If you’ve ever leapt out of bed, clambered – dripping – out of the shower or sprinted up the stairs thinking you can hear your baby crying only to find them peacefully sound asleep then you’re suffering from the very real motherhood phenomenon: phantom crying. The good news is you’re not going mad, you haven’t got a problem with your ears and it’s actually really normal! You’re absolutely not alone, so with a big *sigh* of relief let’s delve into what’s really going on if you hear your baby crying when they’re not.
Phantom Crying: is it down to biology?
YES, as it turns out! The physical changes after the birth of a baby are well documented but less is often said about neurological changes. Doctors insist that this phenomenon is partly to blame on biology; that as new parents (yes, phantom crying can affect Dads too) we are hardwired to be on high alert around our children, especially when they first arrive. This can lead to our brains becoming increasingly sensitive to sound when it’s simultaneously trying to filter out other background noise – like the shower! So next time you suddenly slam the water off and listen intently for the screams you’re sure you just heard, know that you’re not going mad.
What if it’s making me feel really anxious?
As a new parent, you’re going through a lot in those early days and it’s completely normal and expected to feel some level of anxiety during this period. So although biology is to blame for hearing your baby crying when they’re not, anxiety is certainly going to exacerbate it. Think of it as turning the volume up; phantom crying can be louder or more distressing for some parents depending on how much ‘stress’ they’re under at the time.
If you’re suffering hearing phantom crying and you feel like it’s affecting your ability to rest, causing you distress or damaging your mental health, it’s really important to reach out to your doctor, health visitor or someone you trust to just vocalise what’s going on.
Postpartum mental health is very real. It’s not just a ‘new mum thing’ and you absolutely don’t have to ‘just work through it’ so don’t be fobbed off. If something doesn’t feel quite right, ask for help.
When does phantom crying stop?
The good news is, phantom crying doesn’t last forever. The bad news is there isn’t a set deadline as to when you’ll stop hearing your baby crying when they’re not. However, do be assured that as your baby gets older, your anxiety hopefully lessens and you become more attuned to their rhythms and routines, phantom crying should lessen too, if not stop all together. For some mums, this happens within the first 3-6 months, for others it may continue on and off for the first year.
Hopefully, in time you’ll become better rested and more relaxed and your high-alert mum brain will chill out just a little to ease those phantom cries.