Am I Too Rough With My Newborn? (Tips for Safe and Gentle Handling)

Postpartum depression, isolation, stress, and the lack of knowledge on baby care may cause parents to handle their newborn roughly. 70% to 100% of new parents have these intrusive thoughts, and it is surprisingly common in the general population, according to a study. Being too rough with the baby does not only mean physical harm but also includes behavioral signs like resentment.

Moms can get too stressed out and tend to babies in anger and a little forceful. The event is normal but should not be tolerated since it can escalate to the point of harming the baby. Before guilt-tripping a new mother, it is important to realize that these things happen and for many reasons.

It doesn’t make them, or you, any less of a mother. The thing is, you also need to get down to the cause and learn self-control. Your little one is too fragile and needs all the gentleness and affection his mom can offer. 

Importance of being gentle with your newborn

A mother’s touch is very important. Babies deprived of maternal touch may experience growth and developmental delay, and it will leave traces on their genes.

It is based on a study conducted by the University of British Columbia and BC Children’s Research Institute.

Gentleness in babies is pampering and handling them with due care and restraint. They should be provided with their needs and made comfortable at all times.

Babies need all the help as they transition into the outside world. As young as they are, they have heightened senses that can soak up emotions around them.

The first three months are the hardest part with the newborn, which may drag on until the eighth week.

Babies cry, some more frantic than others. But, it is not a reason to lash at your little one just because you are tired and losing sleep.

Reasons why you could be rough with your baby

Mother suffering from postnatal depression holding baby in arms.

Most of the mothers are loving and gentle with their babies. But sometimes, due to external factors and without realizing what’s wrong, a mom might start handling her baby a bit roughly.

Unfortunately, though, the episode may happen beyond the mother’s control for these common reasons:

1. Postpartum blues or postpartum depression

Postpartum blues or postpartum depression is the commonly recognized culprit of why mothers feel resentment towards their babies.

The term is used interchangeably, but it should be noted that the two conditions are different. 

According to Henry Ford Health, baby blues or postpartum blues occur within the first couple of weeks after childbirth.

It happens because of hormonal changes that give moms anxiety, restlessness, and overwhelming feelings. 

Postpartum depression, on the other hand, can last for up to a year or more.

It is characterized by severe symptoms of aggression, stress, and detachment from the baby. 

2. Stress or fatigue

When you are stressed and sleep deprived, it is normal to become irritable.

As you struggle with personal issues and exhaust your ability to care for your baby, there are times you will forget to be gentle.

The stressful events will catch up, and even the tiniest triggers can set you out of control.

3. Isolation

Caring for an infant for many days and nights can make you feel isolated.

There are instances when working moms resent staying at home and want to cut short their maternity leave.

It may become less comforting, especially if you do not have a stable support system to lean on.

And, it is not unusual for moms to feel aggrieved with their babies and treat them roughly. 

4. Young maternal age

Teenage pregnancy poses an increasing concern regarding its association with parenting.

Teen moms face many life-changing challenges compared to older and more mature mothers.

It is all too complex that child maltreatment becomes an inevitable issue in the long run.

Mental health problems in adolescent mothers prompt child welfare services to intervene and address them.

5. Lack of knowledge

A new mom doesn't know how to handle her newborn.

Mothers who generally lack the knowledge of caring for a newborn may end up being rough with their baby.

Thus, it is important for expecting moms, especially new ones, to know what they should expect after birth.

The extra support should come from trusted health professionals, maternal health clinics, or maternal support groups. 

Signs you’re being too rough

Do you worry about being too rough with your baby without you noticing it?

Caring about your baby and being gentle with them is not just about how you hold and treat them. It entails both the physical and behavioral display of affection. 

Physical signs

  • Hitting the baby
  • Handling or holding him tight and with force
  • Shaking the baby
  • Pushing or shoving the bottle or dummy
  • Leaving the baby unattended most of the time
  • Ignoring the baby’s needs
  • Refuse to bond with the baby

Behavioral signs

  • Feeling of isolation
  • Resentment
  • Lashing out at the baby
  • Explosive mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Absentmindedness 
  • A feeling of hatred and worthlessness

Tips for handling your newborn safely

A mother is holding her crying newborn in her arms, trying to pacify her by kissing her on the cheek.

Babies like to be cuddled and held close. They want a hushed environment, soothing conversations, singing, or gentle rocking.

They cry to communicate their feelings, and you can understand your little one by forming a bond or with mom intuitions. 

When all is too much for you to bear, the following strategies may help:

1. Learn how to handle a newborn properly

You may become frustrated if you lack the proper knowledge of handling a baby in the first place.

Before birth, you need to orient yourself to the expectations of a new mom.

Yes, it does include sleepless nights, bouts of crying, midnight diaper changes, and everything in between. 

Don’t worry, as the first few weeks are just your training ground as you get along with the ordeals of childcare and parenting.

You will slowly ease out of it as you get to know your baby and handle his soft spots.

You will likely establish a routine but provide a wiggle room since babies change much of their sleep-wake and eating cycle while growing up.

It is also vital to note that each baby is different. The advice of other mothers or parenting books may not apply to your newborn.

Know your child well and learn as you go along the way.

This does not mean you have to disregard the lessons learned from others, but you have to know your newborn and apply those that are applicable to him.

2. Take frequent breaks

If you ever feel swallowed by the events, don’t be afraid to take breaks. If you feel all the crying is getting into you, give yourself space to breathe.

You can leave your baby with a trusted caregiver or in a safe place and walk out of the room for a while.

Do something that will calm you down, like a nice cup of tea or a warm shower. 

It is okay to feel desperate, but do not make it an excuse to snap at your baby.

Again, your little one absorbs emotions, and being angry around him only worsens matters. 

3. Touch base with your feelings

The range of emotions that crosses you daily can be too much to deal with. Bottling them all up is dangerous and will only lead to an explosion later on.

Start finding ways to understand how you feel, what triggers the feelings, and what may make you feel good. Calm yourself, write down all the negative thoughts, and find a comforting way of dealing with them. 

4. Ask for help when needed

Despite the feeling of isolation, you should realize that there are still people out there who are willing to support you.

When it comes to caring for your baby and daily chores, ask family members or hire helpers for an extra hand.

Mother support groups can also provide you with experience-based knowledge and emotional guidance. 

If you notice that your feelings are getting out of hand and you realize you are being rough with your baby, seek professional help.

Talk to your GP for referrals to qualified counselors who can help you. Stress and depression are toxic and can affect the entire household.

Sometimes, you are unaware that these things are happening. So if people around say so, take their advice well and get some help. 


What are the consequences of being too rough with your baby?

Being too rough may risk injuring the child, slow down growth and development, affect brain development, and create feeding problems.

How can I tell if I am being too rough with my newborn?

Infant behavior cues like constant crying, unable to settle, whimpering and extreme fussiness can be signs of rough handling. 

Are there any specific tips for avoiding being too rough with my newborn?

It is never okay to slap, shake, smack, or shove the baby, regardless of the situation.

Behavioral rough treatment is sometimes latent and is only better understood through self-awareness.

Check yourself for signs of being physically or emotionally rough to your little one.


Certain circumstances in life may subconsciously push you into being too harsh with your little one. That is normal, and most of them can be controlled.

If you have thoughts about harming yourself and your baby or find yourself doing it, do not delay to seek help.

You may suffer from postpartum depression and anxiety that only doctors can treat. Don’t ever be afraid or hesitant to ask for help for the sake of your and your baby’s safety.


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Ann Marie is a licensed nurse in the Philippines. She experienced handling and assisting deliveries of newborns into the world. She also trained in labor rooms and pediatric wards while in nursing school - helping soon-to-be mothers and little kids in the process. Though not a mother by nature but a mother by heart, Ann Marie loves to take care of her younger cousins as well as nephews and nieces during her free time.

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