Anxiety-related insomnia: Why can’t I sleep even though I’m exhausted?

Anxiety-related insomnia: Why can’t I sleep even though I’m exhausted?


For moms who are feeling fatigued, sleep deprived and way too anxious about bedtime…


You’re exhausted and yet when the sun sets and it comes time for bed, you can’t sleep at all. You toss and turn. You wonder if your child/baby is actually safe (despite all the precautions you take to ensure that they are). You go over the day’s ups and downs and ruminate over what could have gone better or whatever upset you. 

Pretty soon, it has been an hour or two since turning out the lights and you’re still wide awake… despite feeling so fatigued all day long. Or maybe you fall asleep, but after getting up to feed your baby, you lay wide-awake and can’t drift off again. 

Sound like your reality these days? This could be anxiety-related insomnia. 



I remember experiencing this myself. I’d lie awake all night so much that I came to dread bedtime. I felt like I was in this alternate universe⁠—one where I was alone and awake counting down the hours until sunrise… and everyone else was fast asleep. There’s no beating around the bush here: this feels awful. 

If this is you, you might notice yourself adding to the problem with thoughts like: “What’s the point of sleeping now?” “I’m going to be even more exhausted tomorrow?” “This is so pointless—I hate how sleep is going these days.”

If you’re struggling with anxiety-related insomnia in pregnancy or motherhood, I want to walk you through everything from identifying the problem, getting to the root, and making some necessary changes. 



Identifying anxiety-related insomnia


Insomnia is defined by having difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or waking too early despite having given yourself plenty of opportunity to get adequate hours of shut eye. This is about the difficulty with sleep that is above and beyond the challenges that are directly related to your kids (like waking up to feed or change). 

You might wake up with a sense of dread and never feel completely rested. This can be a short-term issue (as in lasting three months or less) or it can be ongoing and long-term. If you’re dealing with insomnia, you probably feel fatigued, experience mood changes, you worry about sleep before going to bed, and you’re having trouble concentrating throughout the day. 

Insomnia is a state of hyper-arousal which means that your mind is highly active, you’re hyperaware, hyper-vigilance, and in turn, more prone to stress. Women who are pregnant or have recently given birth need to know that anxiety-related insomnia is experienced by a larger percentage of women in the perinatal stage compared to women of the same age who are not. 



Why a proper night’s sleep is so important


Ever notice how everyone seems to check in and focus on your baby’s sleep during the early postpartum weeks and months? Hello, what about mum’s sleep!? 

I remember feeling so shocked by how sleepless this time was, how alone I felt in this struggle and how impossible advice like, “Sleep when the baby sleeps!” felt. People tend to show genuine concern over whether or not your infant is sleeping (valid and well meaning) but your own sleep (or lack thereof) is arguably more important. 

Quality and quantity of sleep is correlated with every facet of health—especially mental health. In a society that often prizes early risers or those who sacrifice hours or shut-eye in order to “be more productive,” we tend to forget this. 

So much of our physical and mental health hinges on our ability to get decent sleep each night. And I know, this can feel totally out of reach or even impossible during the early stages. But we have to look at the importance of continuing to work toward more sleep for parents. Without it, you could experience poor mental functioning, a poor immune system, higher blood pressure, higher risk of health issues, poor moods, and a higher risk of mood disorders. 

If you’re in the perinatal stage and suffering from anxiety-related insomnia, you’re at a greater risk of developing postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety. 



Ok, so why does anxiety cause insomnia?


The anxiety that you’re experiencing prevents you from shutting off your mind or tuning out repetitive or negative thoughts. Hands up if your internal dialogue sounds a little bit like…

“…What if my baby/child isn’t actually safe and something happens?”

“…If I fall asleep now, I’ll only get X hours of sleep. What a disaster!” 

“…That thing today made me so upset, what I should have said is X.” 

“…My baby almost got hurt today. Let me think nonstop about how I could have prevented that.”

“…What if I missed a cue from my baby and something bad happens tonight? It will be all my fault.”

See how all of these types of thoughts are rooted in anxiety and likely would prevent you from feeling relaxed enough to sleep? 

Dwelling, ruminating or anxious “what if” thinking are the types of thoughts patterns that keep your mind from being quiet. Did you know that anxiety is also generally much worse at night for a reason?

If you’re a new mom, you’re also just prone to being more on guard. When you have a baby or little ones, you’re naturally going to be more aware of potential dangers or threats. Your nervous system (i.e. that good old flight or fight response) is more activated as well. All of these lead to increased anxiety. Remember: you cannot be anxious and relaxed at the same time. 

So if you’re dysregulated and your nervous system is working overtime, you’re not going to be able to be in a calm enough state to sleep. Doesn’t that just make sense? 



What else contributes to insomnia? 


Sure, anxiety has a lot to do with why you might be wide-eyed well into the wee hours every night. But for mothers in the perinatal period, there’s a whole list of other contributors as well. Some include: 

  • Physical changes. (Pregnancy, labour, breastfeeding, hormonal changes and circadian rhythm all can cause levels of discomfort which interrupt sleep.)
  • Increased stress. (There’s more on your plate, the stakes are higher, and many relationships go through some level of tension during this time.) Hence, why you might feel like you hate your partner after having a baby.
  • Mental distress. (You may have a family history of mental health issues or you may have a personal history with this.)
  • Lifestyle factors. (Sedentary lifestyles as well as diets consisting of high levels of sugar, alcohol and caffeine are the perfect mix of factors that could lead to insomnia)
  • Behavioural changes. (You’re up more with a baby or with kids. If you already struggled with insomnia, this will only make matters worse.)
  • Individual factors. (Things like perfectionism or being highly sensitive can contribute to insomnia.) 



Getting a better sleep 


Even though it might not feel like it, there’s a lot that is within your control in order to get a better night’s sleep during this period of life. Start by assessing your own situation to learn of the potential causes. Certain things like improving your sleep environment or making simple lifestyle changes are relatively easy. Take a look at the room you’re sleeping in. Could it be more comfortable? Is there anything you can do to reduce light, noise, and manage the temperature better? 

Next, be honest with yourself about what lifestyle changes need to happen. When things feel chaotic during the postpartum period, it can be easy to put exercise or movement on the back burner. Something as simple as a daily walk or a gentle yoga sequence while your baby is napping totally counts. Let it be easy, right? 

Diet is another important area to look at. Again, the stress of early motherhood leads lots of us to craving more desserts or comfort foods than before or that extra glass of wine on a more regular basis. While that may bring comfort in the moment, those are things that can have a negative impact on sleep. Could you get a similar comfort from something else that isn’t laden with sugar and/or alcohol?

As discouraging as it can be to be battling with insomnia, it’s important to remember that this is a struggle only for right now. This is not forever. You will get through this patch. You won’t always be this exhausted. You will sleep again. 

For added support, I have a course designed to help you deal with anxiety-related insomnia during the perinatal phase: How to Manage Insomnia and Sleep Anxiety in Early Motherhood. Learn why you’re struggling to sleep, what’s getting in your way, and what steps to take that actually work. Let’s get you feeling less sleep deprived and more calm, rested, and capable for what your days present!


How to make daycare and school drop-off easier

How to make daycare and school drop-off easier


Why is daycare and school drop-off so hard!?


Picture this: it’s Wednesday morning, you’re on your way to drop your two small children off at daycare, and you’re almost running late. It’s not even 8:30 a.m. yet and already you’ve been putting out small fires. 

Your kids’ lunches aren’t perfect, but they’re packed. Your youngest had a meltdown over breakfast. Now your baby is crying in the car and you’re crossing your fingers for no red lights so you can get them out the door on time. 

But then when you get there, drop-off time often comes accompanied with tears, separation anxiety, and your child refusing to leave your side. Needless to say, this is not the best way to start a day. You feel anxious and stressed. Your child feels anxious and stressed. How can you make this easier? 



This probably feels a bit familiar, right? Many parents suffer with some level of anxiety during daycare or school drop-offs in the morning (at least some of the time anyway). 

Either you’re struggling to leave your child with a teacher or childcare worker who you barely know, or your kiddo doesn’t want to say goodbye. This can be so heart-wrenching or it can cause you to worry. You may leave wondering if she’ll settle into her day, if she’s okay, and if there’s anything you should have done differently. 

This doesn’t exactly set a feel-good tone for the day, does it? This is one of the most common worries voiced by mothers. Because it’s such a hot topic, I want to outline what you can actually do to make this experience better. Here, I’m including real recommendations by real mothers too! 



How to stop crying at daycare drop-off: 


Making drop-offs (school or daycare) easier means decreasing anxiety for everyone. Sometimes parents wonder when daycare drop-off gets easier—as in at what age—but really, kids of all ages can struggle. 

For example, some very young children might adjust really easily and not struggle at all. On the other hand, an older child could have a very hard time with general anxiety or separation anxiety and not like heading into her classroom without you. This isn’t a problem that exists only in the baby and toddler years so if this is an issue for your family, know that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. 

That said, how can you make this experience easier for them? 

Creating a calm and stable environment for an anxious child is key. They are learning how to navigate situations that feel difficult for them so it’s important to do what you can to put them at ease. 

As a parent, you could try to help them place their mind elsewhere. What’s something he/she is looking forward to at school today? What’s his/her favourite part of the day? Getting them excited for that is more helpful than focusing on something challenging like drop-off time. How can you reassure them? Kids who deal with things like separation anxiety might be worried that something will happen to you during the day. Reassure them that you’re safe and you’ll be seeing them in just a few short hours. 

You also want to be reducing stimulation or uncertainty as much as possible so that you’re not adding to the stress. That could mean turning down the music volume in the car, taking the route with less traffic and being ready versus rushing out the door. 


What moms on this community suggested:

I asked real mothers in the community how they deal with this. Here are some of the best suggestions: 

  • Talk about something fun you’ll do together when you pick them up
  • Stick to a routine so that every day is predictable and the same
  • Prepare everything the night before so there’s no rushing
  • Communicate with teachers/daycare staff so that they can help if need be
  • Stay confident so that they know there’s nothing to worry about 


How to handle *your* anxiety during daycare drop-off: 

It can be really hard to walk away during daycare or school drop-off when your child is upset. There may also be a lot of fears that you have that have nothing to do with your child’s emotions. Maybe they don’t struggle at all at this point of the day but you catch yourself fearing for their health, safety, emotional wellbeing, or you struggle with intrusive thoughts on the way to school. It can also be really hard leaving your baby or child with someone who you barely know. That’s all valid and this is why this is such a popular topic amongst mothers in the community. 

One of the most effective things that you can do in this situation—for both you and your child—is to regulate yourself. When you’re calm, grounded, and focused, your child is more likely to feel the same. When you’re anxious, your child will sense that energy and start to worry themself. (No pressure, right?) The good thing about this is that it means that you have a lot of power over the situation. 

So how do you start to self regulate? Take deep breaths. Even though it sounds almost too simple, this is a way to show your nervous system that you are actually safe. You cannot be anxious and calm at the same time. By taking slow, deep breaths, you’re signalling to your brain that you’re safe and there’s nothing to worry about. 

You can also rely on the same things that work for your child: meditations, reducing stimulation, refocusing attention to something positive, playing calm music, being prepared early, etc. Oftentimes a simple mantra can help. (“She is happy, safe, and taken care of,” or “She’ll settle down in a few minutes. I’ll be back to pick her up before I even know it.)

Your self talk and really making an effort to be your most compassionate self will also go a long way. Start by mindfully noticing that you’re overwhelmed and just allow that feeling to come up without fighting it. From there, what can you say to yourself to reduce the pressure of that moment? (“It’s okay that this is hard for me.” “My 16-month old baby is crying, it’s only human for me to feel upset about that.”

Finally, shift your focus to ground yourself. Soothe yourself as best as possible and ask: What’s next on my day? Where is a simple place for me to start? What am I looking forward to? That will help you stay focused and not let an emotional morning derail the rest of the day. 


What other moms suggested:

I asked moms what helps them during this stressful situation. Some of my favourite recommendations are: 

  • Reassure yourself that yes, the drop-off is difficult but by the time you make it to the parking lot, she’s already calm and happy
  • Allow yourself a few minutes to decompress in the car afterwards
  • Drink coffee after drop-off to reduce anxiety beforehand
  • Plan and prepare before to reduce anxiety and stress in the morning: lunches packed, bags by the door, outfits laid out
  • Mantra: “We can both do hard things.”
  • Act confident to signal to your child that everything is ok 


Need more support through the harder parts of motherhood? Whether we expected it or not, it’s undeniable that being a parent of babies or young children is hard! It can feel like nothing is predictable, you’re living in a state of constant anxiety, and you may even wonder whether or not you’re doing any of this right. (You are.) Daycare and school drop-offs might just be one thing on a very long list of factors that cause stress for you and your family. 

This is why I created my courses for mothers like who you are finding this chapter rather difficult. From learning to split the responsibilities with your partner, to learning the exact self regulation tools that actually bring you to a state of ease, these courses are your solution to the toughest stuff in motherhood. Check them out here


Returning to work after having a baby: How to cope

Returning to work after having a baby: How to cope


If even *thinking* about returning to work sparks anxiety and a feeling of dread, then you’re probably in need of some reassurance, and practical coping methods.


Returning to work after having a baby is a thought that can bring on a lot of stress for new moms and parents, on top of what you’re already feeling raising a little human. Quite likely, everything in your life has changed since becoming a parent! Your priorities, lifestyle, responsibilities, schedule, body, and family dynamics have all undergone a major transformation. So thinking about work can feel overwhelming, scary, unappealing, or just like another thing to take on during what is already an intense time. 

Alternatively, thinking about going back to work can feel exciting and exactly what you need, but then you might have feelings about that, like “why am I not more upset about going back to work?” Which in itself can cause a lot of worry and doubt. 



So if you’re feeling anxiety, that makes a whole lot of sense. If even thinking about returning to work sparks anxiety and a feeling of dread, then you’re probably in need of some reassurance, and practical anxiety coping methods. (Hey, if the “Sunday Blues” are a valid cause for anxiety after just two days off of work, your stress is certainly valid!) 

Moms’ emotions might run high during this period because they don’t want to leave their baby. Sometimes feelings are complicated because they do want to get back to work… and that can bring on some guilt. 

Regardless of where you’re at with your thoughts, my aim is to walk through this complicated topic so that you can feel more at ease as you prepare to head back.



Why returning to work after having a baby feels complicated


There’s so many reasons why returning to work after having your baby feels tough. A lot of suffering can be alleviated just from the acknowledgment that these feelings are normal, real, and totally valid. “I’m returning to my job after having a baby. How can I cope?” is one of the most frequently asked questions that I get from moms in my community. 

Here is a quick breakdown of why this feels so hard. You might feel some, all or just one of these sentiments. What’s most important is giving yourself permission to allow that feeling. 

  • You’re worried about leaving your baby with someone else
  • You want more time to bond
  • You have questions as to whether your baby is ready to be apart from you
  • The thought of leaving him/her makes you miss them
  • You have fears that this will cause an attachment wound
  • You’re struggling with grief as this chapter comes to a close
  • Finding and paying for childcare has become a major source of stress
  • You may not have had the maternity leave that you had hoped for (and perhaps spent a lot of it worrying about or dealing with COVID/RSV)
  • There’s a financial concern: Does your salary justify the cost of childcare?
  • You feel nervous about job performance and fitting work responsibilities into an already packed schedule
  • You’re excited to get back to your job and feel guilty (“Why am I not worried about missing them? What’s wrong with me?)
  • You’ve lost interest in your work and would rather not return
  • You’re already wondering about how you’ll fare with a baby who wakes during the night and needing to be at the office first thing in the morning 



How to feel better about the situation


Words of affirmation: 

We may tend to think of words of affirmation as one of the ways someone else (our partner or a best friend, for example) expresses love to us. But couldn’t we also start to practice reassurance and validation in the way we speak to ourselves? 

If you’re struggling with the emotions of returning to work after having a baby, remind yourself that that’s okay! Can you sit with these emotions without judging or trying to stop them? Aim to be kind and gentle with yourself in the way you run your internal dialogue. For example, instead of, “I knew this was coming, why can’t I just get over it?” try, “This is feeling really hard. My baby and my career are both extremely high priorities for me so it’s no wonder I’m feeling conflicted!’ 

Remember: judging your feelings or trying to avoid or change them is only going to make matters worse. That’s exactly what causes guilt, self-comparison or frustration. Accepting and validating them however allows for you to work through them in a self-compassionate way. 


Remind yourself that your baby is safe: 

Most mothers will struggle with intrusive thoughts at one point or another. These are thoughts that pop into your head and focus on harm coming to you or your child in some way. You might find yourself wondering about your baby getting sick, injured or not properly cared for. 

If your baby’s well being is what’s causing the most stress about your return to the office, remind yourself that she is safe, she’s in proper care, and that you did the work to ensure that the daycare, family member or babysitter she’s with is up to your standards. Sometimes those standards aren’t exactly the same as the kind of love and care you would give your child, but this is where that “good enough” caregiver concept comes into play. The caregiver doesn’t have to be perfect in order for your child to have their needs met. I know, this is a tough one to accept. But I just want to acknowledge that there might be a situation where you don’t feel like you have a choice other than leaving your child in care, even when that care doesn’t seem perfect. Could it be “good enough?”

It might also be helpful to choose a mantra to repeat to yourself when you catch yourself worrying. “My baby is safe, happy, and cared for,” or “I have already taken the necessary measures to ensure the safety of my child. I’m showing up as best I can for my family.” Also know that daycare can be a great opportunity for your child to learn, socialize and get used to new environments. It can be so good for kids in a lot of ways and many of them love it! 


Do a values assessment: 

The person who knows what’s best for you, your baby, your children, and your career is definitely… you! 

If going back to work after having your baby is causing anxiety, carve out some time to sit down and get really clear on why that is. Check in with yourself to see if your plan is in alignment with your values. If you’re not totally sure how to do that, some reflection questions could include: 

  • Is going back to work or outsourcing childcare something you have to do?
  • What does a balanced life look like to you? (I.e. Does it consist of family, career, personal goals, financial ease, creativity? Define your non-negotiables.)
  • In what ways do you personally want to provide for your family and what steps do you need to take to make that happen?
  • What feels better: going back to work full time or easing in? What arrangements can you make to fit your vision? (I.e. Does your employer offer remote or part-time options?)  
  • Does returning to work feel right in the grand scheme? If not, what’s plan B? 

Reach out! Things don’t always go smoothly 100% of the time. Hey, so much of motherhood is about leaps of faith, embracing the unknowns, or making a parenting decision based on a gut feeling. There’s so many moving parts during this era that it can be easy to question things like career focuses, childcare arrangements, sitting with extremely uncomfortable anxiety… and pretty much everything else! I’ve made an entire career around supporting mothers and women in the perinatal period. Because… well… there’s just so many factors that can cause unforeseen anxiety and grief. 


My courses are designed with new moms in mind. These tackle everything from anxiety in all its fun forms (intrusive thoughts, self-criticism, low self-worth, identity adjustment) as well as other common issues like insomnia, stress about baby’s sleep, and splitting parenting duties with your partner. Check them out here


“I had a terrible experience with postpartum mental health. Should I have another baby?”

“I had a terrible experience with postpartum mental health. Should I have another baby?”


You’re allowed to change your vision of what your family will look like. There’s no right or wrong. 


So you had a bad experience with postpartum depression or anxiety and now you’re wondering what’s next. Do you have another baby? Do you risk dealing with a mood disorder again? Is it valid to wonder about not continuing to build your family? Are you “allowed” to feel nervous or not that excited about this next pregnancy? 

This is actually one of the most commonly asked questions that I get from the community. Postpartum depression (PPD) and postpartum anxiety (PPA) are serious issues that women deal with and they can have a severe impact on how one experiences the earliest chapters of motherhood. 



For some, the effects are relatively minor and they don’t question the idea of getting pregnant again. For others, the symptoms are enough to make them question (or even deter them entirely from) having another child. 

There’s no right or wrong response or way to feel. Let’s make sure that’s clear right from the get-go. Because there’s so much shame, secrecy, questioning, or even women wondering if their reactions are valid, I want to explore this topic to answer everything you might hesitate to ask. 



What does severe PPD or PPA feel like?


Mood disorders that hit in the postpartum period include anxiety, depression, OCD, bipolar, or psychosis. The more severe cases of any of these mean that the person who is suffering experiences significant disruptions in their day to day life. They may self-harm, think about suicide, wonder if their baby and family would be better off without them, and they might also regret their decision to become a mom. It’s also possible to become physically sick or just generally not well enough to function. For those with anxiety, the fears about safety, uncertainty, and constantly feeling on edge can be debilitating. 

Even though perinatal mood disorders are somewhat common (about 20% for anxiety and depression), it can feel startling for the person who is experiencing this. (Remember that there’s a difference between common and normal. It’s not normal to be wanting to self-harm or be contemplating suicide and if that’s what your experience is like, there’s always help.) 

Feeling surprised or blind-sided by your experience may make you question if you want to risk going through it again. That makes sense, and is totally understandable! 



How likely is it that I’ll develop a mood disorder again?


If only it were possible to know whether or not you would have a repeat experience with postpartum depression or anxiety, I wish we could know this. But there’s no way to guarantee that your experience with your next child will be easier. There’s also no way to guarantee that you’ll 100% develop PPD or PPA again. 

It’s always helpful to get as much information as possible though (knowledge is power). And predicting whether or not you might experience mental health issues again isn’t a total toss up. A lot of therapists, counselors, pregnant people, and people in the perinatal world do pay attention to factors that put a woman at risk of PPA and PPD

Having a personal history with perinatal mood disorders already does increase your risk. Other factors to pay attention to include: relationship trauma, abuse, or instability; having dealt with stressful life events recently; inadequate support; family history of mental health issues; birth trauma, and others. 

But this shouldn’t be all doom and gloom. Having depression or anxiety during the postpartum phase may just be one small difficult chapter in an otherwise incredible journey and relationship with your child. 

And it’s not wrong, irresponsible, or in any way a bad idea to expand your family just because you’ve experienced postpartum depression or anxiety. You can take control, learn coping tactics and build a support plan so that you and your family are taken care of. Read more about how to set yourself up for success here



Deciding whether or not to have another child: Costs versus benefits


Postpartum depression and anxiety look different for everyone and so the way these disorders impact your life moving forward will also be unique to your own experience. 

Having experienced severe PPD or PPA won’t necessarily mean that a person will decide against having a subsequent child, for example. In the same vein, maybe a parent’s experience wasn’t “severe” but it was enough for her to not want to go through it again. Which is totally valid.

There’s absolutely no right or wrong here. You’re the expert of your own story and you get to call the shots. You’re allowed to change your mind and you’re allowed to pick a route different from the one you originally planned. 

Sometimes though, coming to a decision can be incredibly difficult. What I encourage people to think about is the cost versus the benefit. What is the cost of having another baby knowing that there’s a higher chance you could experience a mood disorder again? How would that weigh on you and your family? 

On the flip side, what if you didn’t have another child… what might be the cost of that choice? And how does that version of your story sit with you? 

These questions are not easy to answer so it’s entirely understandable if you can’t clearly define the cost versus the benefit right away. 

For some, maybe a big family was a major dream forever and so the cost of not having more kids would be bigger than the cost of dealing with postpartum mental health challenges again. Another parent might acknowledge that they wanted another child (or assumed they would have one) but they’re just not up for a repeat experience. It’s okay to change or question a vision. You hold the deciding power here! 



Reflection questions:


Deciding whether or not to get pregnant again after having an experience with a postpartum mood disorder is one of the bigger decisions you’ll ever make. Sure, even that thought alone can feel like a lot of pressure and in turn, bring on a wave of anxiety. Understandable. 

That’s why I created a list of questions that can help you get closer to your values. I hope these can help you get clear on what you want your family and your future to look likewhether you need to revisit these questions once, twice, or several times.

  • Looking at your past experience, what feels tolerable, meaning, what do you think you could handle again? What doesn’t feel tolerable? (And what first came to mind when you asked yourself that?) 
  • What was the hardest part of your postpartum depression/anxiety experience?
  • What was the impact for you, your relationship with your partner, and your family?
  • Were there factors that played a role in you developing a mood disorder (or made it worse)? 
  • If you were to feel this way again, what would you do differently?
  • What would you tell a best friend if she were in this exact same situation? Would you encourage her or dissuade her?
  • If you could go back in time, what would you tell your past self? Is there anything you’d want her to know?
  • What supports do you think could make a difference the next time around and are those available? (I.e. Could things realistically look different next time?)
  • Are you prepared to ask for help? (From friends, family, support groups, a therapist, nanny, etc.)
  • Get outside of the current situation for a second and imagine your life 5, 10, and 20 years from now. When you picture your entire life—and the version of you at those stages—does that shift anything either way for you?


Having a hard time envisioning what you want the future for your family to look like? Deciding whether or not to have another baby is hard. So is dealing with the postpartum depression, anxiety or other mood disorders that arise during the postpartum period. If you want support with family planning decisions, or you need to arrange a solid support system before the birth of your next baby, I have a team of therapists in Canada who do exactly that. The Canadian Perinatal Wellness Collective supports moms and moms to be on all the difficult things that arise during parenthood. Learn more here


“Help! My baby cries in the car. What should I do?”

“Help! My baby cries in the car. What should I do?”


Your baby won’t stop crying in the car and getting behind the wheel spikes your anxiety. Here’s what to do for yourself and your baby. 


Though it may sound oddly specific, one of the most common things that can set off a mom’s anxiety is when their baby cries in the car. 

You might be on a longer trip out of town or just merely hopping over to the grocery store but once your baby starts to cry, it can feel like game over. 



Your heart rate spikes, you clutch the wheel a little tighter, and your thoughts start to spiral as anxiety takes over. “What if she doesn’t stop?” “I can’t hold her, what if she’s not ok?” “My baby always cries in the car… what am I doing wrong?”

And it can feel like complete torture when you can’t get to them to offer comfort in the same way you would if you weren’t driving. 

There are many reasons why this can feel like such a vulnerable and nerve wracking experience. For starters, you can’t hold your baby or comfort them as you normally would. You are also stuck in a car with limited ways to regulate your own nervous system. Plus, you have to pay attention to traffic, road conditions and multitasking really isn’t something our brains are designed for. 

So what do you do? How can you create calm in this stressful situation both for yourself and your baby? Here’s a breakdown below to calm the chaos when your baby cries in the car. 



Things that are helpful for your baby: 


When this situation arises, it can be difficult to think as your baby is screaming in your ear. For that reason, it’s best to have a game plan set up ahead of time. Have a quick brainstorm. What are some things you can do? 

Many moms find that playing some calming music is helpful. Considering that in a car, there’s not much you can do, this is also one of the easiest and most effective ways to bring peace to a stressful situation. Consider acoustic, classical, jazz, soft indie or folk music.

I asked the moms in my Instagram community about music recommendations, and here are some examples that they shared: 

  • Lord Huron 
  • Ed Sheeran 
  • Adele
  • Enya
  • Spotify Morning Folk Music 
  • Peaceful Piano playlist on Spotify
  • Taylor Swift 
  • Motown 
  • Fleetwood Mac 

Other things that you can try to calm down a crying-in-the-care baby could be: reach back and rub your baby’s head or foot; sing to them; turn on a mediation soundtrack; speak in soothing tones; and take a break and pull over if necessary. 

And then of course one of the most common pieces of advice was to try leaving to go to places early so that time doesn’t become a second stressor.  



How to help your own anxiety: 


You’re going to hear me say this a lot because it’s true: when you focus on your own nervous system, and getting yourself back to that calm, grounded, state, your baby often follows your lead. 

If you’re stressed, frustrated, angry, or flustered, your baby will pick up on that and regulated according to how your feeling. 

That’s not to bring on any kind of blame or guilt (we have enough of that as it is!), but it is to say that if you give yourself the power, time, and space to bring your own mood to a calm state, then you will have more control over the situation. Pretty cool right? 

So, how do you actually do that when you’re stuck in traffic with a screaming infant behind you? 

Again, music can be a great tool for you as well. Play what you want. Turn on your favourite playlist (it doesn’t hurt to create one of your top songs for these SOS moments!). 

Other things you can try that moms in our community shared:

  • Roll down the window and enjoy the sun and breeze on your face
  • Sing out loud to yourself
  • Turn on a podcast or radio show
  • Use a mantra for difficult car moments (She is safe and loved. I’m doing everything I can in this moment. This will pass.)
  • Remind yourself that sometimes babies just cry and it’s unrealistic to expect these moments not to happen
  • Pull over and take a breather
  • Name the things that you’re seeing as you’re driving to stay mindful and in the moment
  • Stop for a short walk together 
  • Mentally prepare and get into a positive, calm headspace before getting into the car. Being proactive where possible always helps. (This could look like a five-minute meditation, bringing a soothing tea in a travel mug, packing a scented hand lotion you love, or putting that extra five minutes into your routine so you feel your best.)
  • Remind yourself that you already covered all your bases and that your child is okay. 

What else would you add to this list? What else have you tried that has helped? Knowing your own self, your triggers and your anxiety, what’s one other thing you could try this week? 

Sometimes there are moments in motherhood that are just inherently more difficult than others. Having a baby or toddler cry nonstop in the car as you try to get somewhere is one of them. 

Knowing this, you can come up with some strategies and a plan A, B, and C if you suspect you’re going to be dealing with an upset little passenger. Before you leave for the grocery store, visit a family member’s house, or go to daycare, ask yourself: “What’s something I could do for myself before we get in the car and what can I do for her and for me when her crying starts?” 

You’re probably hearing a lot about self-regulation these days. You know it’s important and you know that having the ability to regulate your own nervous system will impact the way you show up as a mom. And it helps your baby in stressful moments too! 

But maybe no one is telling you how to actually do this. I’m putting together a resource, The Regulated Mom which teaches you how this works, why it matters, and how to practice it. Make sure to follow along on Instagram to hear when this new program is available.