Understanding and dealing with baby tantrums: A parent’s guide

Parenthood is a wonderful and wild journey of ups and downs. From those countless precious moments of joy, snuggles, and unconditional love to those times when your little bundle can suddenly transform into a tiny tornado of emotions.

Yes, we’re talking about baby tantrums, and you might be surprised to learn that they’re not just a toddler’s domain! While they may be frustrating and challenging to handle, it’s important to remember that tantrums are a normal part of a child’s development.

In this article, we will explore the reasons behind baby tantrums and provide strategies to navigate these trying moments with patience and understanding.

Understanding and Dealing with Baby Tantrums: A Parent’s Guide

Before we look at how to deal with baby tantrums, it’s important to understand why they’re happening. Trying to see life from their perspective can help to avoid a tantrum before it happens and give you the tools to best handle them when they do.

Understanding the triggers

Tantrums often happen when babies are unable to express their needs, desires, or frustrations effectively. Some common triggers include:

  • Hunger (babies get ‘hangry’ too!).
  • Tiredness – have they missed a nap, or been awake a long period?
  • Overwhelm, such as after a large family gathering.
  • A need for attention or independence.
  • Separation anxiety.
  • Discomfort, such as illness or when they’re too hot.
  • Fear of sudden noises or new people.
  • During transitions, such as being put in the highchair or car seat.
  • When they encounter something they can’t have, such as an unsafe object, a toy that’s out of reach, or an activity that is off-limits.

Respond with empathy

When faced with a baby tantrum, remember that your child is not intentionally trying to upset you; they’re trying to tell you something. They’re simply overwhelmed by their big emotions and lack the ability and brain development to communicate their feelings verbally. Stay calm and be a soothing presence for your little one.

This mantra might help you to remember to empathise in the heat of the moment:

‘My child isn’t giving me a hard time. They’re having a hard time’

10 tips for dealing with baby tantrums

  1. Address the trigger: Try to understand what caused the tantrum. Identifying the underlying cause can help address the issue more effectively. Do they need food, a cuddle, or a nap?
  2. Create a calm environment: Move your baby to a quiet and safe space to minimise distractions and create a calm atmosphere if they’re overwhelmed. Reducing external stimuli can often help your little one regain their composure.
  3. Validate their emotions: Even though your baby can’t yet understand all of your words, verbalise their emotions for them. Say phrases like, ‘I know you’re upset’ or ‘I understand you’re frustrated’. This simple act can help them feel heard and validated.
  4. Offer comfort and reassurance: Provide physical comfort to your baby through gentle touches, hugs, or rocking. Your presence and reassurance (saying things like, ‘I’m here for you’) can be soothing and help them feel secure during this overwhelming time.
  5. Redirect or change the scenery: Sometimes, redirecting a younger baby’s attention can help to soothe them. Offer them a favourite toy, engage them in a different activity, or introduce something that captures their interest. It’s important to let them feel what they’re feeling, no matter how uncomfortable it is, so save this tip for when you’re struggling to stay calm yourself. Gradually learn to acknowledge and accept their feelings as they are.
  6. Establish clear loving boundaries: Setting boundaries is essential for your baby’s development. Be calm, realistic, and consistent with what is allowed and what is not. Over time, they will learn to understand and accept limits, which can reduce the frequency of tantrums.
  7. Ensure their play area is a ‘yes’ space: Create a designated area or environment that is specifically set up to be safe and accessible for a baby to explore and move around freely. The baby can play, learn, and explore without constant restrictions and intervention from adults. It promotes independence, self-confidence, and cognitive development in babies, therefore reducing frustration. Adult supervision is still required.
  8. Take care of yourself: Remember that taking care of your own wellbeing is equally important. Parenting can be overwhelming at times, and it’s essential to have moments to recharge and seek support when needed. Reach out to your partner, family, or friends for help and share the responsibilities.
  9. When in doubt, offer a feed: A quick breast or bottle feed often solves all!
  10. Remind yourself that it will pass: As your baby grows, their ability to communicate and manage their emotions will improve, and tantrums will become less frequent. In the meantime, embrace the rollercoaster journey of parenthood, cherishing the precious moments and learning from the frustrations and challenges along the way.


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