Worms and a Can Opener

I was in the grocery store today, navigating the aisles, trying to find all I need, and there was a mum and brand new babe doing the same.  I’m never profoundly happy while I’m grocery shopping, but this baby was absolutely miserable.  She was certainly less than four or five weeks old, and screaming fierce and loud, with that horrible scratchy desperate breathless cry that new babies have when they are really, really badly out of sorts.  She screamed her way through a few aisles, and then the two of them ended up in the checkout ahead of me.

Now dudes, oh dudes.  I have been where this mum is. I can’t tell you how many terrible trips I have made to the grocery store with a screaming wee thing who really needs to go home or be picked up, and there I am, in the checkout, knowing that I absolutely have only two hands, but absolutely am out of food, and absolutely have to get through this checkout and I’m only one person and the baby is crying and I can’t pick her up but I have to get through this… and really… it gives me a horrible cramp just thinking of it. Those are tough times, so as I watched this mum struggle with a baby screaming beyond hysterical in the stroller and this exhausted mum, who probably hasn’t slept right in weeks,  trying to just check the hell out of that place so she could go meet this wee ones needs, right along with her own, I did what I always wished someone would do for me. 

I stepped up and said this.  "Oh my goodness. You poor things.  Can I help you?  I can hold your baby while you load groceries, or if that little bairn just needs her mama, I’d be more than happy to load your groceries while you pick her up. I’ve been where you are." 

I thought this was pretty good – and for the record, despite what happened next, I want you to know (in case you’re considering doing this yourself) that if anyone had said that to me when I was in that place, I would have taken them up on the grocery loading part in a heartbeat, and then likely kissed them full on the mouth.   Instead, this mum glanced at me, then glanced at this little ball of pink heartbreak in the stroller, and said this:

"No, it’s fine.  She’s okay, she’s just screaming for attention."

Okay.  Brace yourselves.

Begin rant­

Here is what is true about babies, and you might have noticed some of this yourself. 

They are very small.
They cannot move themselves if they are uncomfortable, they cannot get themselves food if they are hungry, they cannot scratch an itch if they are itchy, they can’t read a book if they are bored and they cannot phone a friend if they are lonely or sad, and they cannot reason if they are frightened, or if their day is just plain sucking arse.

In short, babies are not really well equipped to solve the problems that they face. This is not their fault.

Most importantly, babies have extremely limited powers of communication. A baby has only one way to tell you that they have a big problem – and unfortunately for all of us (including them) this one way is really loud.  Babies (except a baby who is hurt) do not just haul off and scream.  They complain first.  This sort of vague unhappy noise coming from the smallest of humans, is their way of saying "I have a problem, and I would like your help  solving it. Man, do I ever wish I could tell you what it is."

If we ignore that, then they up the ante. The noise gets louder. Now the baby is saying "HELP ME. I have a problem and I need help solving it. I’m scared, or uncomfortable or so tired I can’t cope, or really, you wouldn’t believe what’s just happened to me.  I was being carried around for nine months in a warm, quiet rocky place, where everything was nice and I never experienced a single moment of hunger or want,  and NOW I’M IN A GROCERY STORE THAT MAKES GROWN ADULTS WANT TO CRY AT THE END OF A WORKDAY, HOLY COW I AM SO FREAKED OUT. "

Babies, especially the little ones, cry because they have problems.  They cry because they can’t solve them, and they need your help, and before you tell me that they’re manipulative and trying to get what they want,   please remember that babies have an undeveloped rational brain. To try and control a parent, a baby needs rational thought and a developed glutamate system in their brain.
They don’t have one. This means that not only aren’t they being manipulative, they aren’t really capable of learning the lesson we trying to teach when we don’t pick them up when they cry.

While we’re at it, let’s look at that lesson. Crying is communication.  It is the only way a baby has to tell you that something is going on.  A baby crying in a stroller is exactly the same as a nine year old walking up to their mother and saying "Mum, can you help me?" For that matter, it’s the same as your spouse walking into the living room where you’re knitting, and saying "Honey? Hey Honey? Hello? Do you hear me? I’m speaking to you."   Now imagine for a moment if a mum was ignoring a nine year old asking for help, or a spouse was ignoring their partner, all because they didn’t want to give them the attention they wanted, because if they did – they might show that loved one that it was okay to ask for help.  Would that be reasonable? Would you think it was odd when the kid or the spouse freaked out because they couldn’t be heard or helped?  

If crying is communication, and an attempt to flex a learning brain, isn’t ignoring those cries showing a baby that there’s just no point in talking to you? That we’re just not listening, that they don’t matter?  Is that what we want to drill into that growing brain?  Yes.  They’re asking for attention, the same way we all do when we communicate with others, and try to tell them we’re having problems.  Everybody does their best. We’re never all going to be able to respond to babies everytime they need us.  Sometimes we’re going to be in the shower, or alone in a grocery store, or on our way back from our mothers in a snowstorm with a starving toddler and a five year old who really, really, really has to pee and then the wheel will break off of the stroller and the toddler will drop their gum and get snow in their face and all the while the baby is crying because you totally can’t stop moving because really now you’re a mother of three and you’re a shark man, if you stop swimming you’re going to drown and …. oh.  Sorry.  Flashback.

My point is that there are going to be times when you can’t do that for the kid.  That’s life.  Stuff happens, but really… when you can pick them up? When you can stop the crying? When you can show them that they don’t have to do that really horrible scene from the Exorcist to get your attention, that really – asking nicely works better than the whole freakout thing… those times?

Can’t you pick up your baby, and give them the attention they need?

Babies are like fruit.  They only spoil when you ignore them.

End Rant.

669 thoughts on “Worms and a Can Opener

  1. You are a brave and generous soul. There have been a number of times when I have seen/heard a crying baby and wanted to help out. Unfortunately, I never have. It all seems so obvious what to do in hindsight when our kids can talk to us. I hope that baby and that mom got what they needed eventually.

  2. oh where were you when I needed you. You are lovely and full of love and lovely compassion.
    And you are right.

  3. Oh my goodness, I can’t believe that mother , she sounds like she has never been around babies or small children at all.Didn’t anyone give some insight what child rearing was.How about any babysitting experience, zonds she sounds like a hoity toity rich snob.

  4. Not a a rant but the truth. I would have hugged you if you could have done this for me 16 yrs ago when I had a so called colicky baby (turned out to be severe renal and oesophageal reflux) who screamed at me for four days straight.

  5. Aw heck–I read the title and thought you were going to give us some dinner ideas for this weekend!
    I guess I’ll have to stick with beer and nachos.

  6. Now..I don’t have children. But I see this all time as I work at the Library.
    So I must also say…AMEN!
    (You would not believe the amount of screaming that goes on at the Library……it’s horrible.)

  7. Unfortunately you don’t need a licence to have a child. As the mother of a colicky first baby I was so overwhelmed with the crying. Anyone who truly wanted to help me was welcomed with open arms. The only comment I didn’t appreciate was “Sometimes they just need to be fed” as I think that baby spent most of it’s first few months attached to my boob. I too would have leapt at the offer of help and probably hugged the person who gave it.

  8. I was ready for a lovely story of helping others, etc, etc. My jaw literally dropped when I read the mother’s response. Poor baby. And really, poor mother too. So sad.

  9. This needs to be posted in a larger forum. You should send it to a newspaper, preferably a major one.
    It’s probably the wrong forum, but the Washington Post is having a contest for opinion columns, currently open: http://views.washingtonpost.com/pundits2010/
    You could give it a try.
    In any case, I wish I could send a hug through the ether to you, and to that baby. Sounds like you could both use one.

  10. Stephanie, you are so right. Watching my friends raise their babies with patience and concern for their needs has totally restored my sense that parenting might be a worthwhile endeavor. I always sort of assumed that babies just cried indefinitely and without reason. And then I saw what children can grow up to be when they are raised in a world where they trust the big people to meet their needs.
    Alas, I think too often the 8 year olds and the spouses and just people in general have trouble finding someone to listen to them when they need it. It’s something we can all do better 🙂

  11. I’m going to give this mom the benefit of the doubt and say that maybe she just felt awkward accepting your offer. And perhaps her “attention” excuse was the first thing that popped out of her mouth because she IS exhausted and couldn’t think of anything better to say (and didn’t want to be rude by just blurting out “no”). Maybe on her planet no stranger has ever done anything nice for her.
    Or maybe she’s just a horrible person and doesn’t give a flying fig that the baby is screaming its head off (to everyone’s discomfort) and thinks, “there you little brat…you can suffer like I had to for 9 months” or something like that. Some people just shouldn’t be parents. Let’s hope for the sake of that kid that it’s the first scenario.

  12. I don’t have any children, but I fully expected your story to be about how she accepted your offer and you made someone’s day. Wow.

  13. What you did for that woman was a genuine act of kindness and it doesn’t surprise me (based on her reaction) that she didn’t respond to it.
    If her kid were 3 years old, then I might be inclined to agree with her, but you will never convince me a 5 week old that is crying isn’t crying because SOMETHING is wrong even if it’s just nervous energy and all you can do is soothe.

  14. I must remember this when I am in the check out line and see Mom and Wee One, both not coping. I’m not good with babies. Oh yes, they see the white hairs and think I must be a grandmother and know what I’m doing, but in a couple of minutes, it is obvious I don’t. I’m going to help Mom out by moving the groceries onto the conveyor belt so she can hold Wee One and give comfort. This is my pledge. Valid for Dads, too.

  15. I just cried a bit…my first baby is about four months old and it breaks my heart to hear him cry. I would TOTALLY have taken you up on the grocery loading offer and think it says a lot about the kind of person you are that you would ask 🙂

  16. that is so so sad. bless your heart.
    a while ago you tweeted that you heard a new baby in the neighborhood and wanted to go over and teach them the ‘new baby soothing dance’ and my heart leapt – i thought oh yes, do! i would have given anything for that kind of kindness and support with my colicky wee one.
    and thank you for the nursing space at the sock summit – i’d do it wherever, but the yarn was so distracting – the private space helped us both.
    again, you are the best.

  17. On one hand, I agree with you 100%! Babies, in one sense, HAVE to be manipulative! Because they are helpless!
    On the other hand, I’m pretty socially awkward, and I can imagine that if/when I have a kid, I’ll be in a lot of situations where I just want to escape by the fastest route possible, and if that route involves sticking my foot in it, then the foot will be stuck. I hate to judge people (especially new parents) based on one incident.

  18. I’ll add my AMEN to your rant but the other sad side of the story is that the poor mother is probably so unable to meet her baby’s needs that she has convinced herself that her baby doesn’t have any. She believes it and will probably continue to live in this state of denial for the rest of her baby’s life. They are both going to miss so much!

  19. I would so have taken someone up on an offer like that. I had 3 boys in 5 1/2 years. I probably would have kissed someone who offered me help in the grocery store.
    What a life that poor little one has ahead of it. A mom that doesn’t listen.

  20. Ugh. My mother loved to tell me that the hardest part of having a newborn was having to leave them to cry alone in a dark room for hours so they would learn to fall asleep. I’m pleased not to have had her around when I had a newborn of my own….

  21. OMG, what an ungrateful woman!
    I would have cried for relief if anyone would have shown me the SMALLEST amount of patience and kindness in that situation!! My first was colicky and I was alone 90% of the time, and I avoided going out like the PLAGUE unless something occurred and I needed to go out. Without a partner at home I couldn’t go out to the store to pick up groceries, I couldn’t have a bath or a shower, I went the first 6 months of his life without sleeping (AND I was a full time student as well as housewife and part-time single mom)and all I ever got from people in stores or out in public was GRIEF because there were times I couldn’t cope anymore or I couldn’t stop the crying or I just NEEDED TO GET THROUGH THIS LINE…
    Now I try to be as kind and understanding as I can when I see someone else goign through this (and I remember that the crying feels 10x louder to them than me!!)

  22. Are you sure it was the mother? In my experience, the nanny is sometimes better (!!!??) able to ignore the wee ones than the mom. I’ve seen nannies ignore the sobs of little ones while they chatted with friends on phones or other nannies at the playground. (I don’t mean to stereotype…… I just can’t bear the thought that any mother could ignore a little one like that!)

  23. *Sigh*
    Emotional neglect is just as much abuse as hitting your kid. I hope that woman’s behaviour was a one-off, otherwise that baby is going to grow up with huge problems.

  24. Wow. Darn right she’s screaming for attention! Perhaps she realized that since her idiot mama wasn’t going to help her, the nice lady with the soft woolen goods would instead?
    Good for you to try and help out. Sometimes we all just need a positive word or deed to get through the day. It’s too bad this mama couldn’t see it.

  25. What a shame that woman is able to reproduce!!!
    And that poor baby!
    Another child in the world, feeling no one cares………and in this case, probably right.

  26. Wow. Being a new mom of a now 10 weeks old, i am still finding my way with parenting and caring for such a small bundle. Thank you for this post, as i keep on picking up the little man again, again and again, without feeling that he gets spoiled. Unlike what people say, you cannot spoil such à small person, to my belief.

  27. Exactly! I hope Mum eventually snapped out of it, and gave the poor tiny thing what was needed.

  28. I get so frustrated when I see people being awful parents. I really wanted to have children — but was unable. Doesn’t seem fair.

  29. Wow. Thank you for this reminder, as I’m halfway through growing my own first baby, and while I’ve got 18 years of babysitting and nanny experience under my belt, its always good to get a level-headed reminder about why babies cry.
    I hope that you just took that mother by surprise and she couldn’t figure out how to accept the offer of assistance. I will also remember how you offered help in a nice way so that someday, I may be able to do the same thing.
    I just might go embroider “Babies are like fruit. They only spoil when you ignore them” onto something to hang on the nursery wall for the tough days.

  30. Wow–reading through the comments today is really interesting. Seriously–though I wouldn’t have EVER said that about my first XY, I also would NEVER have let someone I didn’t know pick him up (still wouldn’t–guess I’m a little paranoid) However, I would have been all over the “pack up the groceries” offer) Lets all hope it was–as one poster commented–that the mom wasn’t thinking rationally due to stress. I wonder if she was sweating. I always broke out into a sweat when I couldn’t help my XY’s or when whatever I was doing wasn’t working.

  31. I used to be a La Leche League Leader too. I always found it hard to realize that just because I knew exactly what to do didn’t mean that somebody else was ready to accept my help. But you are so right.

  32. THANK YOU!!
    There’s so much misinformation out there on when it’s ok to let your baby scream. I’m glad to hear somebody say “only when you have no other choice”.

  33. I just want to cry for that sweet baby and smack the mom. I can’t imagine letting a tiny baby cry out of fear of letting it manipulate you. 🙁

  34. Incredible. I hear this kind of stuff all the time in dog training, but to face it with a human child so young? 4 weeks old? I’m scared of what the future will hold for this babe.

  35. Halleuiah! I’m not a mom, so I really, really try hard to not say anything about raising kids, because, well, I haven’t been there. But more than once, I’ve thought, the kid just wants to be acknowledged. Don’t we all? Maybe that’s a big word for a little baby, but I think it’s true. Thank you for your rant.

  36. Stephanie if you see them again, grab that baby, make a run for it and I’ll meet you at the border. Last night, at knitting group, we had the absolute pleasure of meeting a four week old girl. But we had the greater pleasure of reassuring her mom and grandma that yes, they were correct, she absolutely positively is the most beautiful baby in the world.

  37. If I had children, I would SO want you in line at the grocery store near me! Or near my sister, who does have kids. Thanks for the strong, wise, compassionate words.

  38. OMG I can’t believe she said that!!!!!! ARGHHHHH!!!! As a mom, and as a HUMAN, it makes me want to cry. That was an extremely nice thing you did, and I do feel sorry for the wee bairn. Ugh.

  39. A psychologist told me in a babies first three months set their emotional barometer for the rest of their lives. IE. If they live in a traumatic environment, it sets the bar to how their brain will respond to trauma for the rest of their life.
    You’re a good lady.

  40. Whoa. Seriously? I’ve been there too. I probably wouldn’t have let q stranger hold my baby, and I may not have even let you load my groceries, but I would have at least been grateful that someone understood, and slowed down a bit to pick up the poor babe. Seriously, people should have to take an exam to be a parent.

  41. One of the reasons this story is so astonishing to me is that it appears to be the exact opposite of how I see many of my peers parenting their kids.
    I know parents that don’t use the word “no” with their children in any context, for example.
    Still, it is heartbreaking and it does make me wonder what kind of experiences this mother has had to cloud her judgment so.

  42. I’m with Laura – there is a huge difference between an infant crying and a child crying (or a husband crying for that matter). 5 week olds don’t throw temper tantrums because you didn’t let them have junk food in the store.

  43. AMEN SISTER!!! Thank you so much for this. God, I’ve had this argument a million times with people. Where did this “Oh, they are just trying to manipulate us with their tiny bodies and huge screams! Damn those babies” idea come from?!

  44. I had a similar experience at our grocery store with a harried mom, and she had three kids, and one of them had one of those small kiddie carts, and the cart tipped over while she was checking out (whileholding a crying baby), and I put a HUGE smile on and said, “Can I help you?” and she said, “NO. WE ARE FINE.” I think it’s ’cause us Moms hate to admit we can’t do it ourselves. I would have welcomed ANYONE to help with screaming children. It hurts my ears to hear a baby cry like that!!!!

  45. Fast forward to the teenage years and then wonder why teachers have to do so much disciplining. Unfortunately, too many students have learned that the only way to get someone’s attention is to misbehave. They are in dire need of attention. Unfortunately, no matter what a teacher does it can never substitute for the love and attention that should have been provided at home.

  46. the fact that this woman’s belief still exists in the parenting (or well-meaning advice giver) realm, makes me WEEP for humanity!!! having our needs met as an infant is the building block for the fledgling human development of trust and self-esteem. the knowledge that we can rely upon our caregivers to listen to us and meet our needs, our ability to see the world as a safe, reliable place and the knowledge the “we matter”, that what we need or want is important!
    if only those who believe infants “act out” for attention and control could see what teachers often see down the road several years later…

  47. OMG – I feel for that baby.I was going to type a long rant but I am so upset about this that I just can’t. Poor, poor baby.

  48. I probably also would have rejected such an offer, out of sheer social anxiety… but I would have just said, “No, I’m fine, thank you very much, I’ll be done real fast…” and then tried to do stuff with one hand and maybe been lured into chatting and not argued if help with loading groceries happened anyhow….
    not ‘she just wants attention’. Duh. That is why babies cry, and what I signed up for by having one.
    Anyhow. Just wanted to point out that not all people rejecting such an offer are horrible. Sometimes just shy/embarrassed/scared of being taking advantage of.

  49. That poor baby… It would have been so hard for me to restrain myself from saying something to the mother about her childrearing..
    I’m the mom to twin girls age 2 and in those early days had that happened to me (screaming babies and someone asked to help) I would have accepted the help..
    You tried… and great editorial piece that needs to be shared…

  50. And in my sleep deprived haze, it took me five minutes for me to remember that you DID make me a similar offer when I was in a similar state. You taught me the baby dance when my 8 week old was fussy at your book signing. She’s now 3 1/2. Thanks again. 🙂

  51. You are right. But, there was a time in the past mid-century when a certain pediatric “expert” gave strict schedules to mothers to follow because, otherwise, their children would become spoiled and difficult. At least one generation was almost totally under his thrall. I was raised under his “expert advice.” I didn’t raise my son that way, but by the time John came along, it was the “age of baby’s psyche.” Personally, I don’t think either approach is right in all circumstances. Boy, do I agree, though, that a baby that’s screaming the way you describe in seriously stressed and needs a little TLC.

  52. You are exactly right! I’m pregnant with my first, and have been doing LOTS of reading to this effect. Now if it was a toddler, it might be a different story – but you’re SO right.
    Thank you – I hope I run into people like you after my baby is born.

  53. I have spent over 30 years in Child Protective/Welfare Services…+five years teaching + raised four girls + have 6 grandchild and you are so very, very right!
    I think all knitters should unite against what we can do in our own backyards…communities…
    Love your kids…they grow up so very, quickly. Give them all the love you have. Give them boundaries. Have high expections for them.
    Then you get to see them parent your grandchildren and get to be amazed at how well they do!

  54. I’ve made the same offer that you did – It’s been accepted by some and rejected by others. The acceptors were almost melting with thanks, and boy, did it make my day to be ab;e to help.
    That particular Mom is not going to find it easy as her child grows and becomes ever more demanding because needs aren’t met.
    I totally agree with your rant.

  55. Well done for trying. It just shows how bad people are these days at codependency on strangers. They would rather suffer (or have their kid suffer) than accept help. As if it shows a weakness or as if you’re trying to show them up.

  56. Agreed 1000% Babies that age only have needs not wants. It makes me so sad when women are brainwashed to ignore their intuition and instinct. How sad to not be able to read your baby’s communication because you are so detached and disconnected. My heart breaks a little for them both.

  57. Holy cow! I agree with you. I never let my kids cry like that. She could end up having a very insecure and angry child.

  58. You are such a beautiful, poignant writer and your whole perspective is right on. That said, could it be that this mom in this moment coming up with this bonehead response could chalk it up to sleep deprivation, or delerium or distractedness or whatever?
    When someone blasts past me on the highway at an unnaturally unsafe speed, I get so pissed initially, and then I think “Well, maybe they’re having a baby or are bleeding to death or something.” Then when I run into them five minutes later in the produce aisle I’d sure like to say “Hey Mario Andretti, good thing you risked MY life and limb out there with your crazy driving so you could get the most perfectly ripe avocadoes.
    I hope that mom had a reasonable reason for her seemingly callous response to her baby’s helpless distress. I sure hope that baby doesn’t have Mario Andretti for a mom.

  59. SO TRUE. Also, babies can’t self-soothe, so the idea of letting them “cry it out” (which makes me sick) is just ridiculous and awful. Babies who feel safe and well-supported grow up into confident people. Babies who don’t get held when they cry grow up having a hard time with trust and attachment.

  60. AMEN! I have an 8 week old and I can’t imagine just ignoring her “screams for attention”. She has no other way to tell me what she needs or wants. What an incredibly kind thing for you to offer help. I know there have been many times that I would have jumped at such an offer. Now I have a 10 year old who can help me but still. I hope this doesnt discourage further offers to needy moms. Let’s all hope and pray this mom sees the flaws in her thinking and changes her attitude.

  61. What you offered would have done just as much for the comfort of everyone around as for the baby’s comfort. So what if the baby was “all right”? Everyone else was being driven crazy. Even if she’s afraid of “spoiling” her baby (which is a load of cr@p), that mom needs to think more about other people; she and her baby are not the only humans on the planet.

  62. While it’s true that babies don’t explode if they have to cry for a few minutes because you really, truly shouldn’t hold them, say, while you’re driving the car…that’s different than projecting a negative motive onto a little blob of humanity to justify your own indifference. Poor baby. Poor mom who was probably raised just like that.

  63. Well said.
    I hope that the child has a much more attentive caregiver out there who will give that mother a wakeup call. At that early age, a child isn’t just fussing for the heck of it or to tick you off. Their brains quite literally have not developed those functions yet.
    *sigh*
    Don’t you just wish that common sense was much more common?

  64. AMEN!!
    And 25 years from now, that mom won’t be able to understand why her child never calls or visits.

  65. Oh, I don’t know how many times either on the phone or in meetings as a La Leche League Leader I said “You can’t spoil a baby by meeting their needs any more than you can spoil an adult by meeting their needs.” It is a matter of respecting a person, grown or little.

  66. I am forwarding this to my daughter, who is a new mum and sleep-deprived and unsure and…all the rest of it. I think it will reassure her that she’s doing the right things by her baby. Thank you, Stephanie. Thank you.

  67. Oh, this just breaks my heart. I mean really, the poor little baby. That is not my 2.5 year old repeating “Mama” over and over again because he thinks it is funny. That is a need.

  68. Yeah, I once offered to help a woman that had three small children running around and one in a carrier. She had a toddler on one hip and the carrier on the other side. I offered to help her get down the stairs and across the street with her kids. She looked at me like I was trying to steal one of them and said uh, no thanks. I haven’t offered since.

  69. Let’s hope that Mom was just having a terrible day and has decided to sign up for a few parenting classes!!

  70. Thank you for saying what so many of us would like to say. If someone had made that offer to me when my 2 were small, I would have not only taken you up on the offer,I would have invited you home for a nice hot cup of tea (while I took a nap).
    It sounds like that poor mom is definitely in need of a break. Maybe someone she knows will read this and share with her the wonderful story she read on the internet. I just hope her family recognizes her need for some guidance before her behavior can have too much of an impact on the poor baby.

  71. This is so sad! I read a few weeks ago that babies, when they are left to cry over and over, their brains actually rewire themselves. More details were not given, though I wish they were.My babies have always been picked up and soothed, even if it meant I didn’t sleep. That’s what caffeine is for!

  72. Well, I’ll disagree with a small bit of what you said (not with the overall point, which from my non-parent standpoint that seems excellent.)
    You do have to have a certain level of rationality to “manipulate” people, but you don’t need very much to learn to engage in a certain behavior to try to get a certain response… that is, to try to do something to get what you want.
    I used to hang out a lot on a cat forum and we’d always be getting posts along the lines of, “My cat keeps waking me up in the middle of the night. So I feed her and pet her and hope that will make her happy so she’ll leave me alone. And it does for a while, but then she wakes me up again! She keeps waking me night after night after night! Help!”
    Well, of course she keeps waking you up, because you’re *training* her to wake you up. This is basic operant conditioning, exactly the same way the Friskies people teach cats to push shopping carts, and exactly the way Skinner taught pigeons to play basketball. She wakes you up, and you reinforce the behavior by rewarding it (food! petting!). Of COURSE she’s going to keep doing it. That’s animal learning 101.
    (The standard advice we gave to people having this problem: ignore the cat if you can manage it. Shove her off the bed or shut her out of the room if you can’t. Don’t routinely feed the cat first thing after you get up — wait until an hour after you get up or until you leave for work. This breaks the association between “person wakes up” and “I get breakfast” — also, cats get really hyper an hour or so before they expect to eat. And never, NEVER give her food to get her to go away and let you sleep.)
    You don’t have to have much in the way of rational thought for conditioning to work on you (see the aforementioned pigeons). So I’m sure it can work on babies, at least to a certain extent.
    It’s just a question of whether it’s appropriate to try to teach “crying doesn’t accomplish anything” to a baby that young, which I agree with you that it isn’t. As I said, I’m not a parent, but even I know it’s not appropriate to ignore an unhappy newborn the way it might be to ignore an unhappy (adult) cat. (Unlike the cat, the baby probably really IS as hungry as she claims she is…)
    The application to toddlers throwing tantrums to try to get a candy bar seems fairly straightforward, though. 🙂

  73. Yep. Right on. My husband told me–only once–that I was “spoiling” our four week old by letting him sleep on my chest. I told him you can’t spoil a baby that way, but apparently you can spoil a grown man that way, so I would be breaking him of the habit cold turkey. (Ten years later, we are still happily married, no worries.)
    Bless you for offering. I’d probably have handed you the baby and burst into tears. Or run out of the store really, really fast, before you had the chance to give him back. Those early months are a little touch and go.

  74. Oh, dear. As I read your story, I feared I knew where you were going – but I expected rudeness, not such total ignorance. I agree with the person who commented that you should need a license to get a kid. Not to say I was (am) a perfect parent, but, oh, man. Seems to me the most important thing for the really wee little ones to learn is that they can trust the big people around them to attend to their needs as quickly and lovingly as possible. How else will they feel secure and loved? It’s a sorry place for some children. I hope this mom has wise and loving people around her to show her what her baby needs.

  75. You are tooooo right!!! I have a ten month old and from the moment she was born the only reason she has ever cried or whined is because she needed something… Not yet has she done anything “just for attention.” Excellent rant.

  76. AMEN!
    The stupid thing is that the prime cause of manipulative, unhealthy attention seeking in the older child or adult is a history of not having that need appropriately responded to. When developmentally normal means of communication fail, so does trust, and “alternative” strategies are developed.
    I will say that when my kids were wee babes (not that long ago – 7 & 10 years), I was shocked at the societal pressure I experienced to “not cave in”, not be “permissive” etc. when I responded to their crying. Not just from older generations either, but from my own, which made me very sad. I thought we were a little further along than that.

  77. Amen, Stephanie! When are people going to figure out babies are not little grown-ups? How did you not swallow your tongue when she said that?

  78. I remember that day 24 years ago when my 3 week old son cried non-stop for what seemed like days. I called my mother at 10:30 at night after holding and walking and rocking for the past 8 hours and asked her to help. She came right into my apartment and held him. Now that our daughter is expecting her first child my husband and I know that there will come a night or day that she will call us and say “Mom/Dad we can’t hold this baby anymore. Please help!” And we will pile in our car, drive to their house and hold their baby while they de-stress. Babies need held, loved, fed, changed, or just swaddled and snuggled close to a loving parent/grandparents chest.

  79. I suppose I’ll add one more comment, more to the comments than to the original post. (Again, as a non-parent, so take with the necessary salt.)
    What people considered the proper way to raise children has varied wildly over different cultures and different time periods. But in all of them, for the most part, most kids turned out OK. 🙂
    It’s absolutely true that, if you seriously neglect a babies’ need for love and attention, Bad Things will happen. However, in general, most people raised in “cry it out” and “don’t spoil the baby” cultures or historical periods turned out fine.
    Whether picking a baby up every time he or she cries is the BEST way to go about things, and how that may vary with age — that I’m not qualified to weigh in on. But I’m pretty sure small variations in “when to pick up” approaches are unlikely to mar baby for life. If perfect parenting were a requirement we’d have gone extinct long ago!

  80. Of course you’re right about babies and attention. Poor kid.
    I’m a little alarmed by the number of commenters saying the mother needs a smack or some parenting classes, though. Good grief. I remember when my toddler was that age, not so long ago, and she was colicky ALL THE TIME. (We found out later she was having trouble digesting dairy. But I digress).
    Being her mama those first few weeks was EXHAUSTING. She cried all the time, and when you’ve exhausted all your options–fed her, changed her, rocked her for hour after hour after hour, all on next to no sleep yourself, and the kid is STILL CRYING, you get a little loopy. I can’t honestly say that I never thought, in those tough times, that she was just doing it for “attention”.
    So, poor kid, poor mama. You tried to do a really sweet thing, and I’m sorry it didn’t turn out well.

  81. I completely agree. I would have had a hard time keeping my tongue with that young, clueless mother.

  82. I love you, I love you, I love you. I got so tired of people telling me my child would be “spoiled” if I paid attention to their crying! Once my sister-in-law asked to hold my oldest daughter, at 2 weeks old, than promptly put her down, so she could learn to be “independent”! Good grief. I immediately picked her up again. That mother in the store must not have been nursing, because I would have had a waterfall of milk pouring down my front if my baby were crying that hard. And I totally would have let you load my groceries too!

  83. This reminds me of my mother’s reaction to the question “Is she a good baby?”
    The Thought: Of course she’s a good baby, she hasn’t learned yet to be bad.
    The More Usual Response: Of course

  84. And this is why, when I rule the world, you will need to take a test of some kind to become a parent.

  85. Oh, I love you, but what did you say to her mean FACE? We’re such nice, polite Canadian people I bet you just gawped in disbelief and said, “Um, ok…” then steamed all the way home to the keyboard!
    You are absolutely right on with the lesson of the day, but Madam unfortunately will not get it and the bairn will suffer. You tried and you’re a good person, but we can’t fix ’em all.

  86. Oh my gosh. Sounds like the baby was still young enough for the, ever so irritating, undifferentated cry. Oh, how horrid. I feel so badly for that baby. I was so happy when my babies were old enough to be able to have a clue where to start looking for the problem. But, oh, dear. So sad.

  87. There really does need to be a licensing process in order to have children. It’s easier to have kids than to drive a car.

  88. Beautifully said. My only problem in reading this right this moment is that my poor little teething baby has just fallen asleep after quite a bit of cuddling and rocking and nursing, but now I just really really want to pick him back up and cuddle him some more. (But we don’t wake sleeping babies. And I’ll certainly get another chance to soothe him before morning….)

  89. The best shopping trip of my life happened when a friendly Safeway clerk came up to me and offered to hold my screaming baby while I finished my grocery shopping–it was one of those days where I couldn’t drop everything and leave because my cupboards were bare. This lovely lady cuddled my girl and just followed my cart all over the store. She was clearly a grandma since she knew all the right things to say to a grumpy baby. She got my toddler a snack from the deli and then she put my baby in her snowsuit while I paid for my groceries. She was an angel and I was grateful for the help. I made a note of her name and wrote a letter to head office. That loud little baby girl is now an opinionated five year old and I still get warm and fuzzy thinking about that clerk. I would have handed my baby over to you in a heartbeat. I have offered the same help to other moms when my hands weren’t full as well.

  90. Amen, sister. I call my oldest my practice child because I had NO idea what I was doing and if someone had offered to help me I would have said yes thank you right after I burst into tears. 🙂

  91. All babies are good, but some are not easy.
    And I have used the bit about spoiling (fruit not babies) many times myself. It must be a LLL thing, not sure where else I got it.
    The research data are clear. Infants who are held more and cry less, end up crying less as one and two year olds (to say nothing of the life long effects of knowing that people will help you when you are down…)

  92. Wait, wait, what did you do then!?! Please tell me there is some kind of appropriate response to such a bit of ****, and that you were able to pull it out of your hat. I’m flabbergasted.

  93. I’m nursing MY 4-week old as I read that and I nearly cried for that poor sweet babe. People try to give me crap for never letting him cry and always picking him up (I’ve been known to pull my car over) but I don’t care. He’s my baby, he needs to be held, and darnit I’m gonna hold him. I’d do the 1-handed thing to load my groceries too but he’s little once and I’ll take the cuddles I can get.

  94. Thank you, Stephanie. (That’s also what the mom should have said. Right after she took you up on your offer.)

  95. Holy why-don’t-mothers-have-any-bond-with-their-babies-anymore amen.
    Within fifteen minutes of my first daughter’s birth, she was smacking her lips as she lay beside me. The midwife was doing something or other with me, and I couldn’t move much. When I told the midwife I needed to pick my tiny girl and nurse her (at the point she was fussing and starting to cry for the first time), the midwife’s reply surprised and shocked me: “Eh, she’s learning self-reliance. She’ll be fine,” in a “she’ll pick herself up, brush herself off, and get on with life” kind of tone. As I was young and still not as assertive as I have since learned to be, I didn’t contradict her. I regret that to this day.
    Babies have no concept of “self” upon which to rely. ‘Nough said.
    Needless to say, I found someone else to attend me the next time.
    Thank you for ranting . . . I think I’ll do my best to offer to help moms in the store every time I hear a tiny baby crying, and to gently explain the problem if they refuse me. If I get chewed out, so be it. Someone needs to try to help stand up for those tiny, helpless things.

  96. “They told me that babies should not be held,
    It would spoil them and make them cry,
    I wanted to do what was best for them
    and the years flew swiftly by.
    Now empty are my yearning arms,
    No more that thrill sublime,
    If I had my babies back again,
    I’d hold them all the time.”
    This was my response to anybody who may have mentioned that I held my babies a lot or maybe too much. I am so glad I did. My 4 boys are 6 feet tall and kinda hard to hold now.

  97. I recently learned in my Intro to Human Sexuality class about human attachments patterns. There are basically three patterns that are ingrained into a person by the time they are 18 months old.
    The gist of the theory is that babies who’s cries are consistently listened to and their needs are met in a timely manner become happy, confident people who are able to relate to other people confidently and with trust their whole lives. Babies who’s cries are ignored until their caregiver wants to give them the attention they need respond in the same way to other people as they get older. Affection is seen as something that needs to be withheld and bargained for. The third attachment pattern happens when babies are straight-out neglected. They cling to their caregiver while they are present and cry when they are left, but react with anger when their caregiver returns.
    This is a summary of what my textbook says.
    That lady was either so sleep deprived she didn’t know what she was saying, or somebody needs to help her with that baby. Poor baby, poor lady.

  98. It’s so very difficult to be a new parent. We are bombarded with opinions, articles, studies, reports, and well-meaning grandparents. You never know if you are making the right choice or not. But I’ve never believed that infants are capable of manipulation and it’s a shame that new mother does.
    I think I’ll go hug my three teenagers now.

  99. I think I’ll come back and re-read this little “rant” when I have my first child. Read it and re-read it, and then re-read some more, just to keep my balance. Thank you, Stephanie.

  100. Creating a strong bond with a child is all about them knowing that you’ll always be there when they need you. And that starts RIGHT AWAY. They call and you come. Over time they learn that you’re always there for them. Then the world doesn’t seem like such a scary place.
    As a new-ish mom (toddler is 2.5 and pregnant with #2) I wouldn’t let a stranger hold my baby but the offer to unload the groceries would have been appreciated.
    Don’t let this mom’s reaction spoil kind offers of help in the future.

  101. Yeah Stephanie! You are so brave to offer that mother help. I love you for that.Amen & amen

  102. I began reading your blog when I had a very small pink person who liked to roar like a little lion if the wind changed direction. I loved the interplay between you and your children then and I continue to be inspired by the interplay between you and your children to this day. I love you and I thank you.

  103. Well put. Reading this made me cry, because if she ignores this baby in front of you, how much is she ignoring the baby at home! Ohmigosh, I would have been as upset as you. Today, at my clinic job, I saw a mom with a baby in a carseat that attaches to the stroller and mom feeing the baby in the seat. I wondered why she didn’t just pick the baby up and feed him/her in her arms. Was it really that hard to get the baby out of the carseat. Or another mom who was propping the bottle with a blanket, with a baby who was way too young to be able to hold his own bottle and he was really having trouble keeping the nipple in his mouth. Grrrr. That’s why God gave you arms and even if you are bottle-feeding, that is no excuse not to hold the baby while you feed them! Babies like to be held, see your eyes, smile at you, etc.
    I would have taken you up on packing my groceries, if you’d been there to ask me. I think I had a time or two, in a store, with a screaming child that really needed to get home to eat, but I doubt I would have told a stranger that, my daughters were just trying to get attention.

  104. I totally agree. I remember in February 86 when my youngest was born looking with jealousy across the street at the other new mother whose mom was there to help by getting the grocery. It was a scary thing to go to the grocery store with a infant and a 2 /2 year old. Maybe she didn’t know how to accept help or had heard the screaming for attention thing from her own mother.

  105. So beautifully put, now can we print this out and post it up at the doctors, library, and supermarket? What you just wrote out is exactly what I had to remind myself of daily when mine were wee.
    I just can’t stop thinking of that poor babe after reading this. And you know if the mom is like that now, what’ll it be like in 5 years? Ugh.

  106. What a generous, lovely person you are to offer to help. My heart goes out to that poor wee one. My sister uses a sling-like thing with her littlest one (altho months older than the tiny one in you story) and my little niece goes totally peaceful and almost zen when carried that way cuddled so close to her mum.

  107. I sadly saw this happen alot while working retail in the kids department of a bookstore and when the parents would not give them attention I could whip out a small noisy toy and with out touching them start making silly faces, a little noise with the toy and tease them with it.
    9/10 times it works like a charm

  108. We fostered a little one at eight months old. (We later adopted her and her brothers) She was so neglected that her little hands went a mile a minute opening and closing while she bit her lower lip to keep from crying out loud. The court officer was totally flabbergasted when she picked up the baby cause she wasn’t the least bit upset the court officer wasn’t her mother. The only people she acknowledged were the people who feed her. The psychologist told us when our youngin’ has children we will learn the extent of the neglect and abuse as we watch her handle her babies. If, and when she takes that leap into parenting I plan to stick like glue to her to protect her and that first child. As I type this my heart breaks for her and that poor baby that just needed some love.

  109. I really thought you were going to say that she accused you of trying to kidnap her baby, because that’s often why I’m afraid to offer help (hey, the world is full of nutjobs). This was worse.

  110. Agree (1 million!)
    The argument that babies are just trying to get attention (manipulate) or that holding them too much just spoils them breaks my heart. How can you not love your babe so much that you can’t stand to put them down, let alone listen to them scream!

  111. I remember a few times, trying to let my older daughter “cry it out.” Trust me, it never lasted very long. I’m not good at ignoring crying. Also, one time, she was crying, because she tried to slide off her crib, like she slid off my bed. She got stuck though, because she was still in a crib. She definitely needed help.
    Another time, she was crying because she’d thrown up. So, I don’t know how you really could let a child cry it out. It seems my older one really had a reason to be crying.
    The older one cried plenty, when she was a newborn. She was born a month early and I wonder if that was why. At 8 weeks, though, she slept through the night and it was a wonderful thing. Since then, she’s always been a good sleeper. (21 now)

  112. It is so funny that you posted this today – I was that mom just a few hours ago! Granted, if someone had offered to help me I would have gladly taken them up on it! I knew that all my darling boy wanted was some cuddle time with momma after spending all day at daycare and zipped through that store as fast as I could! I can’t believe some people think that babies that small can be manipulative. I think that is the best way to teach them bad behavior – by ignoring them when they are tiny. All they want is their simple needs met!

  113. I could never stand to hear my babies cry. I’ve got the trashed back/knee/foot to show for it. But by damn, a life of aches and pains is far better than a life of watching your children going off the rails because you didn’t give them the love they needed when they needed it.
    On the other hand, if the only way a child can get attention is to manipulate, then you aren’t giving them attention when they are being good. That mother is in for a long hard life with loud angry kids if she doesn’t figure out a simpler kinder way of loving.

  114. Oh. My.
    I can see myself or husband freaking out about some stranger wanting to hold our baby, but I certainly wouldn’t have turned down the other half of the offer!
    Of course, my baby was never in anything but the MobyWrap when I was shopping until well after a year old. She’s 20 mos, and the next is due next month. I’ll be getting a sling tomorrow (?) so I can get in and out with one hand this time around!
    My stroller has hardly any use. Not until after she could sit up. And never shopping!!
    Yeah, I guess I don’t get that mom’s thinking either. . .

  115. I so agree with you, how the hell can anyone let a new baby cry and not want to pick it up and let him/her know you are there? You can’t spoil a child by hugging him/her. I don’t understand that attitude at all!
    I think you did a really, really nice thing, and I hope this woman’s attitude would not put you off doing that again! Poor little baby, you were being so kind and nice, I would have kissed you. I had twins and shopping with them both crying was exhausting and to have had someone like you come along and offer to help would have been like manna from heaven!
    Wendy

  116. Well, I guess you could have said “Yes, she does want attention and I trying to help you give her what she needs.” But then again, the answer is just unimaginable.

  117. Some people think that picking up a crying baby makes them a hippie do-gooder attachment parent but there is really just two kinds of parenting: responsive parenting and unresponsive parenting.
    I’ve been there, too. I would have checked out with the newborn in my arm (over it, like a wee football?) and just held up the line. We never really used a stroller at that age, tho. Slings and carriers were far more convenient and resulted in sleeping happy babies.

  118. Maggie turned blue at daycare today. I drive there the second they called (she was just crying hard from getting startled and is totally fine), I sat there and held her and cried and cried and cried. People don’t know what that have. Until they have it taken from them. I hold and love my kids as much as I can. And if I’m overwhelmed, and pass them to others that love them just as much (like you, at sock camp).

  119. I remember studying at my local Denny’s restaurant one late night and next to my table was a young couple with a fussy baby. After listening to it cry for what seemed like forever. I walked over, introduced myself and asked if she would like some help getting the baby to sleep. She handed her little bundle over without a hesitation. They looked completely overwhelmed. I stood and rocked the little one in front of their table and talked to them until the baby fell asleep. It took all of 10 minutes and they were in awe. I went back to my studying and they were forever grateful. Everyone left happy. Sometimes, a little intervention goes a long, long way.

  120. I don’t know if this helps, but I read a book called The Happiest Baby on the Block by Dr. Karp when I was pregnant. First the book was amazing baby voodoo magic. It really worked! But his theory is that newborn babies should not be crying. If they are crying, then something is Wrong! End of story. Babies don’t need to just “cry it out”. I picked up my son, held him when ever I wanted. His first three months he almost always slept in someone’s arms. He is now a well adjusted, happy, loving 4 year old.

  121. I’ve been there with the screaming baby and the leaking breasts and wanting to cry myself (there were times . . .). I always offer help now, especially when my students bring their babies in to show off. I got a wee one to calm down once last year, a real feat, as I was the fourth pair of hands he was placed in, the poor thing.
    Babies need to be held, nurtured, and shown love through getting their needs met–all of their needs. That poor mom probably was exhausted off her feet and had convinced herself that the little pink monster was just trying to hurt her. I remember times when I saw the edge of that myself (both of mine had colic for months). I would’ve turned that into a teachable moment, but I’m pushy like that. 😉

  122. I had to come back to post this comment because my 2 month old started crying and I had to go get her from the play mat that had suddenly become boring. But, I have so much to say about this. First, I was trying to unload my grocery cart while soothing the cranky baby in the sling a couple of weeks ago when the woman behind me started unloading it for me. I was incredibly grateful for her help, and the kind words she had to say when I thanked her. Those of you who have offered or thought about offering to help, please don’t stop. Second, I can not tell you the number of people who have told me that I shouldn’t pick her up or she’ll get used to it. Thank goodness for my own self-confidence that I want her to know that one of her parents will always try to be there when she needs us. I try not to judge other people’s parenting choices, but dear Lord stop telling me not to hold my child. (And, I have some sympathy for why that Mom might have believed she should let her child cry.) Third, when my child finally stopped hysterically crying at the pediatrician when she was 9 weeks old, the med student commented at least six times about how “good” she was being now. It was all I could do not to scream at her that it was not a matter of being ‘good’ nor was she being ‘bad’ when she was crying. She was scared and overwhelmed when we got there, and she was reassured and comforted by me when she stopped crying. At 9 weeks old, she can only feel what she feels and act on that. I probably should have said something, but I tried to take it as she likely meant it (i.e. calm or easy). Even knowing that, it still irritates me when someone comments on how good a baby she is, because the implication is she somehow is bad when she’s crying. End rant.

  123. Oh. My. Lord.
    I simply can’t fathom why that mother didn’t welcome your assistance.
    I’m not a praying woman, but I’m saying a little something to whomever might be upstairs about how I sincerely hope that someone else at that baby’s home has a more loving attitude and willingness to tend to its emotional needs, which as you so elegantly describe, are utterly legitimate and reasonable.
    The next time you- or anyone else, for that matter – find yourself in a similar situation, I hope you are still as wonderfully willing to offer such thoughtful and heartfelt kindness.

  124. Oh, I was just about to start into the same rant when you wrote “Begin Rant”…that poor little babe.

  125. You are so so sweet to offer. If someone would have said that to me during the six months of colic-y baby, I probably would have dissolved into tears on the spot. I was so on edge!

  126. AAGGGHH! But on the plus side your blog today will enlighten many new Mothers. I’ve wished I had information on parenting seminars to hand out a few times while shopping.

  127. Oh my goodness I would have ranted too… at 5 weeks old you aren’t going to spoil them or ruin them if you pick them up in the middle of a grocery store! I know there are all sorts of ideas out there about schedules, sleep, ect., but I don’t think any of them apply in this situation except for… wait for it… COMMON SENSE.

  128. I’m the mother of four teens and still don’t understand how anyone could ignore a crying baby. I still check to make sure mine are all breathing at night. Good words, Steph, I do hope they circulate everywhere parents need to hear them.

  129. Ok and my question is: If the baby was that young, why was it in a stroller and not a Snugli/sling??
    I loved the Snugli as a new mom. It held the baby against me and since my hands were free, I could move, shop, knit …..

  130. I so agree! You did a wonderful thing.
    However, when my children were young, my pride might have gotten in the way of accepting help, I’m not sure. I wouldn’t have been rude though, or at least I hope I wouldn’t. Age has brought much more common sense, thankfully. I recently traveled to China with my daughter when she adopted a beautiful 18 month old. Going over we lucked out and had an extra seat. Coming back of course, no such luck and we had two seats in a row of 3 from Tokyo to Minneapolis. Not fun. The poor sweet lady in the seat next to me from Taiwan. Because the baby went back and forth from my daughter to me, the lady next to me opened my food, sat my drinks on her tray, played with the baby, was wonderful! We could only marginally communicate, but I’ll remember her forever.

  131. Oh, I’ve had those moments recently. And as the type of new mother who always soothes her baby, I’d welcome any suggestions for a snappy comeback to the people who tell me I’m “spoiling” my baby by picking her up when she cries. Or, for that matter, that it’s not good for her to be rocked or nursed to sleep!

  132. “If the only way a child can get attention is to manipulate, then you aren’t giving them attention when they are being good.”
    This should be embroidered on samplers. Everywhere.
    I’ve lived in enough apartment complexes that I’ve seen way too many parents who ignore their children except when there’s an obvious problem. They are the same parents who call their (older) child six times before the child will respond. Sigh.

  133. Don’t let that stop you from offering again. It was the right thing to do. You were right, she was mistaken or a very sad person.

  134. I’m a single woman who has no children, but I could not imagine letting a little baby cry. I wouldn’t let my dog cry if in distress let alone a child– maybe the poor woman was so tired that she wasn’t thinking or maybe she was a bit freaked out by a stranger offering to help. I am willing to bet more on the second- this has happened to me.
    Once I was on a flight where the baby screamed all through takeoff. Once it was safe to get up the mom got up to try to walk and bounce the baby and calm her (she was still screaming- passengers were tense) but she had other children with her and they were misbehaving (and she was flying alone, no spouse, no partner, no mom to help her). It was a mess and people were shooting her dirty looks. I got up and offered to hold the baby so that she could deal with the kids. She gave me a suspicious look. Mind you, I am a 30 something college professor and on this flight I was on my way to a conference, so I had my college professor gear on. I didn’t look a bit dodgy or threatening (at least I didn’t think so- who looks dodgy in an Ann Taylor suit?) I knew at that moment she didn’t trust me with her baby but the kids were screaming, the baby was screaming and the misery on a small plane was escalating. I said to her “Ma’am- really, I will hold the baby. Deal with the kids- its not like I can run off with your kid- we are 30,000 feet in the air- I’m just trying to help you.” She reluctantly handed the baby over, who I talked to, bounced gently, and told her Cherokee trickster Rabbit stories while she dealt with the kids. The baby eventually cried herself to sleep (no doubt her ears were hurting) and the kids quieted. The mom thanked me, and as I sat the gentleman next to me said “You are a saint lady” to which I responded, “Not a saint- a pragmatist- did you really want to fly all the way to Chicago with three screaming kids?”
    So I don’t have kids, not sure that I ever will, but I always try to lend a hand. Sometimes people get upset or suspicious or don’t want help, but like you I think that it never hurts to offer.

  135. Well, I wasn’t there, but I know we have all (all mothers, anyway) been in her position. Our entire culture seems naturally inclined to pass harsh judgment on mothers.
    As a single mother, it was especially hard to face the judgment in peoples’ pointed glares and unsolicited advice. When I married and had another child, I knew that I had someone to back me up, and who had faith in me as a mother, and it made the whole game different -even when I happened to be shopping alone once in a while.
    I can see that perhaps she could have been extremely tired and overwhelmed, and maybe even worried that you were one of those awfully nice older women who approach gently just to sucker punch with unsolicited judgment or advice. It could be that she is a horrible mother, as has been implied by many of the comments following this post. But it could also be that she was defensive and alone, and just giving you a rude brush-off. Even though I wasn’t there to see for myself, I think the likelihood is that this mother and child will be just fine.

  136. …so..when this wee one is 14 years old, in some kind of real trouble, and cries out for help…will this mom say to a judge, teacher, or other authority figure…”oh it’s okay. She is just crying for attention”

  137. If I had a nickel for every time someone told me I would spoil my children by picking them up when they were babies..I’d have a honking huge pile of nickels. My response was always, “No one gets spoiled by knowing they’re loved.”, or “Then they’ll be spoiled.”, if I was feeling grumpy.
    I wish every mom could read this and know that children can only benefit from feeling loved, and secure in the knowledge, that someone will try to make it okay.

  138. I had twins and a boyfriend who worked opposite shifts, which essentially meant I was a single mom. I used to put one infant carrier in the cart, another where a big kid could sit and push them. I would pull another cart to fill with groceries. People would always stop me and stare at my beautiful sons.
    Most of the time.
    I also got a lot of eye rolling and “No way! I would never have twins!” or “Better you than me!” One day, around the 3 – 4 month mark, the boys were pretty fussy and I was thisclose to getting the last few items. I was furiously popping in pacifiers, trying to hum, whatever. A woman who looked to be in her 50s came over and with a huge smile on her face: SHE HUGGED ME!!
    A fellow mom to twins. She gave me a pin she had in her purse. This pin was black and in white block letters it said “I DIDN’T CHOOSE TO HAVE TWINS, I WAS CHOSEN.”
    I never looked at raising twins the same again. I also never miss the opportunity to offer a funny comment, lend a hand, whatever to another mom out on her own, struggling to balance life with life.

  139. This makes me crazy. If you want some science to back it up:
    http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-09/uond-rsc092110.php?fb=1
    a quote from the above Eurekalert article:
    “Prompt response to baby’s fusses and cries. You can’t “spoil” a baby. This means meeting a child’s needs before they get upset and the brain is flooded with toxic chemicals. “Warm, responsive caregiving like this keeps the infant’s brain calm in the years it is forming its personality and response to the world,” Narvaez says.”

  140. You are wonderful, and I was heartened to see the comments!
    Sadly, the woman you met may have people and books assuring her that she is doing the right thing.
    “They are trying to take over, from day one, so don’t respond to crying” crap (as well as the “they are all of Satan until they are trained up” crap!) is still being taught in some circles.

  141. If the baby was colicky, it might not have mattered if s/he was held or not. I remember the first few weeks with my colicky girl knowing that if she was taken from her happy place (in a swing in front of the TV with static playing pretty loud) that she would cry – loud and long and inconsolably. If I had to go out during one of those times, there was NOTHING you could do to comfort her. N O T H I N G. So this mom might be a jerk, or she might be in that same situation. Either way, I think we owe it to her to give her the benefit of the doubt. She might be pathologically afraid of strangers and might have misinterpreted the offer of help. Whatever. She’s the parent. We should respect that.

  142. You are a sweet and kind soul, and I’d have taken you up on your offer in a heartbeat. As a mom with two autistic boys, you learn to accept help when it’s offered, and to lend a hand to others when possible.

  143. I have a 4-month-old and a 2-year-old and luckily the first one taught me to be a responsive parent; not always as responsive as I aspire to be, but getting there. Unfortunately I often feel surrounded by the babies-cry-to-manipulate crowd. One couple we know put a solid door on their daughter’s room so they wouldn’t hear her at night. I was too shocked to even breathe much less come up with a meaningful response. I just don’t understand how manipulation became confused with communication. Or, if they’re truly not confused, then why the word with an extremely negative connotation gets used with some of the most defenseless among us.
    Anyway, I probably would be suspicious of a stranger offering to hold either of my babies, but the groceries? Absolutely!

  144. I will thank you for making the offer to assist the mom, because she should have.
    I’ve been in both places. i’ll never forget the nameless woman who lifted my toddler off the bus when she refused to move and i was already carrying the new baby and stroller.
    If i see someone one struggling with a screaming infant i offer to carry or at least i give encouragement (you are dealing really well her). I had a screamer myself, so embarrassing.
    I hope this clueless woman doesn’t put you off offering to help other struggling moms.

  145. @Hellen re “But it could also be that she was defensive and alone, and just giving you a rude brush-off.”
    Could be. But even so, if you’ll look at the article above whose link I posted, you will see that that baby’s brain was being filled with stress chemicals that was even at that moment encoding “the world is a bad place and no one gets help or is understood”. So even if what you say is true, the position that mom was taking was all about herself. Even if she was being defensive, she was tending to her own emotional state re her pride. She was not worrying about protecting her vulnerable baby and even if she really didn’t mean what she said about just wanting attention, she nonetheless took the stance at that moment at the expense of letting her baby have emotional wounds in her developing brain right in front of her by ignoring her screams for reassuring human contact from her own mother.

  146. Did you get my soapbox by mistake? Seriously, thank you, thank you! Anyone that has been a parent has been there. I wish I was as brave and would offer help like you did. Her loss and what a shame for that baby.

  147. I remember my baby sister being put to bed and left to cry, and how awful I thought for her to be abandoned at such a young age. I was 9. I remember thinking I would never leave a baby feeling so alone.
    When my second child was born, he SCREAMed for 4 months. I held him, rocked him did everything. At 4 he would sing the song. Everbody Loves me nobody Hates me! At 20 Everyone does.
    Every Baby is different, and you can’t spoil them.
    It broke my heart for that child…I hope she was only trying to ‘protect her’.

  148. I think you got my soapbox for sure. When my babies were little, it was the ‘fashion’ to teach them to go to sleep by ignoring their cries. I tried it for baby #1 one time. It seemed so wrong. So I thought about it and looked at the animal world to see if that could inform me what to do. Animals go to sleep with their babies. They don’t ask their babies to learn to sleep all by themselves. I felt all that ignoring them would do would be to teach them that no one cared enough to come when they called. Guess what – I laid down with them ’til they were asleep – all 3 of them (and got a great ‘nap’ in too!). At some point, they were big enough to easily go to sleep with their ‘litter mates’ and didn’t need me. And now, as older teens, they know this well – mom will listen to them. And so will other people who are important to them.

  149. Man, where were you when mine were wee ones? I would have wept with relief to have someone offer help in that situation (although I don’t think I’d have let a complete stranger hold my baby, so good for you for offering options). That said, can I just add: Why do these sorts of discussions always end up with so many people deciding that some people shouldn’t be “allowed” to reproduce? Could we a) have a little more compassion on the mother, who, after all, was not actually abusing her child, and b) think a little more carefully about WHO would actually decide who got to reproduce and who didn’t, if people were to be “allowed” to have children?
    And, having said all of that, I have one more comment: You’ve been ranting a bit more than usual lately. I suspect it’s stress, and I hope that you find some time to unwind soon. I’m wishing you better days (I saw your Tweets about the last few) and some happy knitting time where everything goes as you would want. Not that I don’t enjoy your rants, and agree with a lot of them. I just hate to see you stressed. 🙂

  150. @KTE “Whatever. She’s the parent. We should respect that.”
    All the mom had to say if it was colic was that she has colic. And why reject a little help? I trust Stephanie’s powers of description, and it sounds exactly like the old school ignore them when they cry theory.
    “Whatever”? “We should respect that”? Fuck that. Respect is earned. Being “a parent’ isn’t any kind of automatic get-out-of-jail card for being a douchebag about a child’s development. I don’t respect parents who abuse kids, or abandon them, or other manner of damaging behavior. I have ZERO respect for someone who out of ignorance or laziness or whatever, hurts children. I hate that “it’s not our place” rationalization. I can tell you it’s no fun to grow up as a kid whose relations look the other way, because one simply did not interfere, as parents are gods and children little more than property.

  151. Thank you.
    As a non-parent, I’ve been in the grocery store with a woman in that position and sympathized, but not known what to do other than be patient. I wouldn’t offer to hold the baby, but I could absolutely load groceries.

  152. Poor Baby and Poor Mom who doesn’t know of what you speak and may well have experienced the same from her mother. It’s a tragedy really.

  153. Goodness. If I were that mom, I would have given you my groceries, sat down on the nearest bench and started nursing immediately. Then again, I probably would have already been (discretely) nursing while shopping in order to get my shopping done. Like all new mothers, that one is clueless … but unlike many new mothers, she is also pig-headed and incapable of taking help when offered.

  154. Oh, good god. I’m not a mom and even I know this stuff. Here’s hoping this new mom has a knitter friend who reads this and has a gentle conversation with her.

  155. I totally agree with Marie (at 9:04). Both of my boys lived in the (homemade) Snugli until they were too heavy for my back to bear and the The Husband (also know as The Father) took over until they were able to sit up alone and look at all the pretty packages. Babies do not cry to push your buttons, they cry to get your attention. Thanks for the rant.

  156. As a first time mom whose got a little 5 month old right now in this big city of Toronto, I just wanted to say thanks for your offer to this lady. I came from a smaller town and have had my biggest life change in this huge city. I take transit to shop and always have my little guy with me, and I have been in that very same situation before, but instead of anyone offering me help they’ve stared at me, and one commentator even said “your baby is crying”….gee, thanks. I really appreciate your being able to recognize a person in need and offer your help, too bad she didn’t take it, but please don’t ever stop offering. It may be me in that grocery line someday and i would definitely appreciate your offered help!

  157. What a sad (and infuriating) incident. Our hearts tell us to pick up a distressed baby, but in case that isn’t enough, there is a mountain of developmental psychological research that demonstrates – rock solid! – that infants MUST be responded to when they are in distress. At least, they must if you want them to have good social and emotional development. As you point out, an infant simply does not have the cognitive architecture to make use of the “lesson” she is being “taught”. She does however have exquisitely tuned lower brain emotional architecture that is rapidly adapting and transforming in the face of what I can only call neglect.

  158. Wow, that woman is not going to do well as a mother if she keeps believing that.
    This afternoon I was on a bus and a woman had a baby on her lap. It was cooing and gurgling like babies do. The baby spied me across the aisle and lit up with smiles… oh man, she was cute. Any way, after a while she started fussing and crying a bit and the mother pulled a cover from her baby bag and wrapped it around herself and the baby and began to breast feed the baby. Just a little bit, a short time and when the baby was satisfied she undid the wrap and resat the baby. I was able to move to a seat by them and the baby just smiled and gurgled and was a happy little thing. (She was just shy of 7 months.) My point, not sure I have one, but it was something that happened and I thought I would comment on it because this mother was responding to her child’s need directly and s quickly and with minimum of fuss herself.

  159. You are such a good person! Many a time my boys (ages 7.5 and almost 11) have been in a store with me, and have listened to very unhappy infants and look at me and say “mom, that mama needs to pick up and love that baby!” or “mom, that baby needs some neenee!” (our word for nursing). It gives me hope they’ll be good fathers.

  160. I had to skim past a chunk of your post once I read the actual story because that sort of thing makes my heart bleed. As a mom of two little kids now, I find it deeply, deeply upsetting to hear babies crying and more than once in the street have had to struggle with not rushing over and picking them up from the stroller where they’re wailing. I find it so hard to understand how someone can NOT pick up a crying baby. (I’m not a total attachment type, either, and am perfectly happy to lay down the law… once they’re old enough.) It has never occurred to me to say anything, I suppose because in the worst cases the mothers haven’t looked frazzled–most recently just a couple girls standing around talking, I don’t know if they were day-care workers or the mothers.
    Picking the baby up and carrying him/her around doesn’t always solve everything, but at least they’re there with you, they know you’re trying.
    Poor baby. It’s not so much about judging the mother, I just wish I could reach through the screen and time and pick that little one up.

  161. Oh, man, lemme at her! You did exactly the right thing. I have a 3 week old grandson, the 5th grandchild, so I’m particularly sensitive these days. When my own children were babies, someone actually told me that to pick them up when they cried would “spoil” them. I believed that nonsense for about 5 minutes–and I wish I had every one of those 5 minutes back so that I could spoil them some more, if that’s what it takes. Babies cry because they NEED — food, warmth, love, burps, clean diapers. I’m so glad I’ve had the opportunity to spoil 4 babies again, and this one is going to get even more since he’s likely to be the last. I hope that clueless mom wises up.

  162. Sometimes it happens that the baby is doing OK, but the mom is losing it from never getting a break. I work in a retail clothing store, and one time a mom came in with a 5 or month old. The mom was FURIOUS and swearing a blue streak up and down about her husband. He was off at work all week while she takes care of all the parenting, and then on Saturday when she is expecting some help and a little break, the hubby goes off skiing all day.
    Having remembered feeling like that myself a few times, justifiably or not, I offered to hold the baby. I think it solved her immediate problem of feeling totally alone in caring for the baby, but who knows what happened with the sharing of parenting duties in their family…

  163. You are remarkable as a knitter, a mother, and a writer. As someone trying to have a baby, I really love and appreciate this rant of yours…. you give me faith that no matter how bad it gets, there is always someone around who understands, someone who wants to help, someone who has been there before… and they got through it. So can we all, as long as we put love first.

  164. That was wonderfully well-put! When I look back, there was much I would have done differently, but then again, our daughter is smart, funny, quick-witted, self-sufficient and beautiful! Guess I didn’t screw up that badly after all.

  165. OH. MY. GOD. I could hardly bear to read this post through to the end, because I am that baby, and my mother is that mother. And you are completely, absolutely, positively right, Stephanie, babies that young simply do not have ANY CAPACITY WHATSOEVER to be manipulative, they are simply trying to get help and love and solace for what is not right with their world. Exactly as you say in your most excellently expressed post, for which I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
    Because having been raised by that mother, who never got past her limited, negative perception of me, I grew into a woman who is deeply distrustful of others and unable to form intimate relationships, having been so profoundly rejected by the one who was supposed to welcome me and HELP ME. I have learned how to cope, always alone, but I never gotten over it, and I fear that I never will.

  166. Yes, I also say OH MY GOD. I had a mother like that too. And she hit me all of my life. I was 44 years old (3 1/2 years ago) when I told her – do not hit me ever again. Been in therapy for the last 4 1/2 years.
    Someday I’d like to not hate myself. I’d like to take care of the little girl that’s hiding somewhere inside of me, who is just now barely able to say how she feels. After all those years of denial of every real feeling.
    I can’t tell you how sad your story makes me. I’ve had mothers and fathers on the Chicago el yell at me because I told them that hitting their small child or screaming in their toddler’s face was harmful to the child.
    Spiral down to depression and pain. God help us all.

  167. She’s okay, she’s just screaming for attention.”
    Well, in any child under the age of one, my comment to any mother has always been. What they WANT, is what they NEED. I feel for the little one now, and for the mother later!
    Wish we could get that across to all mothers but society says that only those who are in a position to get it should have what they want. Any parent who takes a power trip over a five week old is going to be in for a rude awakening some day!!

  168. In the same breath, I had a younger – new mom colleague, who brought her son to work. As soon as he started whining a bit, she ran out of the office, anxious, like she wouldn’t know what to do if he started to cry. I felt the baby was feeling his mother’s anxiety.. A bit sad!

  169. You are so right, what newborn tries to get attention just for attention sake? It is impossible to give a child too much love.( Too many toys, too much money, and too many easy way outs is another issue entirely.) There is never enough of plain simple love.
    I really think one ought to have to pass some sort of test before they become parents. I have a bio child (oldest) and an adopted child (youngest)…I had to prove a lot just to adopt, but not to give birth. Not fair to the kids somehow.

  170. I have two boys, age 3 years and 8 months. I learned (with the second one, unfortunately, I was a little too proud the first time around) that if someone offers help, TAKE IT. If your child is crying to beat the band and you’re about to burst into tears yourself but are holding out as tight as you can….if a “normal-looking” person offers to put your groceries on the belt, LET THEM. Of course, if they’re wielding a pickaxe, then by all means, say no. And what is up with saying the baby was crying just to get attention?? I am guessing that she was embarrassed and was just trying to save face. But lady, this is a newborn baby here. They don’t soothe themselves. Let the nice lady at the checkout who’s graciously offered to help, help. We live in a world where usually people don’t offer any sort of assistance or even a friendly “i’ve been where you are–hang in there!” smile, usually it’s a “let me shut the door so you have to figure out how to open the door AND wield a stroller!” So by all means, take advantage of the niceness and pleasantry. It’s a rare thing to see.

  171. It’s really sad that she’s already become so de-sensitized to the sound of her baby crying. I hope she (the mom) learns to accept help sooner rather than later 🙁

  172. I loved the post, but the level of assumption in the comments section baffles me. I agree with the people who are saying that perhaps the mother was just having a bad day and said what she said to escape. I’m that shy sometimes that I might have done the same.
    Assuming from someone’s secondhand description that a person is a bad parent is ridiculous. You don’t know this woman or her circumstances. It was a lovely offer of help, but perhaps she just wasn’t mentally able to accept.

  173. What you did was extremely kind. And I think you’re absolutely right about babies and crying. You cannot “spoil” a little’un.
    However, like Wendy, I’m a bit dismayed at the vitriol being thrown at the mother in some of these comments. The woman may be misguided, misinformed, exhausted, post-partum, shell-shocked, painfully shy… Who knows, perhaps she IS a terrible mother. Or maybe she didn’t get much love and attention when she was a wee one and lacks good role-models. I don’t think these are reasons to make grand, sweeping statements about how the child is doomed to a life of complete misery! Personally I think both the baby and the mother deserve compassion.
    Just my 2-cents worth.

  174. Thanks for the beautiful rant. Wish the mom could have heard it. Keep trying to help the miserable helpless. The universe will appreciate it.

  175. Yes, all of this. Was this woman perhaps from the ages when it was considered spoiling your child to pick them up when they cried? Good thing I wasn’t there, the baby would have made me lactate all over them both.
    Side note – what you said but not nearly as eloquent was how I explained to my 6, 8, and 12 year old as to why their new baby brother cried.
    You are a genius, you know, right?

  176. THANK YOU. I wish we could give this to every new mom, and every person out there who attempts to give parenting advice. I’ve been told so many times I’m “spoiling” my 8 month old because I rarely let him cry like that. Whyever would I? And already he’s leaps and bounds ahead of what those “well meaning” advice givers expect. Yes, today, he just took four steps by himself without realizing it. Because he trusts me, and knows I will be there for him if he needs me. He’s independant, and I made him that way by “spoiling” him.
    And I’d do it all over again.

  177. I am pregnant with my first child, due in January, and I just wanted to say thank you. I am sure I will get lots of horrible advice about training my baby and putting him on a schedule, but babies don’t need to be trained, they can’t manipulate, they’re babies!

  178. @Iris Moon at 6:19: Bruno Bettelheim was famous for telling ’50’s and 60’s parents to put their babies on four-hour feeding schedules regardless of crying and not to let the babies boss the household. He’s also the guy who taught a generation so very wrongly that autism was an innocent child’s reaction to having a “refrigerator mother” (his term). (I always wanted to ask, and what about the autistic kid with the happy-go-lucky sibling?) That ugly, condescending theory was only starting to finally give way when I was in college in the late 70’s.
    It is telling of the man he grew into by his choices that he later committed suicide in a nursing home. Empathy for his effect on others was never his strong point.
    Enough of the history lecture. Thank you, Stephanie a thousand times over for being one of those loving parents who helps out a young mom; please never stop. Those moments of kindness are never forgotten by the good moms, and they are celebrated and re-created time and time again as their own kids get older. I remember how much it meant to me too…
    I was one who held fast to the common-sense idea that it was essential to respond to a small baby immediately always, even if just a quick touch and soothing word to hold them till I could really do something. Always let them feel loved. That they matter–because they ARE what matters!
    My four children grew up to be nice people who respond quickly to others’ needs if they at all can. They are living proof that love is the only viable response.

  179. I too have seen and heard that attitude toward infants. As if these parents have never heard that a baby’s wants are its needs. It cuts me to the quick. I’m afraid these children are in for a long miserable life based on misunderstanding. I’m not a perfect parent by any means, but one thing I surely did right was breast feed my daughter. It created a physical bond that exists (in a different form obviously) to this day. I’m counting on that to get me through her teen years…

  180. There are 200+ commentors above who all say about what I want to. Your rant: perfectly justified, and spot-on.
    Babies are tiny, tiny people, but people nonetheless, and just about anyone who’s crying “for attention” has an underlying, valid, and often emotionally powerful reason for wanting said attention. In my mind, anyone who’s crying probably needs attention of some kind or another, no matter how old.
    So if a stranger ever offered me help comforting a crying person–with my one month old baby, or my toddler, or teen, or self even!– I hope I’d respond to that offer of kindness with the respect and gratitude and openness it deserves.

  181. Breaks my heart.
    We have friends who fostered a couple of neglected kids. The younger one was almost 1 when he came to them. He did not cry. Ever. He did not cry because he learned that crying did not work. No matter what he felt he had no way at all to communicate. It took many, many months before he would even give a little whimper when he hurt himself.
    I just do not understand how someone can not pick up a baby when it is crying. I truly do not understand.

  182. Oh. My. Ohmyohmyohmy. Give that mother a copy of Dr Sear’s Baby Book and a quarter (US or Canadian) to go buy a clue.
    There are a lot of things that parents can do wrong bringing up a kid, but holding them is definitely not one of them, not when they are 5 weeks or 5 years or 5 decades.
    Of course the baby is crying for attention. As you so aptly rant, it is because the attention is necessary!

  183. I love your rant and I agree with you 100% but(sometimes there is one) mothers are not perfect, kids do not come with individual how-to manuals and sometimes we get it wrong, boy, do we ever get it wrong! In fact, as a mother of 3 girls (the oldest an 8 year old who is not listened to enough), I am pretty sure I get it wrong every day. I got it wrong today actually and may have even done some permanent damage. I am a mother, I do the the best I can and when I know better I hope I can pull it out of my a**. Just sayin’ … Your offer of help was so kind and I am sorry you got kicked in the teeth. That really sucks.

  184. It has always amazed me that you need a license to cut hair or ride a bicycle but not to have kids.
    I don’t have kids but I’ve done a walluping amount of kid-sitting in my life. Toddlers can manipulate — oh, my, yes, they can. But babies have only one noise with which they can hope to get what they need.
    This should be required reading for all expectant parents. Great job, Steph.

  185. We lived 200 miles from my parents when our kids were little. So, a few times, during my younger daughter’s first year of life, we had to make the long car-ride to visit grandparents and other family. The baby at the time would always cry the last 30 miles. So, one time we stopped in a park, gave her 2-1/2 year old sister some time to run around and give the baby a break from the car seat. As soon as we got back in the car and carseats, the baby started crying again. It really didn’t pay to stop. She wanted to be home in her crib and the only way to get there was to keep driving. As soon as we got home, we put her in her crib, she found her thumb and she fell asleep. Trust me, we didn’t like listening to her cry for half-an-hour, but there was nothing we could do. She needed to be in her carseat and we needed to finish the drive. We all survived. She’s 18 now and a perfectly fine college student!
    At the end of her first year, we moved closer to family and we no longer had such long car rides.

  186. Yes! There’s a reason the sound of a squalling newborn is so disturbing…it’s nature’s way of making sure we don’t ignore it!
    I work in a large retail store and I sometimes hear that telltale new baby cry and I walk around muttering under my breath “pickupthebaby pickupthebaby pickupthebaby” like a madwoman!

  187. I hope that the mom just was telling you this because you were a complete stranger and she was leary of allowing someone she didn’t know to get potentially gain physical control of her child. Sadly, parents seldom hear offers for help with their children while in public, they usually just hear criticism or get dirty looks. Perhaps if compassion was more common then people wouldn’t be suspicious of those being generous.

  188. I would have ripped her a new one. Seriously. I am a non-confrontational sort of person, but I have issues with people ignoring their little ones. I have problems with strollers and other separation devices (car seat carriers) and feel that she should have already been carrying her baby… but that is a whole other can of worms.

  189. I think more likely he was embarrassed and maybe a little “offended” at the suggestion sine to her it light javenimplied that she was doing something wrong. I know in my younger days I would have been annoyed at such a scene.. So maybe she was feeling self conscious about it and trying to give off a “no no I’m not overwhelmed and incapable of taking care of this little life and no she’s not screaming because I’m an ineffective caretaker even though ice tried everything and i just want to get out of here so no one has to hear her cry anymore etc etc”
    But.. I wasn’t there and couldn’t hear her intonation or see how she was acting with her child prior to being asked if she wanted help.

  190. I think there are some pretty radical/harsh baby rearing manuals out there. A friend of mine shared a ward with a new mum who wouldn’t pick up her brand new newborn when it cried – ‘it had to learn how to self settle’ apparently.
    On the other hand, when our baby was 8months old, I felt like I was losing my sanity through exhaustion and lack of sleep. So out of desperation we tried ‘controlled crying’. It was horrible (understatement!!!), but after a few nights our baby was sleeping all night and I was able to have some sleep and I became a much happier and capable mummy.
    I don’t know if it was the best thing for us to do, but I do know that long term sleep deprivation is an evil thing.

  191. I’m completely with you on the rant but am commenting to say that it was a really kind and very well worded offer to make. Even to a hypersensitive new mother it wouldn’t sound like a coded dig at her parenting that some offers of help are. And I agree with a previous poster that we should take help more often – my automatic reaction is “Oh no thanks, I’m fine”. Thank goodness for slings and my own luck in having a charmingly placatabe baby.

  192. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You said it so well….
    I think it depends a lot on the country the mother lives in – I held a 3-month-old recently and when he was getting a bit fussy, his mom (who is Dutch – this was in Holland) told me to let him suck on my pinkie, if I didn’t mind getting my pinkie wet … of course I didn’t! But I do not know whether I would have allowed a complete stranger to do this with _my_ child …

  193. I applaud your control I myself would have been hard pressed to not point out that she was bordering on abuse. My hats off to you I hope that I will remember this control if I am faced with a similar situation. Thank you

  194. That’s so sad! I would have given my eye teeth for someone to do that for me when my child was that age. My son had colic and every night from the time he was 3 days old until he was more than 7 months old, he woke up between 12am and 4am and cried for at least 2 1/2 hours. It was horrible! I was totally exhausted, and both of our families lived at least 5 hours away so we were on our own. During the day he slept no more than 3 hours at a time, and at night it was even worse. Thank God I had friends with older children that I could call anytime for some support, and a little comfort. In later years we figured out that his colic was probably causes by really bad allergies to gluten and dairy among other things. Since he was breastfed, the allergens passed through me to him and gave him a really bad stomach ache, hence the colic. When he cried at night there wasn’t much I could do for him other than hold him, and walk around the house to try and make him more comfortable. During the day I was thrilled when something as simple as just picking him up would make him happy and content. I feel badly for both the mum and poor little baby that you offered to help. I’m sad for the mom because unless something changes, her relationship with her child will suffer and I feel badly for the baby for the obvious reasons. This is why I think that most people should at least take a basic psychology course and study how the brain develops. At least then they would know that at the tender age of 4 or 5 weeks, there is no chance that a baby can manipulate anyone. Older kids can be different, but an infant that small just is incapable of manipulating anything. Sure, there’s lot’s of times that there’s nothing you can do, like on car trips, doctors offices, etc., but when you can calm and soothe them, why wouldn’t you? I’m so with you on your rant!

  195. I wholeheartedly agree with what you said about babies not crying for attention. BUT…
    I was that woman pushing her trolley around the supermarket with the screaming 4 week old baby. My baby had just been fed, she’d just been changed, her clothes were neither too warm nor too cold. Apart from the fact that she was in the trolley baby seat, not in my arms, there was nothing wrong that I could do anything about.
    And that shopping had to be done. And I was still very anaemic after a rough birth.
    And this old bat came and asked me what was wrong with my baby, and why didn’t she stop crying? And because I’d already done everything I could, and just wanted to get done and get out. I curtly said that there was nothing wrong. At which point she told me that there certainly *was* something wrong and I should deal with it.
    Now I’ve heard you speak and I’ve read your writings for years, (and if you personally had come and offered to cuddle my baby, I’d have kicked myself for not bringing my sock-in-progress with me) so I don’t thing you will have approached this young mother as judgementally as this woman appeared to approach me, but there are times when it’s all so difficult that even well-meaning offers of help are just too much to deal with, and the words which come out of your mouth are the best ones you can find to make someone go away.
    I’m not guaranteeing that that’s what this woman was feeling, but my heart still goes out to her.

  196. The story gave me goosebumps. Pregnant with my second (my 2 1/2 year is sitting on my lap right now watching truck videos on youtube), I know I would have been so grateful to have someone offer their help when I was in the same situation. I feel sad for that little one. Thank you for writing what you did – I couldn’t agree more.

  197. Sorry to play devils advocate but could it also be that this poor woman didn’t want to admit that she was having problems coping with a newborn as well as carrying on with normal everyday tasks.
    These days many women are made to feel inadequate if they can’t have a natural birth, or have trouble breast feeding and opt of the bottle or if they admit to not coping. They are made to feel that they are not a ‘woman’ because they can’t do it all on their own. This has been coming through loud and clear in the media, at least here in Australia.
    What happend to the ‘it takes a village to raise a child’? This is so true. We can’t do it all on our own, we need our mothers, sisters and friends help to manage the process of bringing up a child into the world and preparing them to make their place in the world (and can I say Stephanie that you have done a wonderful job with your three girls).
    So yes I do understand your rant because so many people don’t understand that babies communitcate in one way (and why or why doesn’t someone tell these poor women before they have a child in their arms) but there can also be a flip side, a woman desperate for help but not able to accept in case she is seen as not able to cope.
    So always offer help where you can because there will be a woman who will accept but maybe even those who don’t might feel a little better because at least someone noticed her plight rather than ignoring it.
    Keep smiling 🙂

  198. That was a really kind thing to do and beautifully phrased – I would have taken you up on it in an instant! I was delighted to see your use of the word “bairn”. My father (from Yorkshire) always used that term although it doesn’t seem common in the rest of England (Scotland – yes). Is it common in Canada?
    BTW – re your tweet – my daughters are 30 and 28 and I still call them “sweetie” and ask them to text me when they’re home!
    Carol from Stratford-upon-Avon

  199. I myself am one of eight children and a twin to boot. My immediate family has 18 grandchildren ranging in ages from 31 to 26 months. I have been around infants my entire life.
    I have worked with the general public for the last 25 years. Fourteen of them from within a pharmacy inside a large grocery store. Even with all that experience, I have no idea how I would have handled myself after that woman’s reply.
    Wow, I can’t believe she said that.

  200. My son turned 10 this week. He was a screamer. Like really really really a screamer. Our paediatrician was an old guy, he had 5 kids of his own and _he_ told me the whole “leave him to cry it out, he’s just screaming for attention” crap. Even my midwife (she does home-births, is 100% pro breastfeeding and usually advises against using a pacifier,…) told me to let him cry it out, some kids just need it.
    The only time he wasn’t crying was when he was in motion. And you can’t walk around 24 hours.
    It finally got better when I split from his dad and we were finally able to get into our own rhythm. But nobody ever said “Hey, that guy, the father of this child, he’s actually your problem.” it was always me or the baby…. It’s probably easier to blame the ones struggling than the one keeping them struggling.

  201. Damn. Why did I read this first thing in the morning! Babies need to be help. My brother adopted a little girl from China whenshe was about 1. She never cried because she had learned that it was useless. It was heartbreaking to watch. Luckily my brother and his wife were nutty about this child and she has since learned that if she so much as whimpers one or both of her parents will practically Apparate to be with her. Someone needs to slap that new mom, and hard.

  202. Not long ago I read about some recent research that found that ignoring a crying baby can result in brain damage.
    It’s interesting – I wasn’t a good sleeper when I was a baby, so Mum enrolled me on the University’s sleep programme (she was a student at the time) and the current wisdom was to let a baby cry itself out until it got to sleep, which apparently worked with me (and I don’t think I’m brain damaged)
    But you can’t let a baby scream like that without doing anything… it’s just wrong.

  203. i have a good friend whose wife recently gave birth to their 4th daughter. he was telling me about how his mother kept going on and on about them spoiling the first one, a preemie, by holding ber too much. his response was classic: “oh no, mom! if we hold her now, she may expect love and affection for THE REST OF HER LIFE!”

  204. My baby is 8 months old, but he is really only 6 months since he came two months early. So the situation you described is really the current state of my life.
    I applaud your generosity and kindness for offering help, but perhaps you were a little too quick to judge that woman with the baby (sorry!). Of course the baby couldn’t possibly be crying JUST to get attention. But there are other things to consider.
    Personally I would never let my baby cry when I can help it. But even I can imagine (and did encounter) situations when I had to let him cry a little. I’m wary of strangers. So if I were the woman you met at the store, it is possible I would come up with some off-hand remark just to decline your help. And when I’m so exhausted, it is possible that I would say some thing insane like she did.
    Like what Anne and Marian above said, that woman may be very defensive for other reasons. Sometimes the good will of strangers can be overwhelming. I take my son out for a walk every morning, and everyday some random stranger would come up bluntly offering parenting advice. If I put my son in a onesie, somebody will ask where are his socks. If I put socks on him, someone where say why don’t you put pants on him. And if I put socks and pants on my son, inevitably somebody will say you are overheating the baby. It has come to the point that I cannot calmly listen to ANY and ALL parenting advice from strangers. It is irrational I know. But sometimes a hormonal, sleep-deprived, and maybe head-strong young woman is irrational.
    All this is to say, maybe she wasn’t the bad parent she seems to be. Maybe she is just tired, or defensive, or so focused on getting out that she forgot to thank you for your kindness.

  205. Oh my goodness! I was once that mom of a screaming baby in the aisles of a supermarket. I was as upset as my daughter and picked her up and held her and did the best I could. How I wish you were there to offer me some help so I could get out of there. Instead an older woman walked up to me and said (I’m sure she was kidding, but I was not in a situation where I was had any sense of humor at all): “Why did you hit that baby?” I was stunned and horrified! My response was to find this quiet but hellish voice that came from the deepest part of my soul and said, “I did not hit this baby. But if you don’t get out of my way so I can get out of here and take care of her, I might hit you!” How I wish someone like you could have been there to help me during my time of new mommy panic!

  206. As always your rant was timely and wise. I love the comment by Amy of you teaching her, a young mum, the baby dance. I work with adolescents who are struggling. You reminded me not to give up. Blessed be Stephanie.

  207. Crying babies need comfort. Unfortunately when you are in the grocery store or in the car in traffic and they are in the backward facing car seat in the backseat, you can’t always do what you need to do. For that matter children need hugs. And I have found (usually after getting mad at my toddler daughter) that when her behavior tanks or she’s annoyingly needy, she’s a few hours away from an ear infection. And, when a colleague is testy or or rude, it’s usually because something difficult is going on their lives as well. No telling what kind of parenting “advice”/criticism this woman had been getting.
    It would do us all better if we stopped, looked at the other person (baby, child, adult), and said what would I see/feel/do in their shoes? You did the right thing by offering help and then not lecturing her. The last thing moms need is more people lecturing them.

  208. Thank you for this post. My littlest started teething at 4 months old. We went from stomach problems (his stomach valve took until he was almost 12 months to catch up to the rest of him and close properly) to teeth (he got his 5 year molars before he was 2) and the only time he wasn’t crying from discomfort was when he was at the breast or being held. He is still a cuddly little bean at 4 years old.
    People gave me a ton of crap, and still do to some extent, because I make sure to always respond to him. It’s as though they believe that forcing an infant to “tough it out” will teach them to become better people.
    I’ve always believed that no bad could come of teaching him that we would listen to him and comfort him, and that ignoring him would teach him to distrust that adults will be there for him.
    On the playground at school now, when he falls he comes to me and tell me “mama I got a boo boo,” gets a kiss, and then goes back to playing. The other children? They go into hysterics. I believe it’s because they were taught to do it from being ignored when they were infants.

  209. I think it is pretty easy to think of babies and pets as mini-mes, and forget that these people have their own needs and wants and that they don’t have the same communication skills we have as adults. It isn’t fair for us to subject our babies and pets to our own arbitrary requirements for communication when they just cannot do it.

  210. I also heard that for young babies, it really hurts when they are hungry. This is why it cannot wait for too long 😉 It makes sense!

  211. Hear hear… and for the record there seems to be some new childcare “experts” appearing that are touting such piles of doo doo.. that they should be strapped into a car seat, or left in a cot to cry… I am a pretty tough mum, but tiny babies and even toddlers need us.
    Thank you for saying what I’ve been feeling for the last month. I just can’t go say it to my poor little friend with her new baby… I’ve had to embellish my comments to hide what I really want to say about the b a b y w h i s p e r e r… I don’t believe that woman ever breastfed a baby in her life.

  212. Mother of 3 and grandmother of 4 here. I have never, never let a baby cry! I feel as you do that there is something they are trying to tell me.

  213. OMG Thank You!!!!
    Being a new mom a year and a half ago, I heard this a LOT. “Don’t pick him up at every squawk- you’ll spoil him”, or “he’s just trying to manipulate you”. Seriously?! Those statements just make me angry, and sad for those other little babies who just want to be held. Why would anyone fight and beat down their own mothering instincts like that? So I’ll end my ramble with- Thank You!!! And I wish you had been in the checkout behind me a few times this past year 🙂

  214. Can I hand this out to the young mothers in the public library who expect their infants and toddlers to sit patiently while they play on MySpace for an hour?

  215. Most days I enjoy reading your posts. Today I want to just reach through and give you a hug for being such a generous and thoughtful person. Thanks!

  216. I hope you gently pointed this out to that mother, Steph…
    My son-in-law wants my granddaughter to call him Dad or daddy instead of by his name. I had a similar rant at him the other day because, when I was standing there, she said ‘Dad…. dad… DADDY… GABE!” and he finally said “don’t call me Gabe, call me Daddy” I pointed out that she HAD, THREE TIMES, and that, if he didn’t answer her, she was going to use the word which would get his attention… which appeared to be “Gabe”.
    And good for you for offering to help a new mom… I offered to hold a baby or chase a toddler or whatever to a new mom in the grocery store the other day having a hard time (cranky newborn and about 3 year old) and she snatched her children and abandoned her groceries in the middle of the aisle and left the store. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t being scary or cranky about it, but you’d have thought I offered to kidnap and eat her children. As I told the manager “I was just offering to help…”

  217. Wow! As a new mom myself (as of 4 months ago), I would jump at the offer of a stranger so I could help my wee one if she is having a melt-down. My heart aches for the babies who have parents who think like that woman.
    I’ve been re-reading your blog over the past few months as I sit and nurse a sleepy baby. I just caught up to present time yesterday and I wanted to say “Thank You!!!!!!” for all of the mommy wisdom and the laughs you’ve given me. The generosity of opening your life to the interwebs via your blog sure has helped this new mom!

  218. Poor mama (and poor baby). Sometimes you’ve been told for so long that babies can be spoiled, that you actually begin to believe it. After awhile you have to come up with a rationalization. And then it’s okay to think that getting your attention is on your own terms. This mama needs a La Leche League meeting!
    I’m certain that you were helpful in helping this mama think in another way (eventually). In my experience, hearing the truth in your heart helps more than you know. Thank you for stepping up and offering help. It isn’t surprising that she didn’t know she needed it.
    Thank you! I’m sending a link to my local LLL Chapter email list.

  219. A woman did exactly that once for me — unloaded my grocery cart at the checkout while I coped with an unhappy little one. I will remember her forever as the angel she was.
    I raised three babies your way, Stephanie — assuming that what they told me they needed was exactly what they did need, and getting it to them as fast as I humanly could. Once they got old enough to start developing self-discipline I assumed they needed that, too, and gave them a chance to work on it. Now, they are three fine, hard-working, independent, affectionate adults, with not one spoiled bone among them. It’s only the poor babies who are left weeping alone for attention who grow into the bratty kids and over-entitled young adults who won’t quit until they get it, even the negative kind.

  220. I am not disagreeing with your rant in anyway. A screaming baby should be attended to!
    That said, if a strange women came up to me in a grocery store and offered help with the baby, I would worry that the strange woman is a freaky kidnapper. I would most likely say anything to get strange lady to just leave me alone.
    Sad, but the world we live in makes some people over sensitive to attention by strangers.

  221. I’ve been carrying my now 5 week old daughter in a wrap since she was 2 days old so when i’m in line at the store even if my 4 yr.old or 2 yr. old may be throwing tantrums or I just have a cart full to the brim of groceries, I still have 2 hands free to handle the situation with one peacefully cuddled baby the whole time. If only more parents wore their children their would be less conflict and crying, and more love and attention! Gotta say I love the shark reference though, I’ve so had that drowning feeling at times.

  222. Oh Stephanie, I wish you had been there for me. I got everything from glares to direct nasty comments in the grocery store when my sensory sensitive wee one would start in. He needed my attention and I couldn’t give him what he needed at the moment. What’s wrong with needing attention? That’s what being a mother is! Giving your children attention!

  223. In a word: Bravo! I’ve been there too, and a weeks-old baby doeesn’t know enough to be manipulative, to “scream for attention [for attention’s sake]”. And yes, as others have said, at that age, my babies were in a Snugglie…sleeping, while I shopped. Where’s the common sense?

  224. I couldn’t possibly have articulated this as beautifully or concisely as you. Thank you. This makes me crazy, and I see it/hear it far more frequently than I — or any of us — should.

  225. O. M. G. This happened in front of me in the grocery store two days ago except that there was a COUPLE. They BOTH ignored the screaming 2 wk old, who was flailing around in its carrier. They didn’t even look at the poor thing. They really aught to teach Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to ALL expectant parents. Our world would be much better place, don’t you think?

  226. The thing is, it’s hard to judge people based just on one incident. I would have felt very awkward had someone offered me any help when my son was that small (now 2 years), and assumed that it looked like I wasn’t coping and wasn’t a good enough mother. I would have said the first thing that came into my head to tell them that I had the situation under control and to leave me alone. (Yes, I am not very good at talking to strangers. But I don’t think I’m the only one, and in that setting a lot of people just want to get away without attracting even well-meaning attention.) And from the first bit of your post, it sounds like she was well aware the baby needed her and was trying to move along so she could get to sorting the baby out. Of course, if she truly looked like she couldn’t give a toss about the baby and really believed it was an attention-seeking behaviour, that’s horrible, and seeing those kind of parents just drives me up the wall. But I know I was simply not myself at that moment in time, and I’d have hated anyone to make assumptions about me as a mother based on one-off interactions then, because they would not have been representative.

  227. I am the mother of 4 children, born in the 60’s, and five grandchildren. Our oldest granddaughter, who lives one hour away from us, has two daughters, 5 and 1, and I have NEVER been allowed to be alone with either of this little girls.
    I have never put on a sweater, changed a diaper or fed these children.
    She is so protective of these children, she won’t let them out of her sight, even keeping her older daughter out of Junior Kindergarten. Now the child attends Senior Kindergarten so we are hopeful this little angel will be allowed to spread her wings.
    We were allowed to share in the life of this granddaughter but her own children are denied access and to relate to their great grandparents.
    The relationship is OK but it is because I keep pushing on, hoping things might get better.
    It’s a sad thing……

  228. You were so sweet to try to help that young mum. She’s been over exposed to “modern” childcare. There’s a reason crying babies drive adults nuts and you just explained it. I’m teaching my daughters better.

  229. I am not a mother yet – but hope to be. That being said, when my sister was a new mother and her baby wanted attention and to be awake all night long and both she and her husband had to work early in the morning, I would go to her house every night from about 10:00 PM to 3:00 AM to hold my niece. She just wanted that pure love and support you get from being held. Now she is a sweet six-year-old with a great personality. Was it me holding her for months at night? I don’t know. I just know that she knows that she is loved and that is the greatest gift of all.

  230. I agree with all the comments, but have an additional thing to add. We are trained (many of us middle class white urban folk of a certain age and background)not to accept help from others. We find a reason when help is offered to say we have it all in hand and help isn’t needed. All the while we may be yearning to accept the help but would never admit to being vulnerable and unable to cope…at least not to a stranger. Sad but the truth
    I know this phenomenon intimately.
    Lana

  231. I’m sorry to hear that your brave effort was met with resistance.
    However, I have to agree with some of the earlier comments: I too would have a hard time accepting help from a stranger who offered, no matter how kindly the offer was extended. I was raised by a single mother of two rambunctious girls (I pretty much never sat still) and I think I internalized my mother’s strengths and have suggested continuously to myself that if I need help, something is wrong with me. It’s hard to know why she didn’t accept your help, and I like to think she fed the baby before she came to the store, probably made sure the baby was in that drowsy space where she thought it might sleep through the endeavor, and then tried everything possible to keep the child calm. The baby freaking out may have freaked her out as well.
    It’s hard to know. But I do know that accepting kindness from strangers and offering it to strangers are incredibly hard things in this world, and I think it’s awesome that you did a very hard thing- I’m sorry that she couldn’t accept just yet.

  232. When my first daughter, now 25, was 4 months old, the pediatrician told us she only cried at night for attention. We were to ignore her as she had to learn she didn’t control the household. I couldn’t imagine being awake in the dark, hungry and wet and no one caring enough to come help me. It was our last visit with him. She eventually slept more and grew into a beautiful, caring adult. I’m sorry for both the mom and the baby you met in the grocery. I hope they have better days.

  233. I am especially upset at this “mother”, and I use the term loosely. Having just lost a granddaughter to stillbirth, I wonder why some obviously selfish people are allowed to have children and those who would be wonderful, loving and attentive parents miss out on the opportunity to share that love and raise wonderful human beings. I guess it just falls under the category of “Life is just not fair”. It’s not like you offered to take the kid away from her. You did offer to set the groceries up. I would have jumped at the offer, as would my daughter, who is desperately missing her newborn. Thank God she has a three year old son who is the light of our whole family. I pray this mother doesn’t have to learn a lesson the hard way to appreciate the gift she has been given.

  234. Thank you for offering to help. I have been that mother at the store recently, and I would have LOVED to have you behind me in line.
    Thank you also for the rant, and for NOT aiming anger at the mother, but at the misconception that some people have that babies can be spoiled by too much holding.

  235. You know, I’ve never had one of my babies cry when I was wearing them. They feel safe and contented and you never miss a feeding cue! That lady has obviously been given some bad advice. Perhaps she even has postpartum depression?

  236. I agree that small babies cannot manipulate others, and I find that viewpoint abhorrent. But must offer another perspective to those commenters who say they do not understand how anyone could let a newborn baby cry. Please, read someone’s story of their experience with postpartum depression, and then you may understand how a mother is not always in her best mind. There were times when I could not stand comforting my daughter, and I would mindlessly scream just as loudly back at her. Thank gods I have a patient, supportive partner who would soothe her for me.

  237. Absolutely, and this reinforces what I have often thought: some people need to get freakin’ TESTED before they’re allowed to procreate!

  238. Totally with you! My son is now almost nine months old and we treat him like we would any person we love. If he seems unhappy, we try to respond and figure out what is making him unhappy, unless he’s trying to figure out something out on his own (as he has started doing lately). As a result, he sleeps through the night and hardly cries unless something is really bothering him.

  239. A couple of decades ago, I was the special needs teacher for a small school out West. I had a 3rd grade student from a family of kids who were having major communication difficulties. Each of them was arriving to Kindergarten without basic speech. When the mom came in for a conference, I found out that she did not speak to or interact with any of her children until they spoke to her — she told me (yes, this is a quote)”They didn’t talk to me, why should I talk to them?” The child I had in my class had learned that his (poor) behavior would get him the attention he so desired, and she then asked me what I would do in her situation (to get him to behave more acceptably). I was so shocked and floored, I could not say what I really wanted to (because it would have made no difference anyway):”I would have talked to them as soon as they were born!” I actually don’t recall what I advised her to do, but I remember being more and more impressed with anything these children accomplished, and held a special place for this little boy in my heart as I worked hard to get him where he needed to be — educationally and emotionally. And it always made me wonder how this woman had been raised. I wish there was a required course for new moms….

  240. You’re so right, and bless you for your compassion, but I’m with Ronda and a few others who have given mom the benefit of the doubt. I think we’ve all let embarrassment (or just fatigue) speak for us at times and then it’s hard to get oneself out of it.
    There were a fair number of complete strangers who felt compelled to give me their opinions when I was a new mother (Don’t step away from your grocery cart! Someone will steal her!); I don’t know that I would have necessarily recognized the random act of kindness.

  241. All I ever wanted was to be a mom. I worked with kids for nearly 14 years and it broke my heart when parents treated their kids poorly-which happened all too often. Not being able to have children was something that was difficult to accept and something I am still learning to live with but oh, what I wouldn’t have given to have been able to cuddle that little imp up and whisper some comforting words. Shame on that woman to be so callous to the needs of that poor sweet baby.

  242. My daughter was about 2 when she saw a newborn scream like that at the market. My daughter panicked, saying the mommy needs a baby carrier!!! I completely empathize with not wanting to touch my newborn at times … I wish I’d had a kind soul like you offer to help.

  243. I have always believed that you cannot spoil a child with attention. You can spoil one with too many things, but not with attention. You give a newborn all the attention he needs and as he/she gets older they begin to express why they need attention and they learn that you will be there when they need you and that sometimes as they get older that they will have to wait just a bit while you take care of the crying baby sister first. Mine learned this because while I was dealing with the more urgent needs I remembered to talk to the one with a not-quite-as-urgent need and tell them that I would be with them as soon as possible.
    I would have sung the hallelujah chorus if you had offered me help when I had 4 of them age 6 and under.

  244. Brilliant rant, Steph! You can bet I am going to steal that “babies are like fruit” line (I am a neonatologist & IBCLC & that “spoiling” comment – usually from grandparents – always makes me nuts.)

  245. That mom sounded like she was completely exhausted. And possibly suffering from postpartum depression (because you know I’ve been there and I can’t imagine my baby cry but I can also understand how this mother may feel completely overwhelmed AND unconnected to her baby.) And she’s obviously been fed a load of bullsh*t by stupid but well meaning people around her. Her mother, her partner, whatever. I have a nine month old and have had plenty of people tell me that I should just let him cry so he doesn’t get used to me responding to him immediately. This happened as soon as he exited the womb. So yeah.
    My own grocery store story. Owen was about 2 months old and I went to the grocery store at about 8:00 a.m. Luckily I was practically the only customer there. I had him in his car seat in the cart and he just kept fussing and I just kept trying to comfort him without picking him up. Finally he was just inconsolable and I picked him up (in the baby aisle if I remember correctly) and he immediately fell asleep. He just needed a little bounce.

  246. as was pointed out to me, we have to take tests to drive a car, to pass school, get a diploma, have to get a license to marry, BUT ANY FOOL (EMPHASIS FOOL) CAN HAVE A BABY
    Sorry babies…it’s a genetic crap shoot if you are going to get a “good (loving, empathetic) parent
    ps…integrity is one of those things that if you are pointing one finger at someone else, (implying they have no integrity) there are 4 fingers pointing back at you

  247. I love you. You are brilliant. From one homebirthing breastfeeding mother to another, thank you for this.

  248. My four children are ages 12 to 21. When they were babies, I just wanted to nurse and hold them, and keep them close to me. I guess it didn’t occur to me that their crying was anything but their infant way of letting me know their needs. I had grown up hearing my mother proudly telling the story of how she spanked me at three weeks—and how it worked, because I quit crying. I don’t think I was properly appalled by that until I had children of my own!

  249. Oh.My.Word. I cannot believe people sometimes. You rock, you so rock Steph. If you had said that to me, I would have burst into tears for joy over the offer and had you unload the cart. I hope you said all that TO her. She srsly needed a perpective adjustment for the sake of that baby. Oh wow. I am saddened.
    And the flashback was great. I’ve had those moments myself….. 😉

  250. Sadly, it seems that today’s parents, for some reason which escapes me, believe that they, themselves, are the important ones and their offspring are merely one more interruption to their lives. This woman most likely did not plan to have the child and was not taught how to deal with the pressures and so has decided that too much noise from the child is simply an interruption she will ignore. I would not be surprised if she was ignored herself as a child. Just like being physically abusive often occurs to parents who were physically abused as children, being completely detached from the physical and emotional needs of others can come from lack of attention in one’s own life. She could have post partum depression. She could be mentally retarded to a degree and really believe that to be the reason babies cry. OR…she could just need a swift kick in the arse! I hope she is a reader of this blog, or the friend of someone how is! Bravo for today’s rant!!!!

  251. Congrats on the attempt. I have a dear friend that has 8 children (all with one husband). She loves and I mean loves being pregnant, but once the child is born, it’s pretty much on its own to figure out the world. Her mantra is talk to them like and adult (now dear, you need to stop crying and understand that mother will not always be able to help you), don’t give into their demands because they just want attention, and in her case specifically – pass them off to an older sibling. Well, it breaks my heart!!! I have always said and I believe it with all my heart – people need to pass a test before the practical can take place. And if I ruled the world, not everyone would be issued a license to procreate. Everything you said, Steph is spot on. Someone has gotten to that young mother and filled her head with nonsense -I hear that line way to many times and I’d bet that mother wanted to pick up her baby, but was afraid some parenting police would scold her at the next mommy and me play date for being indulgent. Hogwash!!!

  252. Blessings to you Stephanie. You rock and rant on, maybe it can open a few eyes and hearts.
    To the post about cats….babies are not cats.

  253. If I were that woman, I would have gladly handed you my baby for two minutes. Good golly…someone should tell this woman not to look a gift horse in the mouth.

  254. Disclaimer: I completely agree that a crying 5-week-old baby needs to be held. I have 6 kids. 3 are teens, one of whom is in college. I totally would have done what Stephanie did. You cannot spoil a tiny baby!
    BUT, let’s be compassionate. Either that mother really meant what she said, in which case I feel bad for her because she is missing out on comforting/cuddling her baby;
    OR, the baby is the type (though I doubt it at that young age) that actually fusses a little before she drops off to sleep and would fuss longer if you picked her up (yes, some of them are like that!);
    OR, the mother is depressed/overwhelmed and is sort of shutting down emotionally (I’ve been there with one of my newborns) – not a good place to be in AT ALL, poor woman;
    OR, she is so uncomfortable with strangers talking to her (even nice ones) that she felt judged and went on the defensive immediately;
    OR, she thinks you are an axe-wielding maniac and was trying to protect her child (after all, you probably had some suspiciously pointy sticks poking out of your purse).
    And do keep in mind, people, that even if you do make sure to hold your baby when he/she cries, you are not guaranteed an emotionally stable older child/teen/adult. Some of the commenters seem to be implying this (not you, Stephanie). Parenting is a crapshoot, so let us not judge another parent. Of course, it’s best to stack the odds in our favor by lavishing love and attention on our sweet little babies; but even if we do, life has a way of throwing us curveballs when we least expect it.

  255. That just makes me really, really sad. It’s times like those I always think of friends who aren’t able to have children, and wish the situation could be flipped, and they would be the ones holding and rocking the wee ones with all the love they can muster (which would be alot).

  256. That poor baby… this is why some people shouldn’t be allowed to have children, and the same reason my mother in laws face almost got rearranged when she said that my daughter of two weeks was trying to manipulate me by crying in the middle of the night… it’s called breast-feeding… duh!

  257. Amen, Steph. Poor wee thing. Well said. And that mom? Well, I don’t think I can print what I’d like to say to her.

  258. A sad story. And unfortunately not an uncommon one.
    Humans are such adaptive creatures, it makes me wonder what kind of changes we’re making to society by wrapping our children in plastic carriers and not responding to them when they cry for our help.
    It is possible that brain development at this early stage is what’s contributing to a world where more and more kids are acting out behaviorally, having poor impulse control, not being empathetic to others, etc.
    TV gets blamed for this often, and is probably culpable, but what about the lessons learned and brain changes made in those first formative months? Those are at the core and center of personality.
    I often get bewildered compliments from parents, “Your son is such a sweet boy, and so gentle and compassionate with younger children.” They say this as if they’ve stumbled across a unicorn in a glade.
    Is it because he spent his first couple of years carried next to my body in a sling, breastfeeding at will, co-sleeping in a puppy pile with his parents? Or would he have been who he is without that foundation of nurturing and human contact?
    I’ll never know. But I wouldn’t have raised him any other way.
    The parents I have trouble with in grocery stores are the ones on the edge of violence with their kid. How do you help out in that situation without escalating the parent’s agitation and embarrassment?
    My current thinking is to say something to the parent like, “Is there something I can do to help?” in a compassionate tone, but I’m not even sure that would work.
    Has anyone had success in that situation?

  259. That story just breaks my heart. My daughter turned 4 months yesterday, and there’s no way I can leave her crying like that if I can pick her up. They’re just far too precious to teach them that the world is a hard cruel place, where no one will help them when they need it.

  260. Thank you for writing this. It is so very true. Every time i hear about Dr Ferber who started this unbelievably stupid “cry it out” movement I want to kick him in the taint repeatedly until my foot hurts. And then not respond when he cries, because he’s just looking for attention- LOL.

  261. Perfectly said, Stephanie! How hard it must have been to hear that little one cry and not be able to soothe it.
    My first chid was a sleepy guy and I used to love to hold him. In fact, sometimes when he was sleeping, I would get him out of his crib and just rock him. Horrified relatives told me I’d spoil him, and why chance waking him up.
    He is 33 now, and well-adjusted and successful. I’m glad I held him as much as I could. I so miss that now.

  262. About a year ago, my son and I were staying at the hospital. He was a week old and had only been breastfeeding for about two days at that point. He’d been hooked up to a ventilator for the rest of the week and got all his nutrition through an IV.
    I lifted him to nurse (and those NICU nurses kept him on a formula schedule until I took it up with the neonatologist…) and after a few minutes, the nurse told me to put him down because he was just using me as a pacifier and manipulating me.
    This was the same nurse who let him scream for an hour instead of calling me to come feed him because I wouldn’t let them give him a pacifier and then complained when he fell asleep the second I picked him up.
    Yeah, I have a lot of issues with people who think week old infants can be spoiled.

  263. Kudos for offering to help – I know many mothers who would have been only too grateful for it. I did pack someone’s groceries for her a few weeks ago because she was in the same situation with a tiny baby (wouldn’t offer to help with the baby because not having had experience with any myself, I never quite know what to do with them, and they seem to sense this somehow and get even more distraught…); she was really sweet, and so was the baby after a couple of minutes. She did say she’d stopped shopping several times to try and calm him down, but it hadn’t worked…
    (Got me through the checkout faster, too…)

  264. Gahh! My heart hurts for little mite. Until he was ready to walk, I wore my son in a sling much of the time even when I took him to the grocery. Lots of people looked at us strangely but a lot of Moms (and Grandmoms!) would tell me how surprised they were at how calm he was and how comfortable he looked. And I always had at least one hand free to check out with.
    Bless you for wanting to help that wee one, Steph. I also get sad when I see ladies pushing huge stroller-tanks with, presumably, children inside. They are missing a chance to be close to their kids in a really special way. We’d be better as a people if more kids were cherished and hugged as much or more than they wanted.

  265. Stephanie, you are my hero.
    If anyone had ever extended that sort of kindness to me when my girl was a newborn, I would have burst into tears. Then accepted the offer.
    I still vividly remember my first bad crying-in-public experience (it was on my mind so much that I ended up blogging about it to try and ‘purge’ the feeling). I remember all the dirty looks, and all the self-doubt that came pouring in. I hope someday I can do something nice for another mom in that situation.

  266. Boy, does that mom have a lot to learn! And for her child’s sake, I sure hope she does, and soon! Let’s hope she was just didn’t know better, not mean. You were perfect, Stephanie and I would have welcomed your help with my groceries! You know, that mom was right, her baby was screaming for her attention, her mistake was that she didn’t value her baby enough to give it the attention it NEEDS. Sad, sad, sad.

  267. What a lovely offer you made! I realize now that my kids are school age how wonderful that would have been, but probably would have been too self conscious or proud to take you up on it back then. However, it was definately a nicer thing to say than the person who told me in a Walmart line when my twins were very newborn that I had better be switching up their infant seats or else the one in the front of the stroller would get all the attention. Thank God for my husband who wouldn’t have any of it because back then I was a mess and a target for every piece of crappy advice people threw at me.

  268. You said that so well in the store, I was taking notes so that when I’m in that situation I could gracefully offer help. Too bad the new mom couldn’t accept the gift of help or acknowledge that her child needed… something. Let’s hope she will learn to do both.

  269. When my daughter was four months old and we were going through the store doing our monthly big shopping trip, she started to get cranky. During the last two aisles, she started to cry very loudly. When we were in the checkout line, and I was trying to put the groceries on the belt to check out, a very nice woman got in line behind us when others opted for longer lines rather than be in the came checkout line as me. She offered to help me and I took her up on it. As she started to load my groceries on the belt, she commented on the nice hand knit sweater that my daughter was wearing that a friend had made and said she is a special little girl to have such an nice sweater. When my baby started to grab my chest and rub her nose on by neck, I knew what she needed at the moment. The nice lady and the store clerk did not bat an eye as I held her with one arm, opened my shirt a little in the store and let her nurse. As I payed and pushed my cart out of the store with one hand, as my daughter was still nursing, the clerk got another person standing next to the check out to help me get my groceries into my car. Not one of them made a comment about the fact I was still nursing my daughter as I walked out of the store. It was the nicest shopping trip I had while my daughter was a baby.

  270. A few years ago I had my first born in his stroller in the elevator leaving my parent’s place. He could not have been more than 6-mo. old, he was quiet, content, and I was cooing at him. A construction-worker, meat head type in the elevator says to me “Don’t spoil him” I replied coldly “If I don’t, who will?” He shut up. You were very sweet, and I would like to think that mum was tired, and felt like it was her burden, her intention was probably not intended to be cruel, just newby ignorance. In hind-sight there would be so much I would do differently with my first-born. I always feel as though I was as loving as I could have been…mother’s regret.

  271. I was on a flight from San Francisco to Chicago, pre 9/11. We were delayed taking off, stuck on the tarmac. In the seats next to me was a mother with the 6 month old on her lap and a 2 year old in the window seat. The baby started the little hiccups, and after take off, went into full frontal screams. The 2 year old was not to be outdone. I offered to take the baby, and the mother looked at me like I was a kidnapper. My response: “Lady, we’re 40,000 feet in the air. The farthest I can go is the back galley.” It took an hour, but the little one finally fell asleep. I stood doing the mommy rock for four hours. Mom and the toddler actually got some sleep and Mom was so grateful when she woke up over Des Moines.
    Steph, I am SO going to use that last line. Well done. I’m sending a copy of this post to our HS parenting class teacher. 🙂

  272. My heart broke for that baby. With neglect like that she will be a very maladjusted adult, might even end up a guest of tax payers.

  273. My heart broke for that baby. With neglect like that she will be a very maladjusted adult, might even end up a guest of tax payers.

  274. I was in a restaurant recently and saw a young mother struggling desperately with an infant on her hip and a defiant, but definately-needing-to-go, potty training toddler. The tot was ducking mom and she had her hands full and could not get him to cooperate. Just as I was contemplating helping, a nearby woman stepped up and asked if she could hold the baby while the mom took care of the boy’s needs. I watched the woman hold the baby and keep her attention diverted so she wouldn’t miss her mom and fuss. The mom returned with a happy toddler in tow and thanked the woman, who then went back to her own table to enjoy a nice lunch with a girlfriend.
    I was proud of the woman for stepping up to help, and the young mother for accepting it. It left me with a good feeling that I still live in a world where you don’t have to be afraid of accepting help from well-intentioned strangers.

  275. Poor woman. She’s probably been raised in a similar way and allowed to scream the house down. And what she’s learnt, she’s passing on.
    I’ve lost track of the times I’ve muttered ‘just pick the baby up, dammit!’ in the supermarket. I think all sorts of stresses come to the fore in supermarkets when you venture out the first few times with a newborn, on your own, so perhaps we can hope that the baby isn’t always treated like this at home. Sadly, you can’t make parenting choices for other peoples’ babies, but I do feel your pain (and the baby’s).

  276. Again….love you. Just to pieces. My mother, sister and father wanted to gripe at me about holding my kids ‘too much’, letting them sleep with us, picking them up and carrying them when they could have walked or crawled or just sat in the car seat. No way. Babies are for holding! They are 6 and 9 now and such lovely, well-adjusted (though sometimes infuriating) people. We’re so glad we did it our way.

  277. Wow, that is so nice of you to offer help. As a first-time mother of a relatively young child, I would have appreciated so much if someone offered that kind of help to me as I was trying to load my groceries with my screaming son in his Baby Bjorn. As a new mother, in my heart I don’t believe that babies cry for attention. They cry as a way to communicate their needs. And as a pediatrician, in my head I know that to be true also. I so wish that parents and well-meaning strangers would drop that outdated belief that babies are seeking attention. And way to go Stephanie, your ‘rant’ was so well put.

  278. I don’t think the issue is being afraid of accepting help. I suspect that she thought you were (sorry) some kook, and she may have said the first thing she thought of. It is definitely too bad we’ve reached that point in society.
    I’ve often played peek-a-boo over a mom’s shoulder at a fussy baby. I love to think that she thinks whatever she did worked, without knowing about the silent distraction.
    That being said, I’m amazed by how people are unable to look forward more than 30 seconds – note especially the jerks that can’t figure out that they are going to be on the bumper of the car in front of them if they don’t slow down or change lanes. Rarely is a trip to the market such a dire need that it can’t be put on hold for a bit until one can do it without making everyone (mom, baby, bystanders) crazy. By the time a baby is screaming in the way you describe, the action should have taken place some time well beforehand. With more than one child, it gets more complicated, but with just one? This is probably just a demonstration of generalized lack of forethought, and I don’t want this mom driving behind me.
    Although we think we are beyond Darwin, remember that a baby’s screams are an evolutionary method of insuring survival. Baby screams, mom responds, or the line dies out. We’ve made it more complicated over time, but to an extent, the Darwin awards have it right. No, I’m not wishing any harm to the mom or baby, but in the end, Darwin will probably win out. It just may take millenia. Whenever you shake your head over the direction we seem to be going – just think about it.

  279. I remember once when my youngest was screaming endlessly at midnight and the next door neighbour knocked on the door. We didn’t get on that well with the neighbours, but what she said was “Can I help?”
    I’ve never forgotten. She took him and a change of person to someone less stressed helped. She changed his nappy and he calmed down.
    I still remember that night with thanks.

  280. I am so glad to come here and read so many post agreeing with you. I often find myself frustrated with the level of care (and by care I mean both looking after and carefulness) parents take with kids these days.
    I’m constantly told that my wearing my kids in a sling (or breastfeeding, or answering cries, or not ignoring, or co-sleeping etc) will make them clingy, spoiled dependents, it doesn’t even shock me anymore. I could go on and on about this but I think I spent the first 5 years of my son’s life falling on deaf ears. Now that I have a very well-adjusted and independent 9 year old, I just point to him. If he’s spoiled, we should all be so lucky.

  281. Amen, sister! Tell it. My mother-in-law used to say I’d spoil my little babies picking them up when they cried…and I told her I thought I’d spoil them if I didn’t pick them up. It’s been proven over and over: humans need affection, they need someone to listen when they ask for help or they don’t develop properly.

  282. Thank-you, Stephanie. Really good to hear that there are some of us reasonable people still around. 😉

  283. THANK YOU. I picked up both of my children every time they cried. Everyone was convinced I was spoiling them, and I was going to raise two little brats.
    Well guess what. They are 13 and 11, and have no issues coming to me to ask a difficult question, or tell me they failed a math test, or need help learning to shave. They ask me questions about sex, geography, and evolution.
    If that’s what my attention helped to create, then I am eternally grateful.

  284. I didn’t read all 377 previous comments, but I’m sure here were some that weren’t appreciative of your rant. But as a mother of a 3 year old (whoever made up the phrase ‘Terrible Twos’ hadn’t reached the third birthday yet) and a seven month old – if you had offered me help in a grocery store (or even did now) I would have kissed you square on the mouth.
    And you are right. Babies cry because they need something. The sound of an ignored (for whatever reason) newborn is heartbreaking.

  285. O do I agree with you. I had so many people tell me I spoiled my son. I would hold him when he cried and I did not make him sleep in his own room at 6 weeks old. My biggest annoyance was people telling me he needed to be independent. Hogwash! He needs to be independent at 18 or 20 years old, not now! That poor baby, “crying for attention” babies cry for what they need- if it’s attention, Give It To Them!!!

  286. Bless you, from this springtime-grandma-to-be!
    I had an incidence of Momma-Bear reaction this past summer when my husband noticed a toddler left alone in a car next to us at the gas station. I went into the convenience store and “called out” the father who had left her for “just a minute”.”
    I can rant, too!

  287. To the person who criticized the ferber method. What people fail to realize, it’s not for newborns or small infants it targeted to those 6 months and older, because that’s when they start being able to comfort themselves a little.
    That being said, most of the current baby books I’ve read said you CANNOT spoil an infant. You hold them as much as they need you to.
    I actually had the opposite problem when my daughter was an infant. She cried when she was held too much. There were times she just wanted to lay by herself next to someone.

  288. Ok, 1. Now I’m crying.
    2. I thought for sure that story was going to end with a horrified and over-protective mother assuming you would just run off with her kid.
    3. That poor baby and that poor mom for missing another opportunity to bond with her babe. You never know when the next opportunity won’t come at all.

  289. I remember those days. I’m saving this post to give to every new mother I ever meet in the future. Bless you.

  290. Such a very sad situation. That poor little babe. Hooray for you for stepping in & offering to help. I’m sure MOST people would be shocked and releived and so happy to take you up on your offer.

  291. The comments stating that baby will inevitably be “messed up” are pretty out of line. As are the comments that the woman shouldn’t have had a child at all.
    We only have the smallest glimpse into that woman’s life. Let’s all take a deep breath and take off our judgeypants. That baby could just as easily grow up to be a wonderful contributer to society as a “drain on taxpayers.”

  292. My husband once physically blocked the door to my 8-week-old son’s bedroom, because the baby was crying and my husband was convinced that I would spoil him if I picked him up every time he cried.
    It’s the only time I’ve ever hit my husband. And he never stood between me and my crying child ever again.
    Not that I am advocating violence, because I absolutely am not. But never, NEVER get between a mama bear and her crying baby. Not even if you’re papa bear.
    Upshot: Amen, sister. 🙂

  293. Thank you. My “babies” are 17 and 20 and no worse for being picked up ( and fed) whenever they let me know that was what they needed. Even my husband , who is in the military and thinks anyone can learn to tough it out, soon learned that babies are meant to be held.

  294. Ahhh… yes. Quite. My baby is now an 18-month-old toddler and even my husband is starting to say she’s “manipulating” me by yelling, but I say she’s communicating. Okay, so she knows a few words now, but really: the only way she’s come to be sure of telling me what she wants is to cry. So I can but answer her.
    I remember that feeling of having her crying in the pram, and not being able to hold her. It was the worst. Then I got a Moby and my world – and more importantly, hers – turned into a *much* happier place overnight.
    The thing is, I do think some babies do “just cry”… sort of. They don’t have any immediate unanswered need. They are fed, and warm, and dry, and safe, and all that. But they are not so keen on being babies, and even if you try to cuddle and comfort them, they will still scream because dagnabbit, I am STILL A BABY AND IT SUCKS (Claudia was like that). So it’s possible the mom in the supermarket was used to this happening and just wasn’t up for handling that rejection (as it feels) in public.
    Wearing baby in a Moby a few hours a day is usually a pretty excellent fix for that problem, too, though.

  295. Oh my fingers are just itching to send this to a loved one of mine who did just that. Her infant son would be crying in her basement apartment (which just happened to be my basement and I could hear every sound but did not respond because it was her space and her son and I didn’t want to intrude and cross boundaries and so forth) and I would kindly and tactfully (well, maybe not always…it depended on how long the crying had been progressing) ask if she would like me to see to him so she could have a moments peace and she would say that he had to learn not to cry for everything and I would bite my tongue but think, very LOUDLY, “How on earth is he going to communicate anything to you when he can’t speak yet?!?!?!?!”
    Whew. She’s gone from our house now and her son seems to be doing just fine although now he communicates by whining and grunting and pointing. Hmmmm.

  296. Of course the baby was crying for attention. Attention to whatever was bothering him/her: diaper issues, hunger issues, needing to be held…I wish there were more people who would offer this kind of help to young mothers.
    That being said, I did once hide from my 3 year old son in the grocery store when he had a tantrum, but that is another parenting issue.

  297. I sooooo hear what you are saying. I’ve been there too and I find it so darn hard to believe that some people really believe an infant has the ability to manipulate anyone.

  298. I’ve had a cashier eye my baby in his sling and declare “you know that just spoils them right?” When I answered that I never had to grocery shop with a screaming baby, she was shocked that such an experience were possible. I have been shocked at how many ways mothers can distance themselves from their wee ones and how quick they are to point out their perceived negatives in more responsive approach. Here’s to hoping that your (spurned!) offer might give her food for thought…

  299. I hope you sent her to parenting classes! That child will be abused later on! What a dip stick that parent is!!

  300. Amen! Couldn’t have said it better myself. I used to have a friend who told me I spoiled my babies by picking them up right away when they cried but we are no longer friends. My children have grown into beings who can cope with the world around them because they had my help at the beginning. Her children still scream for her attention.

  301. Thank You for your voice of reason. Gave me a flashback of the time I tried to tell a co-worker that her 5 month old daughter couldn’t be trying to “drive a wedge” between her and her husband. I have no children and she has 2 masters degrees in child psychology so she claimed I couldn’t possibly understand children. (I’ll also probably never trust anyone with a masters in psychology from University of Missouri.)

  302. I once saw this show on Dingos–those dogs that live in hot places like Australia and may or may not have eaten a baby? And it turns out that, in Dingo culture, the alpha female takes all the cubs from all the mama Dingos in the pack and nurses them ALL until they are old enough to eat other types of food. Just takes all the cubs into her own lair and raises them herself.
    I frequently have that same instinctual response among some of my fellow mothers.

  303. The 5:55 comment from Kelly?
    At first I thought it said the the nice lady with the soft woolen gonads.
    😉

  304. Poor baby doesn’t stand a chance when it’s a teenager does it? and we wonder what is wrong with kids these days.

  305. I’m a social worker. I’m a mom. I’m a human being.
    This attitude about children pains me more than anything else. So much so that I can hardly find words for how painful and wrong it is.
    Infants and children have to be taught the skills to soothe themselves, and they learn it by our modeling and by having their needs met when they are not able to do it for themselves.
    Of course babies want attention. That’s what the parent is for, damn it. Parenting is damn hard work. My kidlet is only just turning 4, and I’m 44 and I’m exhausted most of the time. But so what. He needs me and because I didn’t worry about “spoiling” him when he was tiny he’s a confident, *happy* caring, kind, fun boy.
    Babies that didn’t “manipulate” their caregivers by crying when they needed comforting, cleaning, feeding, etc, didn’t survive. A baby that happily takes whatever you do would have gotten eaten by a wild animal, starved to death, and/or been unable to develop appropriate attachments and relationships as an adult.
    Stephanie, I would have probably thrown my arms around you if you’d offered me that when my boy was a baby. (There are some days now I feel that way!) After reading that I just want to throw my arms around that poor, poor baby.

  306. I remember sitting down on the FLOOR of the supermarket and nursing the baby, with the full shopping cart next to me, because that baby wanted to eat NOW and I reasoned that seeing me sitting on the floor with my boob hanging out and a quiet baby was a lot less disturbing than hearing the baby scream….

  307. You are so right. There was a suck arse doctor years ago who wrote a book that told mothers not to pick up babies when they cry. The babies were supposed to know that if they were quiet they would get picked up. But all the babies learned was that their needs would not be met, communication was impossible, and their life was confusing. I’m so glad you wrote this piece. Thank you!

  308. I totally agree with all you wrote, now as a grandmother I get to hold and comfort him all I want and his parents do the same. We are blessed to have the opportunity to comfort him and keep him safe while we can. hugs to you, missy!

  309. I dunno. I mean I do know what you mean that a baby at four or five weeks most certainly is not howling to be the center of attention. What I dunno about is this – out shopping with my daughter-in-law, granddaughter, and my husband, said granddaughter started howling. And howling. And howling. Attempts were made. We fed her, changed her, swaddled her, unswaddled her, rocked her, walked her, put her down, and picked her back up again. All to no avail. Then we took her home. About ten seconds in the car and she was out. She slept all afternoon, woke up, ate, slept all night. I think it’s just exhausting to be a baby. We decided she was just ticked off at being out and amongst the rest of us. It must be a bit much, if you think about it.

  310. I completely agree with you. This was in a grocery store, not the infamous “pick up game” where they constantly throw a bottle or paci on the floor and expect you to pick it up or the overnight screaming of a 2 year old who wants to challenge the bedtime and is constantly getting out of bed to run around the livingroom throwing things and acting like a wild child.
    You’re not the only one who gets irritated, i do too when i see parents out and about here in NY doing it…. I tend to tell my dh “we need to move, as far away from them as possible before I slap the parents for being so stupid.”
    I used the snuggli pack with mine when I had to go grocery shopping (or shopping in general, when my dh wasn’t with me.. when he was he wore it becuase he said it was only fair, I carried them for 9 months during the pregnancy, it was his turn to carry them until they couldn’t fit into the snuggli pack anymore)… and that includes when i’d take my little one and my 2 year old with me (the 2 year old liked for me to put the baby in the seat while he rode in the basket part of the cart, then he could play and help out with his baby brother while I shopped… I preferred the snuggli pack because it kept strangers hands of my little ones… dh was working on the radio and his listeners always thought it was ok to approach us during family time and pinch the kids cheeks…) I also hate those new infant carseats where the kids never get picked up and held just moved from car to cart to car to home without ever being held and snuggled…

  311. Hi Stephanie! Your post reminded me of trying to shop with my babes (when they were babes) and how there were a number of times that fellow customers offered to help me bag my groceries, to which I always gladly accepted. Thanks for this post (even though the outcome of your offer to help was less than ideal)…next time I see a parent-n-babe struggling through the grocery line, I’m gonna offer to help.

  312. Together you and I could be dangerous. I love your blog and normally read every word but I had to skim your rant because it is so very much one of my favorites that I was getting all worked up reading it. I often feel that earth probably really has nothing to fear from alien invasion because no civilization advanced enough to travel through galaxies would ever want to have anything to do with a species that, while it has many fine individual specimens, is obviously also possessed of a strong disposition to stupidity. See? I should never have gotten started. I apologize.

  313. A friend referred me to read this post and I was so glad I did.
    I vividly remember walking through the store with a 4 year old, a 2 year old and an infant. I was utterly exhausted. I used to go to the local store who would bag my groceries; they ask if you want help out to the car. Every single time I would say yes; if they didn’t ask, I would tell them to help me. What do I care?
    However, there were some moms from my area, 3 or 4 kids, mind you, very small and would refuse help out to their car.
    It is NOT competition. It’s not about showing how fantastic you are, it’s about keeping your children safe in the parking lot.
    I have to wonder if this was on the mother’s mind. A snarky little answer that hides the pride. Pathetic and very sad.
    Your rant was very well put. I’ve posted the link on Facebook.

  314. I hear your rant and it’s valid but I am studying maternal and child health at the moment (an am a midwife) and that kind of reaction from a Mum of a new born rings alarm bells for me – she sounds like a prime PND candidate and probably needs more support. If you feel miserable it’s difficult to take the help of anyone let alone a well meaning stranger. Some people just don’t consciously parent and have a baby to tick boxes – some people have dream of what it will be like from conception to grandparent hood and life just isn’t like that…she probably needs some professional attention for parenting and mood…just saying…

  315. Please come shopping with my and my 11 week old little man – we’ve had a few of these instances recently. Luckily my local supermarket will pack groceries for me and carry them to the car!

  316. Stephanie!!!
    Would you *please* take a break from writing fabulous knitting books and write a BABY book so there *is* something to give to new mothers? It doesn’t have to be long. The books out there now don’t have the same magic that you’d bring to it–
    ((pleeeese?))

  317. How that story breaks my heart…next she will be one of those moms who is out strolling or walking with her child, and either talking on a cell phone or tuned into an iPod…she won’t hear the cries that seem to irritate her so (oh, I could throttle her for that interpretation of her baby’s crying)…but she also won’t hear a lot of other heavenly sounds that are the privilege of mothers with their babies.
    I could write a rant about the electronic tune-out of modern parenting…but I think I’ll flip through my grown babies’ photo albums instead to calm myself.

  318. It is very sad that a crying baby would be ignored like that. Could you image the life that child is going to have. This is why many children turn to gangs to have any kind of attention for them is better then none. Pray for more positive energy and light in our world.

  319. You can come stand behind me and offer to help anytime you want. Well, actually if you could chase my son while I try to pay that would be great. Thanks for thinking of all the times you needed help and offering. Keep doing it, you will save the life of a mommy at the edge one day.

  320. Stephanie: You said it so well. Babies need attention like they need oxygen, food, water, a safe place to rest. They may have to wait at times, but there will be plenty of times, as you said, that you are in the shower, etc.
    I wish I could write a book for new mothers, and you could do that, if you wanted to. I would read it!!!

  321. Stephanie: You said it so well. Babies need attention like they need oxygen, food, water, a safe place to rest. They may have to wait at times, but there will be plenty of times, as you said, that you are in the shower, etc.
    I wish I could write a book for new mothers, and you could do that, if you wanted to. I would read it!!!

  322. My heart breaks for that baby and those I see all the time. I’m a breastfeeding counselor and occasionally I get to gently help set a mama straight. Then there are the times which are truly frustrating and you can see that the mother is just not connected to her child. There is a wall between them and there is nothing I can do to break down that wall. That physically hurts my heart.

  323. My husband and I gave our babies all the attention they wanted in spite of many dire warnings that we were “spoiling” them. They grew to be the least spoiled children on the planet, and now they are the least spoiled adults on the planet. The are self-reliant, successful, confident, loving, generous young women of 31 and 29 who know what’s what. And I still turn to them if they cry.

  324. I HAVE to say this: I was raised by a mother who read the aforementioned “expert” who said children should be raised on a schedule and “not spoiled.” Contrary to what some people have said, I did NOT grow up to be maladjusted. I DID call my mother. I did NOT raise my son the way I was raised and I do NOT feel my psyche has been damaged. I am somewhat irritated by the blanket criticism of the mother based on one interaction in a check out line at a grocery store when there are no more facts than a one-time observation and comment. Kudos to all of you perfect people out there who have never, ever been out of sorts, been sick or been observed on a day that was just out of the ordinarilly terrible, or just plain not trusted someone in a checkout line to hold your baby when you have no idea on Earth who the person making the offer is. Not everyone knows the Yarn Harlot. I might not take you up on the offer, either. I might even make a similar comment. But I can guarantee you that the minute I had the chance, I’d pick up my baby as soon as I could. How quckly we all pass judgment on others based on brief, impersonal interactions. And, yes, I’ve made snap judgments, too. I just try not to do it based on a blog post by ANYONE, no matter how much I like and respect them. And I DO like and respect Stephanie. Not EVERY case of “terrible” mothering is what it seems, anymore than a perfect mother is perfect all the time.

  325. A long time ago, I was at big box store with a crying infant, and a sick four year old, waiting for a prescription to be filled. A kind employee led me to the patio dept, sat me down, encouraged me to go ahead and nurse the baby, and got the four year old some water. The boys stopped crying, but I burst into grateful tears. Her name was Pam. I will never forget her.

  326. The previous commenter’s story got me all choked up…
    I hear what you are saying, Stephanie..and I have heard it before, I am glad you keep repeating that same statement every so often, because it bears repeating, unfortunately.
    But what DOES one say to the mom in such a situation, though??

  327. Oh, this post just broke my heart. My 6 month old screamed on the way home in the car the other night, because she was tired and hungry and there was no place for me to pull over, and all I wanted to do was find a turnoff and cuddle her. I just don’t understand people.
    If I ever found myself in that situation, I’d take someone up on their offer. And I will try and remember to make the offer if the situation is reversed.

  328. I had my babies at home, wore them until I was exhausted and broken, and never, ever let them cry. Yet, if someone offered to help me with my baby (or groceries), but I was tired to the point of intoxication, hungry to the point of madness, and feeling the inferiority that only a new mother can feel, I think I might have said the same thing. Either because it’s what I thought you’d want me to say (the world still loves a mother who doesn’t “give in” to her baby), or to give you something to chew on. New-mother-crazy sucks.
    I know you weren’t judging that woman, merely commenting that her comment, whether sincere or not, is very much a parenting norm, which also sucks.

  329. absolutely perfectly put 🙂
    but you forgot one thing – they are only little for such a short time and in no time at all they won’t want your attention as much and you might even miss it.
    l
    x

  330. Thank you Stephanie. I have been in stores before and heard screaming babies and thought to myself, “Please, just pick up and hold your baby.” Poor little one.

  331. I read every word. I read it to my husband. We Love you. That poor baby. That poor mom.
    Do you still midwife? Do you miss it?

  332. Ugh. That kid is going to end up with attachment disorder or something.
    The baby was screaming for attention? Well, of course it was, but the mother made it sound like the baby was being intentionally manipulative. These are the same mothers who blame victims of sexual abuse by saying their toddler was “flirting” with Uncle Harry or some such nonsense.
    There are times when I worry about the human race. This is one of them.

  333. I have to agree. I would have kissed you also, if you had offered to load my groceries so I could just hold my wee one and take care of her wants. It would never have crossed my mind to say she is just trying to get attention. I did get very upset when someone (a complete stranger) reached over and grabbed my child out of her seat. I knew that my wee one wanted to eat and I wanted very desperately to get out of the store and the groceries loaded into the car, just so I could sit and hold her, feed her (I was nursing) and love her. But I was stuck in a check out line and it was moving very slowly. There is nothing like being trapped in that situation.

  334. Not that you should have been foolhardy, but I hope you had an opportunity to educate this poor fool. Good Lord, this is the beginning of serious child abuse/neglect! When you cannot respond to the cries of a newborn, WTF are you going to do when they’re two or three and REALLY trying your patience? That is so freaking sad!

  335. Mini-rant of my own:
    I would definitely like to offer kudos to the commenters who AREN’T leaping to a judgment about what a horrible parent and human being the woman in the grocery store must be based on one — ONE! — remark she made while wrestling with a screaming baby and a cart of groceries.
    Can you imagine if that woman stumbled across this blog entry and read these comments? Read the flood people saying she was a horrible mother, was selfish, should never have had children, should have her baby taken away? Wow. I hope she never, ever sees any of this.
    I realize that harshly judging womens’ parenting is a national pastime in the US (don’t know about Canada) but that doesn’t mean it’s a good thing.

  336. Absolutely WONDERFUL POST!! It’s exactly what I’d like to say to all my mom friends that think their little ones are trying to control them… UGHHHH!!!
    I’m sharing this on Facebook.. thanks.

  337. AMEN!
    As mom to a 13 month old THANK YOU!! I am loving your blog more and more each time I read another post that relates to my new mommy life.
    If Annabelle was fussing afer the usual checks and nursing we put her in the carrier and snuggled her close
    It was my mommy instinct to hold her close, nurse on demand and LISTEN to what she was telling me.

  338. The comments about using slings are great! I have put several slings on my Baby Registry lists (Girl due New Years Eve). No way do I want to haul my sweet little baby around in a big, heavy plastic baby bucket!

  339. @Kris in the beginning of the comments. Being a good parent has nothing to do with the socio-economic scales. I have seen impoverished mothers treat their children with the same disdain and callousness. I want to cry just thinking about this story and I have seen it happen, too. I have never had the guts to confront the mother.

  340. Well, this one made me cry. My darling grandson was called back to heaven. He has a wonderful Momma, that adored him and there wasn’t a moment he cried, that she didn’t see to his every need. I hear of folks that don’t care about their babies, and can’t help buy ask God why he took our precious baby that we smothered with adoration and love. So sad, so sad. I give anything to hear my Averie fuss again.

  341. Ahhh yes the gift of two hands..
    Hold a baby to our necks with one and slap the mother silly..

  342. Mini-Ranter: There seems to be a lot of assumptions on your part, too, and a bit of righteousness as well. You paint the picture of she was exhausted and wrestling with the baby, but I got that that was more YH recalling how it can be, how it used to be for her–projecting her empathy. Some people are saying well we don’t know what she was thinking, etc, and making excuses for her behavior. All I’m going by is that YH said the woman glanced down at the baby she was leaving screaming hysterically in a stroller, and said what she did, which is to brush it off because HER INFANT WAS PLAYING HEAD GAMES with her. And all that time she had continued to ignore a hysterical baby. My objection is with what she said AND her actions, or lack of. Yes, she said one remark. That one remark is quite enough to be found appalling. Babies don’t play head games, is the point here. As is the fact she left it continuing to scream hysterically, and didn’t seem very phased by it. I’m sure YH is enough of a descriptionist to have let on if the woman seemed strung out and was trying to comfort her baby but couldn’t manage it. That wasn’t what came across. I’m find it rather shocking that some people want to bend over backwards to whitewash it. The point is that a woman felt it was OK to ignore a hysterical baby for an extended length of time (for several aisles worth of shopping), and her stated rationale was that it was ok because the baby was just manipulating her. How do you excuse that? And if she didn’t mean it, who says that even to give a brush-off? Besides, it wasn’t like she couldn’t have stopped shopping on any of those aisles for two seconds and picked up the baby for a moment of comforting even before getting to the checkout. But from the description, she simple continued about her business and let the baby cry on purpose. I’m usually willing to give the benefit of the doubt, too, but in this case, her statement was so telling that it speaks for itself.

  343. Thank you ever so much for putting out this rant. It’s a great reminder to all, whether they’re a parent or not.
    I too was in a situation similar to what you found yourself in. With me, my offer of assistance happened in a parking lot. My Mom and I were walking towards the grocery store from our car & I noticed this woman with 2 kids – couldn’t have been more than a few months old. She was struggling with the cart with one baby in a car seat in the cart and another on her hip. I could see the cart trying to get away from her every time she tried to open the car door and wasn’t having much luck. As we got closer to her, I stopped and asked her if she’d like some help, that I have a young son and can’t imagine how she handles two young children as she is as I have enough with just one. She graciously accepted my offer of help, thankfully! Cuz I could just see that cart getting away from her and a car coming by not paying attention… I held her little one that was trying to get out of the car seat in the cart and made sure the cart wasn’t going anywhere while she got her other child in their seat in the car. While she was doing that I told her that she’s amazing & so strong (not really the word I’m looking for but I hope you know what I mean 🙂 ) to have such two beautiful bundles of the same age and still be able to do everyday things. I was in awe of her 🙂 I applaud any woman who takes on more than one child and graciously accepts help when they know they need it.

  344. Couldn’t have put it better myself.
    Being a first time mom of a colicky baby is hard. Then to have random people tell you that that crying is just manipulative is enough to send you over the edge. I get so sick of people telling me she’s spoiled because I try to stop the crying before it gets to the point of hysteria. She’s not spoiled, she’s a baby, she can’t talk yet, of course she’s going to cry.

  345. It’s my baby’s 13th birthday today. Our tiny house is bursting with 6 teenage chicks having a great party. I remember the day mine was born, and my dear husband saying, not long after, “Being a baby is the hardest job in the world. You have to learn EVERYTHING.”
    He was so right, and so are you!

  346. Wow. I haven’t made it through all the comments but wanted to thank you for reminding people that you can’t spoil a a baby that young.
    I must admit that if it were me I might not have taken you up on the offer – I wouldn’t have handed my newborn over to a random stranger in a grocery store for a start (now I’d recognise the yarnharlot so maybe you’d get to hold the baby). Also, I am rather territorial about packing my own groceries. This is partly because I like them organised my way and also because am going to have to walk home carrying them. When shopping with a crying baby I’ve let people pack for me only to need to rearrange everything when I get outside before I can walk home! However, I probably would have been wearing the baby and been making an effort to console her while she screamed and I would have certainly let you know how much I appreciated the offer.

  347. I have worked retail and watched moms leisurely checking out jewelry, etc. while their baby in the stroller screamed its’ head off. As the mother of two, it’s hard for me to imagine ignoring a screaming child for fear of spoiling it. That baby needed to be comforted and you were right to try!

  348. Thank you Stephanie. There is no such thing as “spoiling” an infant.
    North America, my home, is the only place I’ve lived or visited where children are not cherished.

  349. I love what you have said Stephanie. I have a theory that having a better beginning of life may lead to more peace in the world so I quit my 9 to 5 job and have become a doula. I wish that more people really understood babies when they had them. Thank you for being a positive force in the world.

  350. Oh Stephanie, can you please rule the world? I would happily depose all other leaders on the planet and put you in charge!
    And would you mind terribly if I copied your rant and gave it to the mums in my Bookstart session in the library, please? (won’t do it if you’d prefer not, of course)
    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being the voice of reason in so many things, but especially this xxx

  351. I just reached over and gave my six year old baby the biggest hug after reading this! As a mom I related to everything you wrote – that wasn’t a rant. Thank you again for saying so well what needs to be said.

  352. This post brought me to tears–tears for the errors I made as a new mother whose own mother was not a nurturing one, tears because it still pulls at my gut if I hear or see an infant crying as Stephanie did, and tears because this happens everywhere and everyday.
    I agree with Stephanie. I had two children before I was old enough, or mature enough, to trust my own instincts, and when I was born in 1950, my mother raised me by schedule. Up at a certain hour, feeding, bath next, down for nap, feeding at the next scheduled hour, and so on. Although I wasn’t that rigid with the first two, you get the picture of what my understanding was about.
    Child 3 was born at home, didn’t cry for the first six weeks of her life, was held constantly, was in a family bed, and was inquisitive and self assured as she ventured out into the world as a toddler.
    Child 4 was born with multiple anomalies, so spent a lot of the first three years of his life in and out of the hospital and doctors’ offices, and I never left his side, and held him through medical procedures and tests. When he started school, his teachers always commented on how well adjusted he was.
    I offer these stories because mothers can change and grow and learn. What’s saddest to me is that some of us don’t instinctively know what Stephanie wrote, and our children are the ones who suffer through it. And as every mother knows, when our first child is born we are plagued with doubts and insecurities, and often that makes us blinder to the wisdom of those who would offer help and love.
    Blessings to you, Stephanie, for writing as well as you do, and putting this out there.

  353. Bless you Steph, you just said what myself and a whole bunch of my co-workers are thinking when Parents come into my workplace with their child screaming. I am constantly amazed at the number of parents who will bring their small children (between the ages of 2 to 10) to the store at 10pm and wonder why they are acting out, crying and having tantrums.
    I’m also very much against the practice of letting an infant cry themselves to sleep. I know of some people who do it and it just drives me nutty.
    Thanks for putting your point so eloquently.

  354. Oh MAN this makes me angry in so many ways! ‘Just wants attention’. How can any new mother hear her baby crying and just switch off like that??
    The really crappy thing is – her baby will eventually stop trying to communicate and give up, and the mother will give herself a pat on the back for ‘training’ her baby to be quiet. Destroying its trust in her and teaching it that no matter what it does, she will let it down. Nice work for all that baby’s future relationships!

  355. I truly wish baby care & baby psychology was a required course in high school. The basics of trusting other human beings begins in infancy. They need to know someone is listening and caring, just as we all do.
    I’ve been that mom in the store, sleep-deprived and desperate to get home, and I found it easier to calm the baby before they are screaming, then load the groceries with one hand if some kind person doesn’t offer help.
    I live in the U.S. and I can’t believe baby and small child education aren’t taught in school, as well as home budgeting.

  356. Thank you! I was told by many thatI “spoiled” my boys. My reply was that if showing them I loved them and would do my darndest to fix their problem, and that they were more important than the T.V. or the telephone or a book or the supermarket checkout line, well, then they were spoilt and were going to continue to be that way.
    They both turned out pretty darn good, and don’t seem to stink or anything, so I guess I was right.

  357. Beautifully put and what a great conversation you have started amongst all of us!
    I have multiple children (2 or 3 depending on if I have my niece, ages 5 1/2, 8 and 10 at this point) and there have been many times where one or more plus myself were melting down and would have been overjoyed and relieved to have someone offer some help but, honestly, I don’t know how I would have reacted. We live in a society where I feel such pressure to be on top of it all at all times. This is all very good food for thought and thank you for giving me the words to use the next time I see a fellow parent in the same boat.

  358. While I agree with a lot of this- I have seen mums who definitely shouldnt be allowed a hamster let alone a baby. But also feel a bit for her.
    A friend suffered from post natal depression and found it really hard to bond with her baby. She would let him cry sometimes out of sheer panic and not knowing how to deal with this tiny thing screaming at her. But she also found it difficult to ask for and accept help, mostly because she was afraid that people would think she was a terrible mother and horrible person Things got better, but she still beats herself up over it.

  359. Well said. Sadly, I bet this woman has actually been taking advice from relatives and and so-called ‘professionals’ who feed her this bilge, and she actually believes it. There is a lot of rubbish to sort through if you are a new mom, and I suspect that most of them miss the golden nuggets that require so much work, in favor of the dross that lets them ignore their child, eat bonbons and watch TV all day . . . keep up the good work.

  360. I have never understood why you have to have a license to get a dog…but any idiot can have a baby.

  361. OMG. What a great person you are!! If only that mother knew the psychological damage she was doing to her child now at 4-5 Weeks. I have worked with infants and toddlers for most of my career, and I can’t tell you how important bonding is, along with the ability of the mom to recognize the child’s cry and respond appropriately. So sad to read something like this and even sadder that we live in a society that isolates new mom from their extended family that would have been backup for days like one this mother was having!
    Bless your soul!!~!
    Michele Long, RN, LMSW

  362. I agree with every word. On a lighter note however, I was delighted by this bit I read in a recent article about being a parent. The young woman had been in a shop with her toddler having a major tantrum while she tried to get her into her buggy /stroller. Another young woman came up,took hold of the stroller handles and said “Right, I’ll hold on to this while you strap the bugger in “. The child’s mother obeyed, feeling that this was an act of true sisterhood which she would never forget.

  363. sorry but i disagree. i think every mom knows there baby. and every mom has a different parenting style.
    while i might not have said to you ‘they just want attention’ i would also have turned down your generous offer.
    i think most all moms do the best they can.

  364. As parents, we have to stand up to opposing opinions and do what we feel is the best way to nurture our little people.
    When my daughter was a toddler, my mother-in-law was trying to hold her when she really wanted me. She said “your mommy doesn’t want you”, implying only grandma did. I kind of let her have it. I said “don’t ever say that! I always want her and she can always have me!” whereupon, I reclaimed my precious girl and hugged her tight! (said precious girl is now 23, independent and happy)
    People say and do stupid things with children. I think it’s the grown ups who are manipulating!

  365. Amen and amen! Sometimes I don’t think people realize babies are HUMAN and have the same needs that we adults have…without the advanced communication skills. It’s our job as parents to love and nurture these wee souls, even when we’re tired, frustrated and completely at our wit’s end. I figured out that when the babies were upset and I was upset, if I’d just sit in the rocking chair with them, take deep breaths, and love them…we’d both be asleep within minutes, happy and at peace.

  366. This is so true as many have already said. Whenever my first son would cry as an infant, I discovered, there really was a reason. I didn’t always know what it was but I knew if I took the time to figure it out, the crying would stop, peace would begin. I’m with you, I’d have taken one of the options you mentioned. Sometimes I’ve wished these things came with a manual of operation, but then again, I’d have missed out on a lot of wonderful moments.

  367. As a Mom of a 3 year old and 8 month old I just have one thing to say: Where do you grocery shop? Because I will arrange my entire life around your schedule in order to be near someone as kind and sweet and generous as yourself when I am shopping with my children! Your rant is 100% correct and I am always so disappointed when I meet other Moms and at first blush it seems like we’ll become friends, and then I find out that they let their babies cry themselves to sleep, etc. and just in general have a parenting style that I don’t agree with. Sigh. Wish there were more parents like you out there in the world! 🙂

  368. Sooooo, why didn’t she pick her up and give her some attention if that is what she is crying for? Or, is that against todays parenting rules… sounds like she thought she understood her and even then ignored her baby’s needs…I am a grandma and raised two of my own…I hate to hear a baby cry in a store and my children and grandchildren have learned from me that the baby is not happy to be here…”leave me home please”

  369. Does she have any idea how short the times are when she can simply comfort this baby by picking her up and cuddling her- I join you in your rant and applaud your generosity! Unfortunately, the person who needs to be reading this, probably will not.
    You need to take a course to get a driver’s license, but need do NOTHING to be a parent.

  370. I am sorry you had to witness that, and your rant shouldn’t even be called a rant, just a reminder of common sense and basic parenting.
    What on earth did you say next?

  371. I don’t have children. I made a conscious choice to not have children many years ago, because I can’t stand the sound of children screaming. I am not a parent. I try to avoid child-laden situations.
    Even I know that a child incapable of reaching in the direction of what it wants cannot play the drama whore. It barely understands Play, let alone its own behavior.
    If I had been the cashier for that checkout (and I was, for 4 years), I’d have found a polite way of saying “FER *bleep*SAKE LET HER HELP”
    (I transferred from the main store’s checkout to the gas station, for less pay, to get away from the screaming children ages 0-10 years old.)

  372. wow, you did open a can of worms. A lot of very strong opinions here. I’m in the camp of, it’s hard to let a stranger help, so don’t be too judgemental. I think an important point is that this woman was surrounded by strangers. We live in a society where we don’t work very hard to get to know our neighbors. This woman may have easily accepted help from someone she knew and trusted. This was a great post and what it really got me thinking was, “i’m going to go introduce myself to the new folks next door. Maybe if everyone reading this blog did that, the next time this woman had a problem in the grocery store, she wouldn’t have been faced with accepting help from a stranger.
    Sorry for the long comment, but a quick grocery store story. When my triplets were about 18 months, my husband, trips, 3 year old and 5 year old went to the grocery store. The trips had velcro wrist bands attached to an elastic cord like a leash. My husband walked the kids out ahead of my so I could pay the bill. No one was in any distress (other than my husband maybe) but the clerk checking me out said “look at that awful man, I wouldm’t treat my dog like that” Well needless to say, the supermarket manager will not forget me anytime soon. I would have liked to see anyone get five children under the age of six safely through a busy parking lot without some sort of system. I guess my point is to try not to be too judgemental. By the way, the boys are in college and no longer will alow me to put leashes on them, though they may need them more now.

  373. I didn’t read all 400-odd comments, and not that I didn’t think your rant worth responding to, but can I be the odd duck and wonder about the title of your blog?
    Worms and a can opener?
    You were buying worms at the grocery store?

  374. I’m looking for the documentation, and would love to find it, where that “only crying for attention” thing came from. From what I’ve been able to tell, it’s probably late 18th C enlightenment philosophers, picked up by later doctors…going something like this: The philosophers were thinking about thinking (they like that, me too…), and decided that since they though adults should be independant, how could they encourage that? By making children independent…independent kids would be independent adults. So, to get independent kids, they wanted independent babies. To make independent babies, well, just leave them alone, and they WILL be independent! Brilliant? Well…not so much. It doesn’t actually work. But doctors picked up on this, and started pushing it on mothers, who believed their doctors knew best….there are so many stories of a 1940s mom sitting on a chair, crying, outside the babies door, waiting for it to be 4 hours since the last feed, so that she could go in and pick up her crying baby, who hadn’t read about 18th C enlightenment!
    Horrible.
    More recent studies have shown that kids who were kept close to mom and not left to cry alone are very very attached and tended to insist on staying with mom *as infants*, when compared to babies left alone. BUT those same kids at age 6, the ones who were kept with mom as infants are more independent 6 yr olds, than the ones who were left to cry as babies.
    Needing mom constantly as an infant is an infantile behavior. If you let infants BE infants, they outgrow the need, and it *goes away*. If you don’t meet that need, it doesn’t get outgrown!
    I’m so glad you posted this, Stephanie. You have a huge readership, and more people need to hear this!!!!!
    Hey, did you know that infant bucket carseats put babies in a position that ENCOURAGES SIDS? It’s really really bad for the to be in those seats for longer than necessary, and they should *NEVER* be used out of a car? An upright baby carrier (ergo, moby wrap, baby bjorn or ring sling (with baby upright against mom’s chest) or new native sling…..NOT an “lying down in a hammock with head buried” sling) are all much much safer (and even the unsafe hammock slings have had fewer babies die than carseats!).

  375. Sometimes I truly never know where you’re going w/ a particular blog, and I, for a second thought, my what a nice person (you are! I wouldn’t have ‘interfered’) and funny no one commented, until I saw the real point of your blog. Interesting how you can say what needs to be said by such strong illustration & that plenty of people commented! I cannot top that.

  376. Attention builds neuro connections. Everytime a mother and child look into each other’s eyes and communicate, that child just created new connections in its developing brain. Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what happens to the same child’s brain when ignored, spoiled fruit is right!

  377. When my wee one was born i was told not to pick him up at the first cry because I would be spoiling him. I told those people to bugger off – crying equals “quick help me” in baby speak.

  378. Nicely put! I wish someone would have helped me with loading groceries or with my wee one when I was in the grocery store. My mom used to tell me not to pick up my wee one, that I would spoil her. I just drew a big breath and told her to mind her own business. That it is my child and not hers.
    Babies cry, it is the only way they can communicate what they need. To say that a baby is crying because they want attention is a bunch of malarky!

  379. Shortly after my son was born, 31 years ago, my parents were visiting. When my son began to make ‘I’m a wake’ noise in the other room my mother said, ‘close the door’ my father said, ‘He’s asking for you’. It’s no wonder my mother and I got along just fine if we ignored each other all our lives and why I still love and miss my father everyday of my life.

  380. I too have heard the wee one in need in a store. Even long after I was done nursing my last one, my breasts would pinch in response to *that* cry. I can feel my heart being pulled from my chest by the invisible strings instinctively attached to a baby’s cry of need. There is a difference. When in a store and I hear it I want to cry “make it stop!” or do anything I can to make it stop and make the baby content again.
    Thank you for at least offering. We can only pray that someone will intervene for that child.

  381. When my second son was born, our “new family” doctor insisted on a “feeding schedule”. We are a farm family and I stated that even cows knew to attend to their calve when they “cried”. Enough said, I switched doctors when my son was 3 days old.
    He is currently 37 days shy of 21, happy adjusted, and a peach of a child.
    Bonnie

  382. I’m impressed you controlled yourself enough not to kick her in the ankle or smack some sense into her…because really she would have deserved something like that!
    It frustrates me to watch mothers like that one! She is the reason you hear people mutter, “Some peoples kids!” when they really should say, “Some peoples mothers!”
    Here, here on the rant!

  383. I agree with you 100%. I don’t know how you ignore that kind of crying as a new mother with new-mother hormones anyway!
    I had an experience while trying to find a sitter for my daughter last year, while she was two months old, and I was discussing how this woman thought she would be interacting with my child, when I mentioned, “…she has a high need to be held.” The woman proceeded to tell me that that was “ok for now” and in no specific language led me to believe that my thoughts on raising my child were not really what was best for her, and she knew better and would get my child on a ‘schedule’. Meanwhile the whole time her daughter was plunked in front of the TV to keep her quiet and out of the way, and kept being told to go back in the bedroom when she came out. Needless to say that woman did not end up watching her!

  384. This is an excellent rant. It makes me sad to think about what the mother and child you tried to help are both missing. You know this – there is nothing like a loving relationship with a grown-up child who was given attention when little.

  385. The only comment I have to add is that, as usual, the focus is on “bad” mothers rather than the often underlying problem – the general lack of male responsibility for parenting and care. This is a major social / political issue which is usually sidelined.

  386. Oh, man I would have so loved to have you behind ME in line one day. This one so irritated me I couldn’t even finish reading it, I just knew what was coming. Maybe if we all send happy thoughts to that mis-directed mother she’ll get a clue . . .

  387. Here’s hoping that this parent is ‘wise after the fact’. I found with most parenting that I got the experience first, and the lesson later. And, I also got to ‘try again’ – usually within 20 minutes if the things I tried didn’t work.
    And at ages of 16, 14 and 10, I still go through the list: Hungry? Thirsty? Tired? Bored? etc – and it still works, try taking out children when they haven’t eaten enough, and there is no easy access to food, it is a downward spiral lived this weekend.

  388. Excellent, excellent, incredibly great post, Stephanie. I am a registered nurse and a therapeutic parenting specialist (specializing in children with attachment disorders and the like.) I thought I was going to drop my teeth when I read what she told you. God help that child…

  389. Yes ma’am…babies/children are short and they don’t have power or money. Yes, communicating starts long before the spoken word. Yes, when people ask for attention it is human to give people attention.. makes my heart ache. Thank you.

  390. Oh my goodness, what a brilliant post. My partner and I are in the process of becoming adoptive parents and one of the first things we did in the class Ontario legislates for all adoptive and foster parents was to talk about the effects of neglect on infants. Those 5 year olds in foster care or in orphanages abroad who rock themselves incessantly? No one picked them up when they were infants. No one came when they cried, no one rocked them or attended to their needs. They rock to self soothe because no one did it for them. Not soothing a crying infant now does immeasurable and long term damage to children, who then become adults with serious attachment disorders.
    Thanks for talking about this, Stephanie. I really appreciate it.

  391. AMEN! I had a horrible experience with my toddler throwing up all over a crowded doctor’s waiting room. The receptionist gave me a box of tissue and then ignored me! NO ONE in the office offered to hold the baby while I tried to clean up the mess. I vowed then that I would always offer to help a mother in distress. Sometimes they accept and sometimes they don’t. I think they worry I might kidnap their infant! As for the cry for attention, well…. My sister in law let her babies cry for hours. We didn’t. Enough said about that family dispute.

  392. Bless you, Stephanie. I’ve been there with the crying baby in the supermarket (a few days ago actually) and I would have kissed you. Yeah, sometimes I can’t pick my daughter up for a cuddle, no matter how much I want to. But a lot of times, I can. And I do.
    And to Emily at 6:19pm – bless you too.

  393. I read your blog regularly, but have never been moved to comment before today: Hurray! You couldn’t have said this better!

  394. Just a quick comment about New Moms.
    They do not get a lot of sleep.
    Lack of sleep can make you crazy. Literally.
    Being crazy, it is easy to believe that the beautiful baby that won’t stop crying is out to get you.
    Being crazy, it is hard to take help from a stranger.
    Being crazy, it is very hard to come up with a good reason not to take help.
    I’m not taking a side. Babies are wonderful, fragile little people who deserve every last shred of patience and love that we have to give them. But don’t you remember how tired you were?
    Don’t you remember experiencing some not-so straight thinking at that time? I’m not ashamed to admit that I was not capable of much straight thinking to an unexpected situation when I was a new mom.
    Makes me want to reach out and give that mom and the baby a big hug. They’re both going through a very hard time.

  395. I made my kids come over for a hug. 🙂 [um. I could have gone to them].
    I wonder if she’s not quite in her right mind (hormones, sleep deprivation, 5 week old baby). I hope she and the baby get eachother figured out sooner than later, and that she’s getting other time-outs.
    For the record, I do not accept help well. Especially when I really, really need it. I’m working on it.

  396. AMEN! (Funny that was what I planned to say, then saw the first poster said exactly that!
    I feel so, so sorry for that little thing and her future.

  397. Well, I would have been so grateful if you had made that offer to me when my babies were small so please don’t give up on offering because of this foolish lady’s wrong ideas.

  398. Excellent rant! I was in line in front of a fussing, crying 3 year in a stroller while shopping on Saturday and the mother finally decided to respond to the child!

  399. A few months ago, I was having a terrible week – everything was going wrong. I finally HAD to go to the grocery store – so I loaded up all 4 kids into the car, including my needy newborn. When he started to scream in the sling while I was unloading the groceries onto the belt, I was ready to sit down in the checkout and cry. A kind woman stepped out of the line next to me and offered to do the same thing you did. I could not thank the woman enough. That act of kindness is one I won’t forget anytime soon. Keep asking Stephanie, there are tired moms out there who would be grateful for some to restore their faith in humanity!!!

  400. Some kid is going to grow up really messed up, all because he/she had the misfortune of being born to this woman. Some people have no right to be parents. That is MY rant.

  401. I have a 1 yr old and a 3 yr old. If anyone had ever offered to help me while I tried to figure out how to do 50 things at once, I would have been overwhelmed with appreciation. If someone had said I’ve been where you are, and offered me a hand I probably would have cried with thanks that someone recognized my need. To have babies is a privilege and a blessing. To ignore your sweet, new, dependant child is a crime. Your job as a parent is to comfort and provide care, not to ignore or assume your new baby is manipulating you. Really? If you aren’t going to nurture and respond to your sweet bundle, move over… I will!

  402. Hi Steph,
    Maybe what she was really saying was, “I don’t know you, Stranger, so I am not comfortable taking you up on your offer right now.” Since she couldn’t say that just like that without feeling very vulnerable, she chose another way to brush you off, one that left her totally guarded and protected.
    We can hope. For the kid’s sake.
    Julie

  403. I want to cry for that poor babe.
    Thank you for writing this.
    Yes,
    and yes.
    To all that you said.
    Also, you are awesome.

  404. Amen Stephanie.
    I like to remind folks that babies that age can’t distinguish between needs and wants. If you can’t do that, you can’t be manipulating your parent.

  405. I completely agree.
    They’re were many times (I have 6 children) that I held a fussy baby in one arm (or in a sling with one hand on the baby) and loaded the groceries one handed (I’ve even been known to sit myself on the floor of the diaper isle and nurse the baby before getting in the checkout line so we all don’t have to listen to a screaming infant while checking out!)

  406. If I didn’t already love you, I totally would now.
    I have 4 kids 5 and under, and if someone had made that offer to me I would have taken it in a heartbeat with profound thanks.
    THANK YOU, for being willing to help out a mom, even if she was too out of it to figure out that the kid needed her.

  407. I’ve asked this before (most notably after your “carrot soup splattered all over the microwave” and “death threats make the baby Jesus cry Christmas concert” posts), but it bears repeating — so, when’s your parenting book coming out??

  408. That’s a rant worth sharing. Many years ago, my cousin’s baby (a wee one, too) was crying hysterically. My cousin’s response was the same as the lady’s. My mom, visibly aghast, said that you either pick her or I will. I still get dumbfounded that people think a 5-week baby is crying for attention. Even saying it sounds ludicrous.

  409. Amen.
    My worst moment was driving home with a newborn and a toddler from a friend’s house where I’d gone to borrow clothes for a funeral the next day (because I was still too enormous to fit into my own funeral suitable clothes). Baby was miserable in carseat and I’d already stopped several times to try and make him happy and comfy but he was having none of it. It was already dark and past the toddler’s dinner time and we were still forever away from home and I finally told her I was going to have to just drive or we’d take a very long time to get her home and fed and comfortable. Says the 3 yr old, “I understand momma but it hurts my heart to hear him cry like that.” Me too, baby, me too.

  410. Dr. Sears said in one of his books: a good baby is one who lets you know when it needs something. he meant that the baby who cries is doing its job, and not the one who doesn’t cry- it’s not making its needs known. but of course, then the parent has to do their part! vicki in portland

  411. Please don’t stop offering. One mom’s reaction isn’t every mom’s reaction and some day not only will you save the mom, you’ll save the little one that she is at the end of her witts with. And just that moment of compasion will be what makes the two of them ok for another day.

  412. Thanks for your post. I have a 7-year old daughter. Since the moment she was born, the whole world told me to train her to be independent (e.g. let her cry). I always respond to her cries, fuss, calls, hollers, yells and now back-talks. She and I have an incredible bond. I don’t think we have that bond had I followed advises and ignored her.

  413. I am always deeply touched when a stranger offers to help me care for my children. My husband and I do not have family to help us out and so what little help we get usually comes in the form of a stranger helping with a door or a market bag. Each time it happens I cherish the moment. It makes me feel less alone. Sometimes just a little bit of kindness can mean the world to someone else.

  414. Ah, the poor little dote. I can not listen to my daughter cry for 30 seconds, never mind that long! I would have happily taken you up on the groceries offer if it had been me.

  415. This reminded me of the time when one of the women who works in our local supermarket gave up her break to pack my shopping for me when my son was crying. What a lovely lady. Keep offering. It is appreciated.

  416. Well said! I have no patience for that attitude. My SIL says it all the time. All I can say is that when my one year old (very outgoing) child is in search of attentions from those other than myself, she does not scream, she instead has opted for playing shy which never lasts long. 😉

  417. About that village thing – what a great village we knitters make! All the various thoughts and comments here. Just remarkable.
    I just was thinking about what might have turned the tide in this situation, and I was reminded of a line from an original Star Trek episode – something about the measure of a person (or a civilization) being the ability to meet a problem with the words “Let me help”. It definitely would be a great thing if these words were offered more (as you did) and were able to be accepted.
    Meanwhile, knit on, of course.

  418. Well of course she is screaming for attention! Her survival depends on attention of adults for goodness sake.
    Where are we? XIX century? They used to interpret this kind of thing as power struggle – the newborn was to know, who is in charge. I remember one midwife, telling, that one of XIX century books (written by a man, of course) advised to “teach” the baby by letting cry, and not bothering, even if the said baby cries so hard s/he vomits. Lovely times…
    I really appreciate living in Ireland in this aspect – they never advise you be to be “tough” “teach a lesson” or another nonsense like this.
    What you did was so very right. Don’t get discouraged.

  419. Man, do I wish you had been behind me in the grocery store for the entire year of 2008. After my experiences, I always offer help to a frustrated mommy. Sometimes I get disagreeable responses like that, too, but a lot of mothers are just grateful to know there is someone that isn’t giving them the hairy eyeball for having a vocal kiddo.

  420. To paraphrase Keanu Reeves in the movie “Parenthood”, “You have to have a license to drive a car,get a dog, and drink but any butthead can become a parent without one!” Sad but true….

  421. Years ago I was on the Blue Line headed home from work, and a woman and a loudly fretful, very young, toddler, got aboard. The train was packed, and they had to stand, but after several helpful people moved this way and that I was able to stand up and let the little boy sit down. That wasn’t what he wanted. I’ve no idea how bad his day might have been, but he wanted was for Mommy to sit down so he could climb up on her lap and be comforted. It wasn’t just the mother who thanked me. It was the whole carload of people.

  422. That poor baby is going to grow up with a Mother that thinks her child is being manipulitave since infancy. I feel so sorry for the little one. I feel sorry for the Mom too, she won’t get to experience true closeness with her child.

  423. Some parents are unbelievable. I wish I could carry business cards around with the name/number of a parenting support group/babywearing group/LC…and give them to strangers, but I’m not that bold.
    I’m wondering though, WHAT DID you say to her?

  424. I NEVER post comments on blogs I read but today I just HAVE to!! You are so right and I agree with you 100 percent! I feel so sad for tiny little helpless babies whose mothers think that they will spoil them if they pick them up and cuddle them too much!! They are helpless tiny things that need to be picked up and cuddled. Thank you for your RANT! And bless your heart for offering to help that mother even if she didn’t think she needed it!

  425. I wore my babies while I did the grocery shopping, because as you say, I only had two hands. I nursed them through the checkout line. I wore one every week while I brought the bags up the stairs and into the house–that was a workout–because he hated the car so much, I couldn’t leave him in there another second. I can’t stand it when my babies cry.
    However. That said. Remember your post not too long ago about judging mothers? Maybe, just maybe, that mother’s first reaction to your kindly meant offer to help was of feeling judged. It took me a long time to not feel judged right away, but to take offers of help in the spirit in which they are *probably* (but not always) made–helpful, not judgmental. Maybe she doesn’t really believe that about babies, but she felt cornered and that’s what popped out. We don’t know. Maybe she just wanted to get the hell out of there as quickly as possible and away from everybody who was watching her baby cry. We. Don’t. Know. What I do know, from experience, is that if you’re out with a crying baby, you feel judged. If you’re out with a baby, you feel judged. I once got scolded for going grocery shopping with a new baby when it was cold out. Said baby was sleeping happily in the sling, nestled up against me, and of course, the grocery store was heated. Mothers (as you know from experience, since you’ve blogged about it) usually feel like we just can’t win. So forgive her for responding in a way that you wouldn’t. You don’t know what was going through her mind.

  426. That was sweet of you. I’m going to try that next time I’m in that situation. I recently saw something on the Discovery Channel (everyone’s favourite channel – no?) about the human body – starting with babies. This is the fun fact I learned. The Grocery store is the equivilant of pure hell for babies. Because their senses are super keen they can smell each individual fruit/veggie/stinky cheese and meat in the place, the lights are too bright, and when they get to the checkout they have to listen to the scanner beep, beep, beep in their ears which is usually thoughtfully placed at the exact same hieght as their carseats in the cart. It’s just hell. So I’m going to give new mom a little benefit of the doubt (VERY LITTLE – because really who says that?) and guess that she has not seen said show on Discovery and instead experiences a crying baby every single time she’s in the grocery store or other public place and in her overtired mind has equated over sensitized baby with “Baby obnoxiously seeks attention in public”
    Good rant though – And congratulations for restraining yourself and not kidnapping her baby – or decking her.

  427. I’m sure it’s already been said, but the irony, oh the irony! She’s just screaming for attention? Yes, yes she is! Attention to feed her, change a wet diaper, give her a hug (grocery stores are scary), help her sleep, etc. Of course, the connotation of the woman was different, but the point is, babies cry to get you to pay attention!

  428. I’ve never had a baby, and haven’t spent a lot of time with them since the Christmas With Newborn Twins (oh my, I felt for the mother, but there was little that we could do for her in the middle of the night…)…but anyway, I totally agree. All of those books that tell you to train babies to a specific feeding schedule by ignoring them never made a lot of sense to me. Lord knows how many eating disorders that produced…

  429. I learned that lesson the hard way with my firstborn. When she wouldn’t sleep for more than 40 minutes at a time, I was told to “let her cry it out”, and that if I caved and went in and soother her, I was “letting her win”.
    After 2 hours of screaming, I couldn’t take it anymore, and I was probably crying more than her at that point. Never again did I let my babies cry after that day.
    By soothing your baby, this is what you’re saying: Kid, I will ABSOLUTELY be there for you, I will respond to your needs. I will pick you up, soothe you, then put you down again, and repeat as often as it takes for you to understand that there’s nothing to fear, your needs will ALWAYS be met.
    It worked like a charm, and we’re the better for it.

  430. I am so sorry for that Mom. I am sorry for the baby too (obviously, poor tyke) but Mom…she will be missing some really important things and never know why.

  431. Ok I am #570…..but well said. I wish you were behind me inthe check-out when this happened to me. Now the boys are 9 ans 4 ans they still need to be picked up 🙂 (and the husband too)

  432. Here. Here. Sadly, this new mum has learned not to trust her own instincts and she will be missing that renaissance of love for love’s sake that only a child can bring into one’s life.

  433. Sadly, this new mum has learned not to trust her own instincts and she will be missing that renaissance of love for love’s sake that only a child can bring into one’s life.

  434. My two daughters are from China. From my older one, I learned what happens when a baby’s cries are ignored. From my younger one, I learned what happens when a toddler’s every whim and fancy is granted. I can only wish that I had been there when my kids were babies!

  435. I have a 22 month old and a 6 month old (both girls). I have had to stop what I was doing in the grocery store to calm my kids down a few times. You are a wonderful person to offer to help. I have luckily been the recipient of a persons offer to help when I really needed it in the check out lane. I hope this mom figures it out soon. It broke my heart to read that. It makes me want to pick up my girls and give them each some special one on one time right now, just to show them I love them!

  436. I was once that new mom with the screaming baby in the checkout and an acquaintance from church came right over and stepped in just as you were willing to do. I was always grateful for her kindness in that moment.

  437. I had a similar thing happen on a plane recently. Same thing w/a miserable baby crying for most of the flight (and it was a hideous flight; I felt like crying too). Of course that’s not the most pleasant thing for anyone, but I did feel for the mother and her baby. When we landed, the woman next to me pulled out her cell and said (loudly) to whoever she was talking to that she just landed and the flight was horrible because “the woman ahead of me couldn’t control her baby.” I know the mother w/the baby heard, and I was just speechless.

  438. Wow – I get being overwhelmed, I get being stressed, I get being a mom in a store with a crying baby (I’ve got two under the age of 4). I get all of that.
    I don’t get comments like this – of course the baby wants attention, that’s what babies need. They absolutely need attention to become loving, caring human beings.
    I’m with you on this rant. I wanted to cry.

  439. Reading this post made me cry. My little guy had colic. Bad. About 12-14 hours a day of screaming. For FIVE MONTHS. Some of it in the grocery store, some while I showered or ate, some in the middle of the night… And every time EVERY TIME my heart broke for him. And if some nice lady with curly hair offered to hold him or my groceries at any point during those 5 months – I may have offered to pay for your groceries, and rent and car payment for the month. I lived for the community Nurse’s visits every week. And I lost about 45 pounds in a month.
    The only way I got through that period was because of other understanding human beings offering to help.
    I now count you as among one of them.

  440. um…so what did you SAY to her?!? Anything, or did you just subside into nonresponsive incredulity???!? (Question: does it count as a ‘teachable moment’ when the potential student is clueless that there’s something to be learned?? The anguishingly frustrating answer is: usually not). Sigh.
    Thanks for sharing your caring with us, to remind and encourage the rest of us to at least make a try at supporting in similar situations =)

  441. I had a screamer. I couldn’t even take her into a grocery store because she hated it. I feel for the moms of the squallers. Now she is a jazz singer, drummer and trumpet player. Still loud.
    If only the wee one could express herself as well as you do. You are a baby expert, afterall.
    The next opportunity I have, I will be unloading some mommy’s groceries.

  442. Stephanie, I adore your rants (even though that is not a suitable word for such a cogent argument). It also makes me smile, because that is exactly the type of thing my mom would have done. Thanks again for the blog, and glimpses into your life (knitting and otherwise).

  443. Wow. I’m surprised a mom like that just doesn’t put a pillow over the little things face to “teach her a lesson”. Poor kid….

  444. I can’t thank you enough for making the world a more humane place.
    Oh, and I just love that you say “wee bairn.”

  445. This post came just at the right time! My sister just had a baby and is doing everything the not-Heather way, like keeping the baby in a cage (sister calls it a “crib”. Tomato to-mah-to) and letting the baby “cry it out”. I was so frustrated and I feel better knowing I’m not the only one who cringes when these things happen. Thanks for reminding me to just keep being supportive and cuddle the wee little bug whenever they’re not looking.

  446. If I remember one piece of advice from my first pregnancy, it is “you can’t spoil a baby by giving it too much attention.” Apparently this mother never heard this, or never believed it. The mind boggles.

  447. Oh, that’s so sad.
    I want to give the lady the benefit of the doubt. My usually very sunny-tempered boy would sometimes just go off on a screaming fit that NOTHING would help, not being held, not being fed, nothing. (Turned out it was being sleepy, and he hated being sleepy. It took us several months to figure that out, because it didn’t happen all the time.) I seem to recall having someone offer me help at the time, and I think I said ‘I would love the help but I’m not sure anything I can do can make him stop screaming.’
    Perhaps she was just too exhausted and freaked out from having a kid that wouldn’t soothe to word her distress properly. (Then again, in her shoes, I would have handed him over temporarily to anyone who might think they could soothe him.)

  448. As a mother of a 19 year old screaming babies are far behind me. However, when I’m in the store I can still tell the difference of a child’s screams. Just last week I was in Target with my Fiance and I told him that the child in the cart heading our way (down the main aisle – we were in a side aisle and couldn’t see her yet) was screaming just because she could. As the child and parent passed we both looked and I was right. The child was screaming at the top of her lungs (about 3-4 years old) just because she could and the person pushing the cart was ignoring it and not saying anything to the child.
    That is probably my biggest pet peeve. I want to turn to the adult and say “Excuse me, could you pay attention to your child?”
    I too was told “don’t pick up the child every time it makes noise” and “let them cry it out, it’s good for thier lungs”. And I ignored it every time! A crying child gets on my last nerve in a nanosecond. My answer to those people was always “I’m her Mother. I’ll do what I feel is best.”
    My daughter is a teenager in college with two jobs. She doesn’t seem the worse for wear for me attending to her needs.

  449. I didn’t think it was possible for me to love you any more then I already did, but holy cow.
    You are so right. And you rock for pointing it out.

  450. About a year ago, I was in this situation. My newborn daughter was getting fussy in the grocery store and I had my wrap with me if she was no longer willing to stay in the baby seat cart thing, but I thought she would make it for a few more minutes. As soon as we got into the checkout line, she broke down and started to cry. I loaded my groceries on the belt one-handed but was going to have to put her down to cry to bag up my groceries or hold up the line to put her in her baby carrier.
    The woman in line in front of me saw the problem and offered to bag my groceries for me and I almost cried with relief! She was the hero of my whole week and I was so grateful for her three minutes of help. I thanked her and said that she must have kids of her own – four, she told me. That’s a mom who has been there! Thanks for offering to help, Stephanie. Some of us do appreciate it!

  451. I love that last line……I never had anyone tell me not to “spoil” my baby, but if my daughter ever has children, I will pass this on to her.
    Who made up the line that if you pick up your baby you will spoil them? (was that a man???). Carrying a baby ensures security and maybe that baby/child/teen will not look to others for that security when they get older!

  452. I think that any of the reasons posited for her response COULD be correct.
    That being said, I implore you to continue to offer – there are mommas out there who will be eternally grateful for your help.
    I am a mom of three (8,6,nearly 3)but I travel for business without them from time to time. When I see moms traveling – especially moms traveling solo with multiple children, I know how completely stressed out it would have made me. And, since I’m missing my little ones, it’s nice to have a little “kid fix.”
    I have offered to assist a mom traveling with three young kids (oldest was 4, I think) in navigating security with the stroller and all the attendant baggage – she called me her “angel.” I have sat next to the mom of an infant and let him hold my finger while I read and rub my (lovely, silky, brightly colored) sleeve with his toes while he nursed, until he fell asleep. And I totally didn’t mind sitting next to a mother who was (gasp!) NURSING A BABY WITH HER BREAST!!!!! (Although we’ve all heard people complain about that . . .totally a separate rant topic). At first I think she thought I was “just being polite” when I told her there was nothing her baby could do to annoy me on this flight, since I have three of my own – but I really meant it (in fact, when I’m not responsible for their behavior or worried about the angry looks being cast in my direction, all manner of screaming and crying can be endured without stress!), and we all settled in nicely – and that little guy did not cry ONCE. She too thanked me profusely.
    So – just keep offering – and hopefully that mom will find her way through whatever kept her from accepting your offer this time.

  453. I mentioned to someone recently that I was tired because the “baby” (okay, he’s almost 20 months, but that’s still a BABY, dammit) had been up at 3 AM the night before. The person said, “you just have to let them cry.” I said “No, I don’t, and actually, it’s incredibly cruel to let them cry. He can’t just say “hey mom, I’m wet”, or “hey, mom, this sleeper itches me” or “mommy, I need you right now”. He has to rely on me to just give him what he needs.” I don’t think that person was ready for my answer. Usually I get people responding with comments like “well, I let my kids cry and they are fine.” Great. I am not letting my kids cry and they are also fine. Fine and they know that I’m there for them when they are scared, lonely, wet, itchy, hungry or just need mommy.

  454. As always—so well said. Just love you, girl.(Also just wanted you to know that my HUSBAND is very disappointed when there is a day with no YH post…who knew???)
    I ache for wee ones in strollers or being dragged along by a parent who today are so engrossed in a cell phone conversation that there is no communication with the child…..a bonding or educating opportunity missed because people apparently can’t live for a moment without a cell phone….a sad commentary on life today.

  455. I honestly did try to read all the comments, but I am wondering if I’m the only one surprised that someone took a four week old baby to the grocery store. I thought we were all taught to keep them home and germ-free (ha!) for at least a month before introducing them to other people or places. Makes me wonder if she didn’t have a choice.
    We should all keep trying to help. My husband doesn’t help nearly enough at home, but he does tell me when he’s nice to a mother of a squalling baby on a plane, or at the airport. I guess helping someone is better than helping no-one.
    My wish is that when someone sees me alone with my four kids and feels compelled to remark “your hands sure are full,” they could go on to lend me one of theirs as I’m struggling to open a door.
    Tell it, Steph. Keep telling it.

  456. When babysitting, I couldn’t find the toy the 18-month-old wanted, he wouldn’t stop crying, and when I picked him up to calm him down, he threw up all over me…I’m not going anywhere near a screaming baby!

  457. Attention??? Yeah, she needs attention. She isn’t doing it because she is bad….she’s just a baby. It’s so sad she wouldn’t let you help.

  458. “Babies are like fruit. They only spoil when you ignore them.”
    You captured it perfectly once again.
    When mine were little, I could tell the difference (well after a couple weeks of learning some baby language with my fist-born) between the “hey, this is a cool noise” and “something is WRONG” very quickly. The second kind seemed to have a direct connection to my central nervous system — “Must see to baby NOW.”
    I’m glad you offered the help.

  459. How many times have I wished for someone kind enough to come along with an offer like that! Instead I’ve been the one to ditch the full cart in the aisle because I could not do it alone. That woman’s response makes me cringe.

  460. Well you are exceptionnally concise today. My rant would have been thrice this length. at least.
    Only now I smile just a little bit imagining your face when this badly-informed person answered to you like that.
    I must say I have had a dreadful lot of people trying to explain to me why I should let my babies cry until they “understand”. That’s usually the same persons who explains I should weight my (undoubtably healthy) baby every day, if not many times a day. Or they ask if the baby is not hungry right after breastfeeding (do you have enough milk? your baby’s hands are a little bit cold, she is cold and need a woolen hat and mittens in july…) and so on.
    But you know this as well as I do. And a comment ought really stay smaller than the post it is commenting. So enough for today. You have my sympathy (and my admiration for your courage)

  461. Man. Ditto the feeling that ‘being a new mum and horribly sleepless makes you completely crazy,’ and ditto that I am happy to have moved into the ‘understanding arms at the grocery store’ category.

  462. Oh you are so right! I can remember running through the grocery store, throwing things into the cart with a screaming baby 🙁 Only to get home with nothing to make a meal with LOL! I would have kissed you if you had been there to offer me a hand.

  463. I appreciate your sentiments, but it’s painful to read the comments on this post, as many of your readers tear into this woman like jackals. Based on one comment — which, as others have said, might have come out of embarrassment, or fear, or PPD, or sleep deprivation, or one second of not being the Perfect Mom(TM) — this woman is roundly condemned. And I guarantee that every mother reading this has been judged as harshly by another woman.
    Your message is still a very valuable one, but generosity of spirit extends beyond offering a helping hand to someone who may not be willing to accept one. It also includes not judging that person harshly based on one throw-away line.

  464. My first child was a calm happy baby. With parents, older siblings & grandparents nearby, the littlest noise of discomfort was attended quickly. The child never yelled or screamed …until…
    One day when he was sitting up well, so 6 months or older, I walked in on a happy scene. His older sisters were teaching him to scream. The louder he yelled, the more they giggled & yelled back & praised him. Our house was never the same.
    They say you can’t choose your relatives. I chose those little girls along with their daddy & see how they rewarded me? Turned my quiet boy into a screaming giggling noisy kid.

  465. I was linked here by a post on a babywearing group I’m a member of, and I just wanted to commend you, as others have done, for your kind offer. I still remember when I was out getting treats for Christmas at a local European foods shop with my 10-week-old daughter; the lady working there kindly let me use the not-public restroom, and another sweet lady working in the back held my daughter for me, since I was not yet practiced enough to juggle baby and pants at the same time. Little kindnesses like that are huge to a new mom.

  466. Stef.. when will we finally be able to read your book on parenting insights?… I think you’re due to write one!… just trow in a booty pattern or hat pattern and you can cover two groups…
    giggle…
    btw, if you have a chance, send me an e-mail.. need to connect you with a friend at the Bata shoe museum re some work opportunity for you…

  467. I posted earlier, before I’d read many comments. I have to add that this short incident does not make her a bad or neglectful mother.
    If this is her first, she’s still learning and her baby is still teaching.
    If she hasn’t slept (and or course, she hasn’t), she can barely be responsible to get there and back again.
    She could be depressed (see right above), AND needing sleep.
    She may have NO idea what to do.
    She may not be comfortable with any help from even the best and kindest of strangers.
    And she could be like me, who knew all about attachment, claimed to practice it, but not know until my wee one was four years old (!) that she was simply reflecting my own feelings. That changed everything!
    However, thank you so much for taking the opportunity to rant. All you said: wonderful! You should write that parenting book!
    As you can see, I’m always looking for the other explanation. There’s always another side to a story, not stated nor implied.
    Another amazing reason the blog so loves you!

  468. amen, sista. I am often worried by people’s seeming inability to think outside of their own, skull-sized universes. Perhaps a bit of empathy? Maybe? No? Well, ok then.

  469. Nothing makes me sadder than to see a crying baby (or toddler, or pre-schooler…) who is being flat-out IGNORED by their care giver. I have had to actually leave the store because of this.
    I do hope this mother has someone in her life who can teach her what babies really need and are capable of. It can make such a difference!

  470. Hi, Stephanie! As a long-time La Leche League leader, I have absorbed many of the wise life lessons of that group, as you seem to have, also. This idea of answering baby’s needs is one of the closest to my heart (best place for my babies, too). Your message about the spoiled fruit echoes that of LLL leader Marion Blackshear found on page 70 of the 7th edition of LLL’s The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding: “When you think of a piece of fruit as spoiled, you think of it as bruised, left on the shelf to rot, handled roughly, neglected. But meeting needs, giving lots of loving care, handling gently, is not spoiling. I could carry this one step further and say that a piece of fruit is at its best when left to ripen on the tree, its source of nourishment–and a baby is at his best when held close to his source of physical and emotional nourishment–his mother.” Kudos to you for offering support to this beleaguered mom and baby pair. I hope she is finding support which she feels free to accept elsewhere in her life.

  471. And here I was thinking I couldn’t possibly love you any more than I already do. Boy, was I wrong. 🙂

  472. Oh the poor baby. She was definitely screaming for attention. It is heart breaking that she wasn’t GETTING attention.

  473. Eh gads, how did you keep composure?
    My sis’s sister/bro-in law employ the “let the kid scream themselves silly until they stop” tactic refusing anyone to comfort and pick the babe up.
    Pitiful, really.

  474. I often play peek-a-boo with babies over 4 months who are crying in stores, and have been known to sing lullabies in German to bellowing younger ones. Then there are the face games: push your nose, extrude tongue, pull on ears to make your tongue move from side to side, pull on throat to make tongue go back in. I also generally have a spindle in tow to entertain obstreperous toddlers. I have often thought of carrying simple crocheted finger puppets in my purse. This post may prompt me to finally get them made.
    My standard offer to new mothers of my acquaintance is that they have carte blanche to phone me in the middle of the night, and I will talk them through an hour or two of screaming newborn, offering tips for soothing, or at least giving them a few laughs through my banter to enable them to relax enough to continue coping with the needs of this new entity in their life. I am also the sort who will begin unloading a cart with a smile without asking first. People are generally so shocked that they don’t resist.
    That being said, I am also the sort who will tell life stories and lessons learned to store clerks, which used to appall my children.

  475. I’ll never forget when I was in a store snuggling my 4 month old because she was fussing and some horrible woman telling me “wow, she’s spoiled, isn’t she?” ARGH!!! She’s now 13, beautiful, brilliant, athletic and confident. Take that mean old woman! I’ve never posted a comment on someone’s blog, but this one spoke to me! A loved and nurtured baby becomes a strong confident young adult. My two teenagers are proof positive.

  476. You are so right about this! I am also the mother of 3 girls, two of which are successful, confident adults (the other one is only 10.) I feel so sorry for this baby, and others in the same boat, having a parent who is an incompetent idiot. I pray that the other parent gives the child the attention it deserves. My best friend and I are always lamenting about the parenting going on today. She is also the mother of 3 wonderful girls! Love you blog, thanks.

  477. Wow there are a lot of comments on this one!
    I agree, with everything. But I need to add one little thought (no I didn’t read through all the comments to see if this was brought up). I have been a new mother and while I am in no way saying that letting your little one cry all throughout the store and not comforting them when you can is right, sometimes a new mom just doesn’t know any better. Yes they should, but sometimes they don’t. The new mothers mother, aunts, friends, cousin and, grandmothers are a powerful influence on new mothers. These influences can skew a mothers thinking especially when they are vulnerable and inexperienced. She may have been under the mistaken idea that all that crying is normal, maybe she had just changed and fed baby and couldn’t figure out why in the world baby would be upset so her grandmothers ‘voice’ comes out with the only explanation she can muster up.
    It can be confusing being a new parent. Lots of voices, not always giving you GOOD advice.
    Just a thought.

  478. Wow. If I had a baby and a total stranger did such a kind thing as you did, I would totally take you up on it and probably cry. The world needs more nice people like you.
    I remember learning about the stages of human development in psychology class, and the very first one (I don’t remember names, or which theory) involves learning that there is someone who will meet your needs. If you cry and your parents come, you will feel comforted and well-adjusted. If they don’t come (not once obviously, I mean if they frequently ignore you) this can cause all sorts of problems down the line because right from the beginning you learn that you are all alone.
    I really hope she was just having a horrible day and when she got home she felt like an idiot for saying that to you, and rocked her baby.

  479. Babies can NOT be spoiled by love, snuggles or lots and lots of attention and speaking as the mother of almost full grown children, all I can say is, that mother is really, REALLY going to regret missing one more opportunity to love up her baby.

  480. That is so silly. It is impossible to spoil a new baby. And you can never hold a new baby enough…

  481. I just want to say two things.
    1) I don’t know you, but I love you, anyway.
    2) I had a woman make an offer very similar to yours. My son was a little older, but he was having a really rough time. I won’t go into details, but my marriage was failing, we were very broke, and my health wasn’t great (I had a migraine during that shopping trip) and we were out of food. I was stressed, with a capital “S”, and all the other letters, too. That woman helping me with my shopping basket is one of the only positive memories I have of that time. Her offer came at just the right moment, in just the right way, to turn around my whole week. I’m SO glad you made the offer to this mom, even if it didn’t turn out well. Having been on the receiving end, I know just how huge it is. I don’t know if I even thanked her (I think I did, but I was a major mess), so I’ll thank you, by proxy.
    THANK YOU.

  482. Having just spent an hour and a half reading the comments… I’m amazed nobody else (including you) brought up the story about running up and down the stairs for hours because that was the only thing that helped the baby stop crying! When you wrote that, it was long before my son was born, but it left a deep impression.
    Your blog IS my parenting book. (not my only one, but the funniest) You have no idea how many times I have wished for your presence at a playgroup or other gathering of new moms. Fortunately we seem to do ok at the grocery store (going before 8 am helps).
    When you spoke at our bookstore I was too shy to ask why you stopped being a doula/LC (if you have, that is. If you haven’t stopped, why’d you stop mentioning it on your blog?) You seem absolutely perfect for the job.
    As for the commenters bashing car seats in the cart — some babies are equally happy being right up where they get lots of eye contact and silly smiles from Mom. If you’ve never tried to put on a Moby wrap in a parking lot full of “road snot” in a New England winter, try it. You may see the heavy car seat in a new light.

  483. First I’m at work and cannot read all the comments.
    Second, you are extraordinarily kind human to extend that kind of offer to what could have been a harried mother.
    Third, I am extremely hesitant to bash this mother, because I do not know her and her baby’s “story”. There may be a sub-story here, illness, disability, etc., that I cannot, nor want to imagine, and it may have been an appropriate response. Things aren’t always what they appear to be. Just sayin’.

  484. I’m late to add to this trail… sorry, I had to digest it.
    During my last pregnancy (a LONG time ago) while grocery shopping with my then youngest (he’s 22 months older than his baby sister) it was very difficult to pick things up off the lower grocery shelves to put in the cart (and this was before straps to keep kids in the seats & I always felt I had to keep an eye the little rascal)… what a blessing it was when someone would offer to help put something in the cart- or, help me unload it at the counter. I can’t imagine turning down help & I try to help when I see others in similar situations.
    I hope this poor Mama and Baby got to spend some major snuggle time after the shopping trip.
    Thank you for trying!

  485. I agree with you. Seems all the young mothers do this now, including letting the babies cry in the middle of the night. I tried to explain to my neice she was teaching her baby no one cared about him. Now he screams for attention. The whole thing makes me cry.

  486. In a land of the “cry-it-out” method, you help remind me that what I’m doing with my son is right. It never felt right to let him cry.
    I’d like to share your “Babies are like fruit”

  487. Your post (and all those lovely comments) made me cry! I agree 100%. Like so many others, people are always telling me to let my (non-“sleeping-through-the-night” at 19 mo.) baby cry herself to sleep. I’m so happy we never did that. Her sweet, happy personality, confidence, and bright mind just wouldn’t be the same if she didn’t trust us to help her when she needed us.

  488. Ok. You must write an article for Mothering Magazine. This would fit right in there! I had my first child 9 months ago (oh, where has the time gone?) and have had to navigate all those people telling me that I am creating bad habits in co-sleeping and holding my child when he needs a cuddle (now less than before as he is crawling like mad!) I have so often gone back to read Mothering for affirmation after a relative tells me I am doing things wrong and that I need to make my son independent. I so wish I had all the write words for telling people that I loving my child in the best way possible. Perhaps I will for my next child.

  489. If someone had called my baby a ‘bairn’ I would have been so enamored, I would have asked them to come home with me, too, so I could shower! I remember those days. I think we are so concerned about raising independent young people, we forget there are stages to this.

  490. You’re awesome. Let’s hope lack of sleep was infringing the mother’s judgment and she’ll be over it very soon.

  491. Totally brings back the day I was stuck in the bathroom of an enormous store with my Sweetie off in it somewhere and me with both infant twins (maybe 6 months?).
    One really *Really* needed a diaper change, and you can’t leave them all naked and squirming on the changing table, but the other was screaming and being ignored. A woman walked over and offered to help, and I practically threw my baby into her arms.
    She looked a little shocked, actually, but damn, was I grateful.
    I completely agree with your rant.

  492. I am late to the party on this post but: SING IT, SISTER!
    I am not as nice as you and don’t often offer help (since I often have my 4-year-old and the challenges that go along with him) but often wish fervently that someone would just pick that baby up!

  493. Um.
    Some babies just scream. Some babies scream though you feed them, make sure they’re dry, clean, not-too-warm-and-not-too-cold, etc., etc., and, well, picking them up surely makes no difference at all.
    Some babies scream no matter how many things you try, and no matter how many people you ask (or books you read) to help you with suggestions, tips, whatever.
    One of my friends, who had a baby of the same age, said “He cries if I don’t hold him all the time!” and all I could think was “Wow, all you have to do is hold him and he’s ok? You are lucky!”
    (We had, of course, consulted the pediatrician, whose response was a breezy “yes, it’s hard, isn’t it?” on her way out of the room…..)
    That said, my response to you would have been “Thank you! Yes, please, pick her up and do your best, and if you know how to make her stop, I will worship you for the rest of my days.”
    In the end, we were lucky — when she got big enough to move around and find things to do, All By Herself, she became the easiest and most charming baby anyone knew, and she grew up to be a wonderful and intelligent young woman.
    But those early months. Aieeeee………..

  494. I’m a new mom of a 10-month-old baby boy, and reading about that woman’s behavior made me so sad. How I’d love it if someone offered to help me with my groceries when my son was so young!
    I agreed with your entire rant. The world needs more people — and moms — like you.

  495. I have done enough babysitting to know how tiring it can be to deal with little kids even for just a few hours, so I do my best to be sympathetic toward harried parents (except when they intentionally take their too-young-to-appreciate-it and too-young-to-be-up-so-late little ones to inappropriate places (R-rated films being a prime example!)). I also try to help distract babies when their parents need the help (I inherited the “Make babies smile” ability from my mom).
    The best time I helped someone out? My best girlfriend and I were flying to Boston for a science fiction convention. Our flight left crazy early in the morning, so we got through security with nearly an hour to spare. We were sitting at the gate when a lovely young Orthodox Jewish mom and her three adorable kids came into the area. Mom was prepared, with breakfast cereal and milk for the older two (a boy of 5 and a girl of 3), a bottle for the baby boy in his stroller, and books/toys for all. The older kids were in their pajamas.
    The kids were quiet and very well-behaved. After breakfast, Mom ushered them all to the ladies’ room. A few minutes later, I went there myself. When I was finished, Mom was changing Baby’s diaper and looking harried because she was trying to keep her eyes on the older ones while keeping squirmy Baby from falling off the fold-down table. Little Boy was doing fine, changing his own PJs for daywear (so cute–yarmulke off, PJ top over head, yarmulke on. Yarmulke off, T-shirt over head, yarmulke on), but Little Girl was struggling and caught up in her own PJ top.
    I asked Mom if I could help with dressing Little Girl, and she just beamed at me when she said, “Yes, thanks so much” and told LG it was okay. I got her all dressed, tied her shoes, and helped her comb her hair. Mom explained that they were moving, and her husband had gone to Boston ahead of them. I told her how nice her kids seemed and how cool it was that she was so well prepared with the food and with letting the kids stay in PJs while they woke up. My dad used to say my mom could plan Hannibal’s trip across the Alps, so I respect good preparation.
    I probably don’t even need to mention that we never heard a peep from those kids on our flight. They were entertained with their books, they were fed and happy, and Mom generally had it all together.

  496. Oh wow….this wee little baby needed something, only being 4 or 5 weeks…..hello help your baby before your groceries! I have also taken the chance and opportunity to talk to a crying kid in a shopping cart in the checkout line. Peek-a-boo works good. Any little bit of sanity at the moment is always helpful.

  497. I’m trying to imagine the self control it took not to express that rant to the mother in question. As I am currently the mother of two young children (they turn 1 and 3 this month), I’m not sure I could have held my tongue. Mind you, shock would probably have left me unable to formulate a response until she had left and then I would have been debating whether to chase her down in the parking lot.
    I know as a mom that you tend to get over-advised, and I know I don’t always appreciate parenting advice from strangers, but I wish I could say to that mom: “Absolutely she wants attention. And as her mother, you’re a great person to give her some.”
    For the record, I regularly neglect home maintenance duties to give attention to my kids when they need it, or sometimes just to play hide and seek with them in the backyard (though sometimes, like today, they let me sit outside in the sun and knit while they push each other around in toy cars. Those are good times, too).

  498. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!! That last line was the kicker. I have been trying to tell people this since my son was born! He’s now 16 months and a happy, healthy, well attached, very social little man who loves everyone! And I truely believe it’s because I LISTENED TO HIM when he needed help!
    He shares his toys, without my asking, he gives kisses to kids twice + his age when they cry, along with a hug and a big grin! And he listens TO ME when I ask him to not do things that are safe for him. How many Baby-Toddlers do that? Not very many me thinks!
    I just can’t get over the fact that people still think that babies can some how MANIPULATE them from the WOMB. Seriously? What scientific proof is there that my baby is only trying to get my attention for “no good reason” ever since he came out of his warm safe home?
    Parents need to realize that their babies need them, and to suck it up and start paying attention to them!

  499. I had sort of the opposite happen at the mall once. My son was getting over a flu and finally agreed to eat something at the mall restaurant after 2 days of not much eating. He was 2.5 years old and of course had no energy and felt terrible from the flu. I had him on my lap the whole time we had lunch.
    An older woman came up to me and told me very matter of fact that i was going to spoil him in a very condescending and admonishing way. I didn’t say anything and she walked away.
    She didn’t think babies or kids should get attention either i guess
    I would have taken the help with the groceries in a heartbeat.

  500. You’re so right. I feel so bad for those new mama’s who think that way. How hard life must be for them! I can’t imagine constantly engaging in a battle of wills with my infant, instead of snuggling her, and “indulging” her, and enjoying her babyhood. I feel so lucky that my doula gave me a couple of issues of Mothering magazine when I got pregnant. It gave me all the confidence I needed to co-sleep and wear my baby in a sling, and do all those things that are generally regarded as “spoiling” her. And she’s been such a pleasant, happy, snuggly baby. Really a a joy to be around.

  501. I was at the grocery store with my baby in the ergo carrier and the man behind me just started unloading my cart and then said ” I hope you don’t mind but I think this will be quicker and easier for all of us in the line.”

  502. It’s hard to believe anyone would think a tiny baby is only crying to try to manipulate you – insane.
    Good rant

  503. As a father of 7 children, I couldn’t agree with you more. I have been on both sides of this situation – my own children have been the screamers (although I would never leave them to scream), and I have seen so many other parents with screaming babies in the grocery store/pharmacy/whatever line they are waiting in – thankfully the ones who have ignored the baby and claimed it just “wants attention” are few and far between. As a father I have to be careful about making offers of help though, because the perception is that it’s ok for women (other mothers) to offer, but if a man offers, he is automatically seen as being a potential pedophile. I can’t even smile at another parent without getting the “don’t you DARE size up my kids you freak” look – wtf is WITH that? Even when I have my own kids with me, women with children give me weird looks if I look at their kids or offer to help them with something (in the situation you described, I’d be more likely to offer to help unload the groceries and leave mama to comfort her baby, simply because if I offered to pick up the baby I’d be seen and treated as dangerous, regardless of my experience as a father of 7). But you are so right, babies that young only ever cry when they need something – they are just not capable of doing it to manipulate us, and the “attention” they are looking for is seeking to have their needs met (whether they be a physical need like hunger or being wet, or an emotional need like wanting comfort or human contact, or any other need that tiny babies have that they can’t articulate to us yet). I am sad for that baby and for her mother who is obviously so disconnected from everything that she can’t even register that the baby NEEDS something.

  504. I see things every time I’m in public that make me squirm. I’m not even a mother and I can’t hear a baby cry without wanting to pick it up and comfort it. I watch tv shows where babies cry hysterically and mothers toss a bottle or pacifier at them and walk off… good grief, if you’re that busy that you can’t pick the baby up, at least talk to them!
    And my new current pet peeve: Mothers ignoring their children in public to text message/play on their cell phones. I wanted to slap the woman in BK the other day who had one kid waiting for the order to come up and a bored toddler climbing all over the booth while she had eyes only for her phone. *sigh*

  505. I was recently at the zoo with my family when a mom at another table was dealing with a school-age and preschooler who needed to go to the bathroom and another boy in a stroller. They had clearly just sat down to lunch when the need to potty arose. Poor woman was all by herself, and when I offered to watch her table for her while she took her kids to the restroom, she took me up on the offer–to watch her youngest for her while she took the older two to the restroom.
    All I could think was, “Please, God, when my third arrives (in Jan) don’t ever let me be that overwhelmed.”
    Thank you for offering your help. God-willing, you or someone like you will step up and offer assistance when I need it! Feel free to move into my neighborhood anytime!

  506. Sad that taking help is as hard for some as listening to that screaming baby is for others. I’m a midwife and care and work so much for new mammas and babies, it breaks my heart to hear that. It really takes a village to raise a kid. I suspect the sleep deprivation was really messing with her. Loud noises and sleep deprivation is used as a torture technique for a reason. Add in the hormone flux, and that mamma was not herself. She’ll figure it out, and than the horible guilt will kick in.

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