Having a cranky baby doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent

A child’s mood has nothing to do with a parent’s skill.

Having a cranky baby doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent

My husband and I were reflecting on our boys as babies the other day. Like many parents do, we were reminiscing about how cute they were, and how much they’ve grown and changed in the intervening years.

We also commented on how challenging they were as infants. Our boys could be summed up by all the standard descriptors you use to describe infants who don’t sleep much, fuss a lot, and generally don’t conform to adult expectations—“colicky,” “high-spirited,” or “high-need.”

In passing I said something along the lines of, “Well, I’m kind of glad they were challenging because it taught me a lot about motherhood early on.” He looked at me sort of incredulously and said, “Like what?”


In our culture many people find it hard to believe that anything can be learned from having a cranky baby…or a child who poses any sort of challenge to our typical parenting mindset.

Having had a few years now to reflect on my boys’ infancy period, I can see now the gift of having had cranky babies

A child’s mood has nothing to do with a parent’s skill.

Part of the difficulty of having a cranky baby is the fact that somewhere along the way we as parents subconsciously understand our child’s happiness as a reflection of our parenting. Of course, this is not completely a bad thing—it shows we feel some responsibility for our child’s well-being.

However, whether or not our child is crying, cheerful or smiling cannot be a complete reflection of our parenting skill. If a parent is meeting a baby’s needs and he’s still crying, it’s not necessarily a reflection of the parent.

Kids each have their own individual personality. Some kids have an easy-going temperament and smile easily. Others are more serious or react easily to stimulation.

From a developmental perspective, learning to love your child’s unique personality often means trying to make meaning out of his behavior. This can often involve learning more about developmental “spurts.” Some researchers call these periods of disequilibrium or “wonder weeks,” but what they really mean are a period of rapid brain or physical development.

In infancy these alternating patterns of calm equilibrium followed by cranky disequilibrium can happen as quickly as every two weeks. Some days you can almost see their little brains abuzz with activity—they are eager to interact, but also hard to settle down.

They may sleep less, eat less and cling to you more. Their brains are going through an amazing amount of growth in a very short period.

Understanding these patterns often gives meaning to baby’s crankiness and helps relieve you that you are really not doing anything wrong.

Growth doesn’t happen in a single, smooth line

The beautiful aspect of working through your baby’s crankiness is that you start to have wonderful insight into her growth and development. After a development leap, you will see how she has learned a new skill or task.

Early on, this might be hard to see but if you observe closely you might notice her staring more at colors and patterns (a leap in the sense of sight) or she might start to babble in a new or more complex way (language development).

As you learn to pick up on these developments, you may even feel privileged to be able to take part in the development of this whole new unique person that is your child.

Understanding your baby’s crankiness in this way also gives you insight into the process of growth in general. What these developmental leaps teach us is that growth happens in a bumpy, often stressful fashion.

Growth is often not a simple linear process like we might imagine as adults. That fact, it seems, is the perfect analogy for motherhood.

We too grow with our children in an often bumpy, stressful, almost fitful way.

One day we think we have motherhood figured out and our kids are acting lovely. The next day, our perfectly planned day falls apart and our kids are a fitful mess.

On these days we are forced to grow a bit more, expand our hearts, grow in patience and learn from our mistakes. The bumpy road of growth happens for all us, whether you’re six weeks old or 36 years old.

Having a cranky baby was surely not how I envisioned early motherhood. However, in finding meaning in his struggles and mine, I gained insight into motherhood that has sustained me for the subsequent years.

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


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There is rightfully a lot of emphasis on preparing for the arrival of a new baby. The clothes! The nursery furniture! The gear! But, the thing about a baby registry is, well, your kids will keep on growing. Before you know it, they'll have new needs—and you'll probably have to foot the bill for the products yourself.

Thankfully, you don't have to break the bank when shopping for toddler products. Here are our favorite high-quality, budget-friendly finds to help with everything from meal time to bath time for the toddler set.

Comforts Fruit Crisps Variety Pack

Comforts fruit snacks

If there is one thing to know about toddlers, it is this: They love snacks. Keeping a variety on hand is easy when the pack already comes that way! Plus, we sure do appreciate that freeze-dried fruit is a healthier alternative to fruit snacks.

Comforts Electrolyte Drink

Comforts electrolyte drink

Between running (or toddling!) around all day and potentially developing a pickier palate, many toddlers can use a bit of extra help with replenishing their electrolytes—especially after they've experienced a tummy bug. We suggest keeping an electrolyte drink on hand.

Comforts Training Pants

Comforts training pants

When the time comes to start potty training, it sure helps to have some training pants on hand. If they didn't make it to the potty in time, these can help them learn their body's cues.

Comforts Nite Pants

comforts nite pants

Even when your toddler gets the hang of using the toilet during the day, nighttime training typically takes several months longer than day-time training. In the meantime, nite pants will still help them feel like the growing, big kid they are.

Comforts Baby Lotion

comforts baby lotion

Running, jumping, playing in sand, splashing in water—the daily life of a toddler can definitely irritate their skin! Help put a protective barrier between their delicate skin and the things they come into contact with every day with nourishing lotion.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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