Parenting Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for parents, grandparents, nannies and others with a parenting role. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

It's strange that my child often wakes up at night and starts crying uncontrollably and just won't calm down and go to sleep unless I take him in my arms (1.5 years of age).

My second son who is just 3 months old has also started doing this.

I'm a developer and rarely spend time with the children so there is no attachment issue here. What could be the reason for this behavior?

share|improve this question
You say it happens often, does that mean multiple times a night or many days a week? – xiaohouzi79 Apr 19 '11 at 22:19
Almost every night multiple times – Hasan Khan Apr 19 '11 at 22:20
Perhaps you two act differently. For example, maybe you lay back and act chill and do the minimum possible and she gets stressed and tries to make everything right, setting them off. – Peter DeWeese Jun 29 '11 at 5:28
My partner found "I'm a developer and rarely spend time with the children so there is no attachment issue here" to be the funniest thing she'd read all day, if slightly troubling... – deworde Jan 10 '12 at 12:56
up vote 14 down vote accepted

I find that my 4-week-old will calm down differently for me vs my wife. My theory is that my wife smells like milk, so if he's hungry, nothing but mom will do. Other times, he can get agitated if mom is holding him but not feeding him - but he has no expectation of food from me, so he'll be calm for me.

His older brother, now two years old, used to calm down for me but not his mom, long after he was weaned. My theory there was that he knew that dad meant business, and that no amount of squirming was going to get him out of being rocked to sleep. Mom just doesn't have the stamina and strength. It took about a week and a half or two weeks to get him used to the fact that squirming with dad was pointless - and then many months of that before mom could really do anything (once he had learned to calm down and sleep). Six months later, and he finally is more or less going to sleep on his own.

share|improve this answer
+1 - Totally agree, children react differently to different parents. – xiaohouzi79 Apr 19 '11 at 23:29
+1 for expecting to be fed by mom. – Daniel Standage Apr 20 '11 at 2:39
+1 for both's what I would have expected and experienced. – MichaelF Apr 25 '11 at 17:05

Do you hum or sing while you are holding them? The male voice tends to radiate through the chest and the vibrations can have a soothing effect on children, especially very young ones.

share|improve this answer
Thats interesting any reference for this claim? – Hasan Khan Apr 20 '11 at 20:06
Read it in a parenting book when my children were babies, but don't remember which one. And personal experience. Sorry that I can't be more help on that score. – Kevin Apr 20 '11 at 20:21
When I was a small child I would often try to listen my dad after I was put to bed. My guess: hearing him made me feel protected. – Peter DeWeese Jun 29 '11 at 5:32
Here's a link that references the male voice vibrations. <…; The lower frequency of male voices are readily conducted though the bones in the chest and felt by the child. – Marie Hendrix Aug 13 '11 at 11:58

From personal experience which happens to match what Dr. Harvey Karp suggested in the Happiest Baby on the Block: I am much more vigorous with my calming techniques (rocking, shushing, etc.) than my wife is. I believe the baby responds more to me because of that added vigor, especially when the baby is extremely upset.

A similar difference in techniques between yourself and your wife could be there reason for what you're seeing.

share|improve this answer

This is just speculation, but babies can be very sensitive to the mood of the person holding them. If your wife is troubled by this problem then she probably tenses up when she holds the babies, and they sense this and get upset, which reinforces the problem. If so then some relaxation techniques and maybe cognitive therapy for your wife might be beneficial.

share|improve this answer

My children are 4 and 9. They never cry around me and are very productive. My wife has great intentions but seems to OK videos a lot and "fixing" their troubles which to me aren't anything more than a problem worth solving for a boy. In short the children live her very much but also cry around her at least once a day even to this day.

share|improve this answer
You didn't answer the question of "why". Can you please edit your answer to address this? Then I'd remove my downvote. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jan 9 '12 at 9:01
You seem to be just empathizing here and while that is nice and all, it isn't the place for it. Try to make your answers, answers to the question being asked. – balanced mama Nov 4 '12 at 2:54

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.