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How to calm yourself when your baby is crying: A sound therapist’s guide  

The sound of my baby crying causes me great distress

Recently, a friend confided in me about her feelings of inadequacy as a mother. She explained that when her baby cries, she feels stressed and anxious, which makes her believe she isn't a good mother because she can't always soothe her baby. This situation triggers self-doubt and leaves her feeling overwhelmed, which is then likely to cause her to respond in a heightened state of anxiety.

Mother soothing a crying baby
Singing and humming to your baby directly influences your and your baby's stress response, creating connection and calm. (Photo by Sarah Chai)

Did you know that certain sounds have the power to trigger specific stress responses and emotions due to the way our brains process auditory information? This phenomenon is deeply rooted in our evolutionary history. For instance, sharp, high-pitched sounds, like a baby's cry or a sudden alarm, can activate the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for processing fear and threat. These sounds are perceived as urgent and alarming, prompting an immediate stress response designed to prepare the body for action. This response includes the release of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which increase heart rate and heighten alertness. These are a natural response that can be traced back to our evolutionary roots, where a baby's cry signalled a need for immediate attention and care to ensure survival.

Why is a baby’s cry so distressing?

The sound of a baby crying triggers anxiety and distress because it causes a primal reaction. It sets off the amygdala region of your brain that generates the fear response, which puts your body into fight-or-flight mode. Sensory overload is when the brain is getting more input from your senses than it can cope with. Additionally the cry can trigger a flood of emotions and physical responses, making it difficult to remain calm and composed. 

Physically, the distress caused by a baby crying can increase your heart rate, and the release of stress hormones like cortisol, and a heightened state of alertness. This is an automatic and instinctual response designed to ensure that parents address the baby's needs promptly. The sound itself is often high-pitched and repetitive, which is biologically designed to capture one’s attention. 

Psychologically, a baby's cry is a powerful trigger for parents. It activates areas of the brain associated with empathy, urgency, and nurturing behaviour. This activation is intended to prompt parents to take action to soothe and care for the baby (clever isn’t it?). 

The sound of a baby’s cry can trigger a flood of emotions and physical responses, making it difficult to remain calm and composed. The inability to quickly soothe the baby can lead to feelings of helplessness and frustration, this is also a common and instinctual response of a parent who wants to help their baby. However, when the crying continues despite attempts to soothe, it can lead to stress and anxiety.

Why can't I cope with my baby crying?

Coping with a baby crying can be particularly challenging if you are already experiencing stress or fatigue. Lack of sleep, hormonal changes, and the pressure of new parenthood can all contribute to a reduced ability to manage stress effectively. Additionally, personal history and mental health can play a role in how well you cope with your baby's crying.

For some parents, especially those with a history of trauma, a baby's crying can trigger symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The sound can bring back memories of past distressing experiences, leading to an overwhelming emotional response. It's important to recognise this connection and seek appropriate support if you find yourself experiencing these symptoms.

How to stay calm when my baby won’t stop crying

Staying calm when your baby won't stop crying can be challenging, but there are strategies that can help, some we have included in this article below. Importantly, if needed, place your baby in a safe place and step away for a few moments to collect yourself. This may seem counterintuitive, but babies can sense their parent's stress and anxiety. It's better to communicate to your baby that you will be back in a minute, then step aside to take care of your own emotional needs before returning to your baby.

Retraining your stress response to your baby’s cry 

A stress response in a learned and innate response to particular situation, or set of circumstances. However, you can re-wire and re-train yourself to response in a new way to a stressful situation, such as your baby crying. It involves developing new habits and coping mechanisms, here are some techniques that use principles of sound therapy and emotional intelligence to help retrain your response to your baby crying. 

Emotional self-regulation to regulate yourself when your baby is crying

Emotional self-regulation involves recognising your emotional responses and implementing strategies to manage them effectively. The first thing to do is to simply acknowledge that the sound of your baby crying is causing you distress. Identifying and naming all the emotions you are feeling as they arise within you is an incredibly powerful tool to create space between your emotion and your response to it. Also, remind yourself that there is nothing wrong with your innate response of distress, or any emotional response, in fact, all emotions are healthy and act as a guide to help us understand ourselves and a situation. 

Sound therapy techniques to manage stress with baby cries

Sounds can evoke strong emotional reactions because of their association with past experiences. You know that a particular song might trigger feelings of nostalgia or sadness if it is linked to a significant memory. This happens because the brain stores and recalls sensory information in connection with emotional contexts, a process involving the hippocampus and amygdala. When we hear a sound that has been previously associated with a specific emotion, it can elicit a similar emotional response (hence why there is an immediate response to a baby crying). Understanding these connections between sound and emotion can help us manage stress more effectively by using sound therapy and other auditory strategies to evoke calming and positive feelings.

Retraining your stress response when your baby cries can be effectively achieved through sound therapy, singing and humming. These sounds can lower stress levels by engaging the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to promote relaxation and reduce the production of stress hormones. 

Why singing helps create a connection with you and your baby

Singing to your baby helps strengthen your connection by fostering emotional bonding and enhancing communication. The sound of your voice, particularly when singing, provides comfort and familiarity, helping your baby feel secure and loved. This auditory interaction is crucial for developing trust and attachment, as it reassures your baby of your presence and attention. Singing also involves eye contact, facial expressions, and gentle touch, all of which are essential elements of bonding. 

Singing activates the vagus nerve, a crucial component of the parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for regulating heart rate, digestion, and emotional responses. This combination of physiological and emotional benefits makes singing a powerful tool for both managing your stress response and providing comfort to your crying baby.

Additionally, the rhythmic and melodic aspects of singing can stimulate your baby's brain, promoting cognitive and emotional development. These shared musical experiences can create a sense of joy and closeness, reinforcing the bond between you and your baby.

Five strategies using humming to cope with the stress of a baby crying

Humming, a tool used in sound therapy, can help soothe a crying baby and soothe a distressed parent in several ways:

  1. Vibrational comfort: The vibrations from humming can have a calming effect, both when the baby feels these vibrations through your chest while being held and through the air.

  2. Consistent rhythm: The steady, rhythmic sound of humming can be comforting and mimic the consistent sounds a baby hears in the womb, providing a sense of familiarity and security.

  3. Calming presence: Humming can help to calm you as a parent, which in turn helps to soothe your baby. Babies are sensitive to the emotional states of their caregivers, and your calmness can help regulate their emotions.

  4. Auditory stimulation: The sound of your voice can be soothing for a baby. Humming provides gentle auditory stimulation that can distract and comfort the baby, helping to reduce crying.

  5. Bonding: Humming can enhance the bonding experience. The act of close, physical contact while humming helps strengthen the emotional connection between you and your baby, providing emotional comfort and reassurance.

Using these sound therapy practices can help condition your response to crying making it easier to remain composed and responsive in stressful situations. Furthermore, by integrating sound therapy into your daily routine you can create a more peaceful environment, reducing your overall stress levels.

Understanding the reasons behind the distress caused by your baby's crying and learning effective coping strategies can make a significant difference in your parenting journey. By taking care of your own emotional well-being, you'll be better equipped to provide the nurturing care your baby needs.


If you feel you are being held back and not reaching the goals you have for your life, or you just feel unsatisfied with your life and want to explore what may be keeping you unfulfilled, email us and let’s talk, or if you are ready, book now for a private or group session.

If you enjoyed reading this article leave a comment below. The more we share our collective experiences the more we help each other learn, grow and heal. Heated discussion is always welcomed, as that makes us better more multi-dimensional humans, just remember to be respectful and kind-hearted. 


This article was written by Nicole Sultana, she holds a Post Graduate Degree in Spiritual Care, a Bach. App. Science in Sports Science/Human Movement, is a Certified Therapeutic Sound Practitioner and a Death Doula. She is the founder of Sound Consciousness, a company who provides wellbeing strategies and therapeutic sound practices to help individuals reach peak levels of performance whether they wish to excel in their professional lives, be the best partner or parent, or wish to create the life of their dreams. 


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