don't give her whatever it is that she wants when she's doing the screeching. I tried screeching back, but that didn't work. I'm preparing myself for years of this...and then puberty, where she'll probably just start ignoring us.
Mom to screecher
My 13 month old son has developed a blood-curdling scream, which he uses with great frequency. It is sometimes but not always a sign of being upset- sometimes he just seems to be trying it out. The problem is, I really cannot stand it anymore. In the car, I feel like it's actually dangerous, as it startles me, and I'm afraid I'll have an accident. The rest of the time, I'm just walking around with a permanent headache, and I feel like I'm constantly on edge.
I've tried just telling him ''no,'' but it only works sometimes, and in the interest of not overusing the word/ concept, I try to reserve it for things that are actually dangerous, which the screaming is not, except in the car.
I've read through the archives, and based on what's there I'll add: he is not yet speaking; we're working on sign language and he has a few signs; and I'm trying hard to provide him with words for what he wants or needs. But my question is: is there a way to STOP, or at least greatly decrease this behavior? I'm really afraid I'm going to snap. Thanks for ANY advice you may have! Stephanie
My toddler twins sometimes scream for seemingly no reason (though sometimes it's clear they're doing it to amuse themselves). What I do is start singing, in a calm, not-too- loud way. Then they stop screaming. anon
I have a daughter who was an incredible screamer until she started talking. What worked for us was a little re-training. It took a while, but if she screamed while we were at home, I told her ''its okay to scream outside, but not inside the house.'' And I'd pick her up and put her outside in the backyard (where it was safe) for 2 minutes. If it was raining or dark, I'd tell her ''its okay to scream in your crib with the door closed, so you don't hurt mommy's ears'' and I'd bring her upstairs and put her in her crib with the door closed. If she screamed in the car, AND if there was a safe place to pull over (not on the freeway, but maybe pull off at an exit), I'd pull the car over and tell her that I was getting out of the car until she was done screaming. Then I'd park and stand right outside of the car for a minute or two. These all worked because she didn't like when I did them. Once she started talking, the screaming also diminished. But I feel for you! - mama of a screamer
It may not help you much to hear this, but this screaming phase will not last forever. My son's screaming peaked around that age, because he wanted to communicate but was not able to yet. Soon after that, he learned to talk and the screaming went way down. Hang in there! In the meantime, I'd probably leave the room whenever he screams, as a form of negative reinforcement as well as a way to preserve your hearing! Mother of former screamer
Our son got in touch with his screaming voice about that time too. At 17 months he still loves doing it. I think it's part of the Great Toddler Experiment. He also has discovered echos and then he really lets it out. Not sure how to get him to stop. We try and talk to our son using soft voices and try not to react to his screaming. He still does it but usually will stop after one or two times when he gets no reaction. He's now into whispering and thinks it's quite funny. Good luck. anon
Yes, practice the response of ignoring him immediately when he screams (after you ascertain that he isn't actually in need of something, and is just doing it to get hiw way). Without negative OR positive reinforcement, he will soon discover this is a failed method to manipulate you to do his bidding, and he will stop, because it doesn't get him anything he wants.
You need to be consistent with this method, and everyone who cares for him must do it as well. Just get him safe when he is screaming, and walk away and do something else. Lock yourself in the bathroom if need be.
And buy some earplugs to help yourself be less tense when he is doing it.
This will probably take about two weeks to cure him of, if you are totally consistent. Do it! Save your sanity!
Our daughter did the screaming too right about the same age. Not only did it startle (and annoy!) mom and dad, but it managed to get everyone else on edge from restaurants to Trader Joes. Happily, she outgrew it in about 2 months. I read somewhere to ignore the scream and instead lean in calmly and say ''I'm listening to you'' so that the child knows they don't have to scream to get your attention. So who knows if this was why she stopped...or if it was just meant to be a phase. In any case rest easy, it won't last forever! Good luck.
My 11 months old baby girl screams all the time - no tears- just screams. She doesn't want to be left alone for a second. She screams when she's dry, fed, just woke up. She wants us to pick her up, and she doesn't stop screaming if we don't. The only way I can do anything around the house is if I let her watch her baby einstein videos. I feel bad plopping her in front of the TV - but that is the only way she will stop screaming. She's only interested in toys if I am playing with her. She wants to see me at all times,and preferably be carried by me at all times. I am frustrated because I can't do that for her, and her screaming really disturbs me, and makes me edgy. I tried to tell her no - mommy can't pick you up now. That usually works for 2 minutes. She is extremely demanding, and insistant. HELP ! May
I think most babies want to be held most of the time. I have two, one very high- needs and the other easy-going, and both of them acted the same way you describe your child as behaving. It continued well after they could walk. I tried to carry them as much as I could, in my arms, a sling, or a small backpack. (Wearing a wool hat helped with the hair-pulling.) Some housework was easy to include them in like folding laundry while sitting together on the floor or flapping the sheets over them as I made the beds. Cooking and dishes required the backpack. I tried to do as much kitchen work as I could when they slept. I found that if I responded to their requests to be held when they wanted, they were able to be set down later and play or toddle around nearby. I know how frustrating it can be, but this phase will pass. Anon
I know the story all too well. My baby, now turning 4, was just like that for the entire first year of her life. Would NOT be set down and demanded constant attention. It drove me nuts, and I didn't get a lot done. But I did toughen up to a certain degree and at times just set her in a safe place with safe toys, turned up the loud classical music and cooked dinner with a wailing cacophany. I don't really have any advice here, but to say my child is now a very active creative independent sociable girl. But still highy values mommy time, and I appreciate that. Christina
My 8 mo. old son is constantly screeching whenever he gets the slightest bit frustrated or tired. He seems to get frustrated very easily - he isn't crawling yet and that may be part of it, but he will play for a few minutes and then immediately start in on the screeching again. It is ear piercing and I am getting to the end of my rope (luckily when I do, my husband takes over and I go outside for a while). I don't know if it is because he is teething or just because this is a stage that he is going through. People have said he is just testing out his voice, but it is more than that. He is clearly unhappy when he is doing it. I hate the fact that he is unhappy so much of the time but frankly I just want it to stop. Should I ignore it? Tell him no? I don't know how to work with behavioral issues with a baby this young.
At 8 months, my friend's baby began to screech and they had to stop taking him out in public. I felt smug because my baby did not screech. My baby is a month younger than my friend's. Mine started screeching exactly a month later (also at 8 months). We had to stop eating out when a sudden piercing screech caused a waiter to drop a tray of food!. Both babies screeched for a few weeks and then stopped. I would put my baby down if I was holding him when he screeched and tell him I don't like screeching. But really I think there is just something about being 8 months that makes them screech. It doesn't last long, so just be patient and it will stop! Ginger
I had the same experience with my daughter who is now 2 years old. The only advice that made me feel better was my mom's. She kept telling me that was the sign of intelligent kid. From then on, I realized that she was just frustrated because she couldn't do the things she wanted to do because of physical limitation. I started to want to know what was going on in her mind, appreciated how much she understood in that young age and amazed how much creativity she had, suddenly the screeching did not bother me as much (there were time when I felt like my head was going to blow up, but it's not as often). I think you will have an easier time once your son can walk and do things himself. My daughter still does it sometimes (it's getting louder now because she can scream) when she can't open the lid to her cup or unzip her jacket. I do have fun watching her do and plan things. She is a busy one, her mind is always going. I always say to myself it's better to have a kid who is smart and active, even it gets difficult sometimes. p.l.
One of my six-month olds is a screecher, and I have found that it is usually always related to being tired or hungry. He gets so involved in play that usual cues to feed him or put him down go unnoticed by me until he starts his screeching. In most cases, I will put him to the breast and then lay him on his back in the crib so he can watch his Winnie the Pooh mobile and grab his feet or suck his thumb. Then I keep my eye on him until he seems ready to go down for a nap ( or until more screeching lets me know he's ready). Of course, this is only what works for me and my kid, but once I related the screeching to him being tired/ hungry, it was much easier to deal with, and it helped me learn that he needed more sleep during the day than he had been getting. Hope this helps. julie
Our 9-month-old has the most mind-numbing scream, all thinking stops when she does it - which she does. When we don't feed her fast enough, when she's tired of the food on her tray, when she wants to get down.
She does it in other situations, too, but somehow the mealtime thing (or in the car) is simply unbearable, and our other child claps her hands over her ears and sometimes starts crying. We find it almost impossible to function when she does this, and it's starting to ruin more meals than not.
She's not truly upset, it's an attention scream.
We've tried feeding her first, then letting her play while we eat, but then she cries all through the meal, essentially ruining the meal that way.
Any suggestions? Rhabyt
A baby or toddler with a piercing scream can be extremely stressful. I would suggest you try Baby Signs with her (simple sign language). It is very easy to learn a few basic signs and teach them to your baby. My daughter learned the sign for ''more'' almost immediately. When your baby has learned a few signs, try to NOT respond to the screaming. Say ''tell me what you want...do you want more?'' and do the appropriate sign. Your baby is trying to communicate with you, and has found the screaming to be effective. If she has another means of communication that is more effective, it will probably help stop the screaming. She can understand far more than she can communicate and it is frustrationg for her. You can look up ''Baby Signs'' on the internet, or find books locally. Melissa
Your daughter sounds like ours. She had a powerful set of lungs which she would put to good use whenever displeased, but especially at meal times. We began saying to her what we thought she must mean. For example, a shriek at meals would be met from us by ''Do you want more food? Ask for more.'' Or even just ''More?'' She caught on amazingly quickly, and guess what? Her first word was ''More.'' If the problem is pain--''Ouch, that hurts!'' You get the idea. Once she became verbal, a lot of the shrieking went away (although you can imagine the volume of tantrums when she went through those phases). Walking away and ignoring the shrieks can also encourage her to ''use her words.'' Good luck. Mother of a future opera singer
My daughter did the same thing. It got significantly better when we started turning her high chair around everytime she screamed. I would just say 'No Screaming', turn her chair around, and not turn it back until she stopped screaming. Then I gave her all the attention she wanted once she stopped. It also helped to explain to my other children that she was trying to get attention and that we should do our best to ignore her when she screams. Good luck! Julie K.
We taught our daughter baby sign language and I imagine it might help your child too. I felt like it created an amazing connection between us- that she understood at about 10 months that she could tell us what she wanted/needed and we could try to help her. At 9 months it's a great time to start. At first our daughter didn't catch on but her very first lick of ice cream, accompanied by the ''more'' sign sure taught her how to sign ''more'' and then the rest caught on. Youcan make up lots of your own signs (we made some up for binky, music, bottle, etc) or get some from the book- Baby Signs. By the way, teaching her sign launguage did not affect her language aquisition at all. She was an early talker. Good luck! LSG