Stress in Babies – Causes & Prevention

5 min read

Written by Aparna Hari

Aparna Hari

Stress in Babies

We generally consider stress to be a problem for adults. But do you know that stress in babies is common too? It is true that with age we take stress seriously as ambitions and responsibilities collide in our minds. But babies also have to deal with stress in their apparently stress-free lives.

Have you ever imagined how stressful it would be if you had to be completely dependent on someone else for everything? Well, that is the life of a baby. Moreover, the tragedy is that you cannot even express the reason for your stress in words. So do not blame the baby for crying. Instead, know the causes and prevention of stress in babies to pacify your baby.

In This Article

Do Babies Get Stressed?

Yes, babies also get stressed. As a small baby is totally dependent on their parents or caregivers, any negligence or miscommunication from their end can cause stress in the baby. And you are bound to make mistakes as a parent as you cannot always comprehend what is the reason behind their irritation, whether it is the wet diaper, hungry stomach, or pain in the tummy.

This is when you get rounds of tears and cries all caused by the secretion of cortisol when your baby is stressed.

Signs of Stress in Babies

Stress signs in babies

Crying is the basic and obvious outward representation of stress in babies. But that does not mean that every crying baby is stressed. As babies cannot speak, crying is their only way to communicate. Through crying they try to grab your attention towards them.

It is when you do not respond to their cries that they feel stressed. You can notice the intensity of their cry increases when you get late at their service.

The main signs of stress in babies include

  • Crying
  • Not making eye contact
  • Not smiling back when you smile
  • Pushing away the arms and legs
  • Frantic behavior such as showing excessive anger, clinginess
  • Getting scared while sleeping
  • Frowning
  • Squirming
  • Hiccupping out of exhaustion due to prolonged cry
  • Not eating food
  • Not getting proper sleep

Causes of Stress in Babies

Stress in babies can occur due to many reasons. Here are the main causes of stress in babies

  1. Babies mainly get stressed when they do not get your attention or you fail to detect the reason behind their stress.
  2. As the world of your baby revolves around you, separation anxiety also works on them every time they cannot see you close.
  3. Painful physical ailments such as stomach aches, gas, and bloating often cause stress in babies.
  4. Babies can mirror the stress of their parents and caregivers. A report published in ScienceDirect points out that the stress felt by the parents or caregivers also transfers to the baby through touch and eye contact. Your baby can sense your stress and feel low and upset.
  5. Babies love to feel safe and secure. They can get stressed out and throw tantrums in case of any changes in their regular environment.
  6. Surprisingly, breastfeeding can also be a source of stress. A study published in the Wiley Online Library further suggests that the stress hormone, cortisol, can transfer from the mother to the baby through breastmilk. If you are stressed then cortisol secreted from your body mixes with your breastmilk and your baby gets it. So, you need to calm your mind and let go of all your stress before breastfeeding.

Is Stress Bad For Babies?

Stress bad for babies

Occasional stress in babies is common and harmless. But if stress becomes a regular problem for your baby, then it can be dangerous. Exposure to long-term stress can permanently impact the behavioral traits of your baby. High levels of cortisol in babies can cause problems like

  • Slowing down cognitive development
  • Sleep disorder
  • Eating disorder
  • Stress-related physical ailments such as headaches and digestive issues
  • Stagnant vertical growth
  • Unnecessary weight gain

According to a study published in Nature, chronic and prolonged stress in babies can even alter brain growth and result in shortening the lifespan.

How To Prevent Stress In Babies?

Fortunately, the stress in babies is not as impactful as it is in adults. Babies get easily carried away emotionally so it is easy to divert their emotions from a sad one to a happy one. Mere your loving embrace and smiling face can reduce stress in your baby immediately.

Here are a few tips you can follow to prevent stress in babies.

  • Interact with your baby through gentle touching and eye contact whenever you are feeding or taking care of your baby.
  • Play with your baby the more you can as it will create a healthy and relaxing bond between you two.
  • Give your full attention to babies whenever they ask for it. Respond to their cries as soon as possible. Do not let them feel they are alone or neglected.
  • Do not express stress in front of your baby as they are smart enough to sense it.
  • Use babywearing to hold your baby close without using your hands. The warmth of your body will keep your baby worry-free.
  • Play soothing melodies or bedtime songs before sleep so that they can sleep in the cuddle without stress.

Just the way a smiling face can give us joy, a saddening one can work oppositely. So always stay happy in front of your baby. If you feel stressed then stay away from your baby for some time.

How to Calm a Stressed Baby?

Calming stressed baby

To calm a stressed baby, you need to find out the reason behind the stress. If the baby is crying continuously then follow these steps

  • Check if the diaper is wet or if the baby is hungry.
  • Make sure that your baby is not sick.
  • Give your baby hugs and shower affection.
  • Carry your baby and move around to divert the mind.
  • Swaddle wrap your baby to provide comfort and a sense of security.
  • Give a pacifier to your baby to calm down.

Stress is harmful no matter at what age it occurs. Stress in babies is common. Babies get easily stressed as they are vulnerable and depend completely on the care of others. It is important to prevent stress-related disturbance in your baby’s growth and build a happy and positive environment around your baby. There should be love, care, and respect among the partners and other family members. A caring and stress-free household can only help your baby to be confident and stress-free.


1. Does Crying Relieve Stress in Babies?

Yes, sometimes crying helps to relieve stress in babies just like adults. Through crying they can release pent-up tension and get relaxed. Through this process, your baby will learn to control emotions and comfort themselves without any help from others.

2. How Does Stress Affect a Baby’s Brain?

Stress can immensely affect the brain development of the baby. Prolonged stress in babies can even change brain connections. As a result, the baby can get psychologically distressed permanently. Stress during pregnancy can bring structural changes in the amygdala section of the brain which is involved in social and emotional development

3. Can Stress in Babies Affect Their Social Skills?

Yes, childhood stress can impact the social skill development of the baby later on. Stress affects the mind more adversely than the body. Babies can get shy or fear to trust and speak to others at school if they witness a stressful, violent, or mistrustful relationship with their parents.


Aparna Hari,MBA in Marketing,P.G. Diploma in Human Resource Management from IGNOU Bachelor of Sciences (Home Science) from Nagarjuna University

Her experience in impactful writing combined with her background in Home Sciences makes Aparna the perfect candidate for content writing in the pregnancy and parenting niche.Read more.

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