Coping strategies for when the neighbour has a screaming baby

Around mid-October of last year, my next door neighbours brought home a pink, screaming baby. And it’s been screaming ever since.

This particular situation would not normally be my business, but it just so happens that the baby’s nursery shares a thin, uninsulated wall with my bedroom.

You can see where this is going, I’m sure. For the first couple months of the baby’s arrival, I responded to this screaming with a good-natured empathy for the parents. Poor new parents, I thought, that’s rough that the baby screams all night every night, which I know because I lie awake next door listening to it scream all night every night.

I mentioned it casually to my landlord after a couple of weeks and he murmured something about what great parents they were and what a shame it was that the baby had colic. I did some reading about colic and saw that this generally resolves itself after three months, and tolerated the screaming.

But now it is mid-March and the baby is five months old and still screams and screams and my empathy for the parents has eroded as my sleep deprivation has accumulated. I started grumpily complaining about the baby to friends and family, all of whom instantly responded with empathy for the parents.

The parents! I thought grumpily. They CHOSE to bring that screaming demon baby into the world. It needs an exorcism, I thought more than once, lying awake at night as it screamed over and over. I did not choose to bring a baby into the world and yet here I am. Moreover, I reasoned with fraying mental capacities, the parents could leave the room, shut the door, and walk away from the screaming. They could comfort the baby to stop the screaming. I have nowhere to go and no way to stop the screaming.

As a renter, I have only this one room in all of Dublin to myself. Before this baby came into my life, my room was my safe haven from the hustle and bustle of this busy city. But a baby’s screams are designed to upset and unsettle and, sure enough, every time the baby starts screaming, I find my jaw clenching and my nails digging into my palms. Here are some of my coping strategies:

While the baby is screaming in the evenings, I go for long walks and listen to LeVar Burton Reads. The dulcet tones of Burton’s voice soothe my frayed nerves and he starts each short story by taking slow, deep breaths. Designed to calm and soothe, plus I was a huge fan of Reading Rainbow when I was a kid, and Star Trek TNG as a teenage; perfection in a podcast. http://www.levarburtonpodcast.com/

I’ve never been one to blast music (I’m extremely averse to loud noises), but if I’ve exhausted myself, I find the Fleet Foxes an ideal way to drown out the screaming. I’m recently obsessed with them, especially:
Fool’s Errand

Helplessness Blues (perfect)

White Winter Hymnal

Mykonos

And of course the angelic voices of the Staves
Icarus

In the long run

And of course, Tired As (language warning!!!)

I hope this helps anyone in a similar position to me!

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16 thoughts on “Coping strategies for when the neighbour has a screaming baby

  1. That does not sound good for either you or the baby. Do the parents really leave the crying baby alone? Both my kids suffered colic but i always comforted them and crying rarely went on for more than 30-40 minutes at any one time. I wonder if parents have asked for any help from their doctor?

    • I honestly don’t know…I’ve never met them so I feel like it would be a weird introduction to say can you please take your baby to a doctor? I feel certain they’ve done what they could. Occasionally, I do hear them in there trying to comfort the baby, but my coping strategies all involve drowning the baby out with music or leaving for a walk, so I can’t be certain.

    • I should add that I don’t feel like there’s any neglect or abuse going on (if I did I would call someone). I know nothing about babies, but friends who have babies say that sometimes a baby needs to “self soothe” and that the parents have to let it cry rather than lose their minds. I have never heard any adults shouting at the baby, and I do sometimes hear a female voice singing to the baby or a male voice quietly hushing the baby. But sometimes the baby just cries too and I know it cries for a long time because I’ll go for a walk when it starts crying and when I get back an hour later it will still be crying. Of course, it might have started and stopped again, so my data are incomplete.

      • I feel sorry for you both. Once babies start on solid food issues like this can sort them selves – usually at about six months – fingers crossed for your sanity and for the poor baby.

  2. That does sound rough. Can you stay somewhere else or have you paid a few months in advance? Presumably you have tried earplugs? It’s possible that the parents are trying to calm the baby but he or she carries on screaming regardless, when Tommy was little sometimes no amount of rocking or trying to feed him would stop him crying. It’s also possible that they’re trying to let them self-settle (and it’s not working!).

    • Yep, I’m sure the parents have tried everything haha…there’s a huge housing crisis in Dublin right now, so it’s nearly impossible to find a new place. And I can’t wear earplugs because I can’t afford to sleep through my alarm! I have to be at work early in the morning, so I don’t dare use earplugs. I’m sure it will eventually subside…

      • I’ve thought about that, but I’m so worried that I would just sleep through it. I’m so sleep deprived that it takes a lot to rouse me haha. I figured out something last night though (it was a particularly screamy night). If I put in the earbuds from my music player, not attached to anything, it blocks out the noise and then when I toss and turn they get tangled and pull themselves out. It worked pretty well to get some sleep last night.

  3. Listening to other sounds via earbuds seems like a good idea.

    Having been a parent whose baby screamed all night…well, that was 27 years ago and she doesn’t scream all night anymore (hah). But she did scream all night for about ten months, and then screamed less long, less often, until she was two years old. My first child slept all night at age three months and would sleep through WWIII, so I was totally unprepared for my screamer even though I wasn’t a first-time parent.

    We did not share a wall with anyone (lucky for them). But if we had, I would have been terribly embarrassed and worried for my neighbor, as well as being freaked out that my infant was still shrieking throughout the night at five months.

    Earbuds, ear plugs, soft pillows over the head…I hope you get some sleep soon (and I hope the baby & its poor parents also get some sleep soon).

  4. Sounds like that baby needs medical care and you need superb earplugs. Seriously, that sounds like more than colic and that baby needs medical help. You need a different apartment. On the plus side, I like the Fleet Foxes! Hang in there.

  5. Just thinking that ear plugs won’t cut it. When my parrots are screaming in a small room with a tile floor (think acoustical nightmare) but I can’t leave — I use industrial-strength ear protection like woodworkers use. It is the best I’ve found so far for dealing with the unwanted sound.You wouldn’t be able to sleep on your side because of the bulky ear covering, but It might be worth a try.

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