How to approach neighbors with newborn?
December 7, 2010 8:00 AM   Subscribe

Upstairs neighbors just had a baby. Good for them! Bad for me! I rent a 1BR co-op in an old building, and sound leaking can be an issue. It hasn't been enough to become an issue until now. I really don't want to make their lives any more difficult than I'm sure it is when dealing with a newborn, but I can't sleep on my couch everynight. Any suggestions for how to tactfully approach them and have a productive conversation? I don't really know them except for chit chat in the elevator, so this will be a cold call. Additionally does anyone have any sound tips/tricks? I've been putting on my tornado fan, which helps somewhat but doesn't completely block out the noise.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (55 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What do you see as a positive outcome? They can't stop the baby from waking up or crying. As a one-time parent in an apartment, I can tell you they realize there are other people hearing the kid too.

The only thing I can think of is, if they have hardwood floors, suggest a rug. That might muffle slightly. But I'm not sure there's anything they could do to help you, even if you found a tactful way to approach.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 8:03 AM on December 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

Earplugs. If it's a newborn, there's not much they can do-- they can't reason with it or put a muzzle on it.
posted by oinopaponton at 8:03 AM on December 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

What's your desired outcome of talking to them?

They really can't make the baby be any quieter and it's not reasonable for you to ask. Invest in some earplugs and know that within three months the baby will be sleeping through the night.
posted by 256 at 8:04 AM on December 7, 2010 [4 favorites]

What do you see as a positive outcome? They can't stop the baby from waking up or crying.

Yeah, you can't stop a baby from crying. Trust me, they want the baby to stop crying way more than you do. If there was anything they could do, they'd have done it.

Ear plugs and a quality white noise generator from Amazon.

(It generally gets better at the six week mark. )
posted by A Terrible Llama at 8:06 AM on December 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

Lightweight wireless noise-cancellation headphones. You can pipe white/pink noise into them; definitely a more pleasant ambiance than a Tornado.

But, yeah, they can't shut their baby up and believe me they probably will want to more than you do.
posted by griphus at 8:09 AM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Bring it to the attention of the landlord and see what the landlord suggests, or if he can get you a break in rent for having to put up with all the noise. Or if you can move into another apartment in the same building.
posted by anniecat at 8:10 AM on December 7, 2010 [6 favorites]

If it's a newborn, there's not much they can do-- they can't reason with it or put a muzzle on it.

They can possibly move it though. From the poster's description it sounds as if the baby sleeps directly above his/her bedroom and if the baby was above his living room instead it would enable him to sleep. He/She should not have to suffer because his/her neighbours decided to have a baby, they do have a responsibility to reduce the inconvenience to their neighbours.
posted by missmagenta at 8:16 AM on December 7, 2010 [36 favorites]

The best thing you can do is maybe in passing, if you see them, compliment them on their adorable baby and strike up a conversation about it and try to gather what info you can. Here's why.

The person I am dating has upstairs neighbors with a child who is now entering the toddler age, and they are lovely people and the baby is sweet, but they have made some questionable parenting decisions, one of which is that they're trying this technique where if the baby cries, they just pretty much ignore her. "We're letting her cry it out," they say. Which would be fine if they had a house of their own and their floor weren't someone else's ceiling.

So maybe try to figure out their approach. That's the best you can do, because other than that, like everyone else has said - if they're reasonable people, they want the poor dear to shut up even more than you do. So earplugs, probably.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:16 AM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I can't imagine what the conversation would be.

You: Hi Neighbor! Congrats on your new baby!
Neighbor: Thanks. I hope he's not keeping you up at night!
You: Well, actually, that's why I want to talk to you. Do you think you could tell your baby to stop crying so much?
Neighbor: Sure! I'm sorry! I didn't even realize he was crying!
You: Thanks!

Honestly, you can wear head phones/earplugs or move.
If you're in a lease, see if they'll let you move with a 30 day notice after explaining that the baby noises are affecting your lifestyle or whatever.
posted by KogeLiz at 8:16 AM on December 7, 2010 [4 favorites]

Talk to them about it! Seriously, be kind but indicate that it's an issue and ask if there's anything further they can do to soundproof and explain what you'll be doing on your end. do keep in mind that they are no doubt sleep deprived and if they are anything like me as a newborn parent, slightly cuckoo for cocoa puffs.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 8:17 AM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

You can try putting some decorative carpeting or other soft but maybe thick material on your walls to help muffle with the sound.

You could also try to talk to them. If they have hardwood floors, placing carpet down as suggested should help some. But what I wouldn't do is just cold call them. You have no idea how, in particular, the mother is feeling. I was so insecure, in so much pain, and felt so unbelievably lonely in the first few weeks after Toddler Zizzle was born. If one of my neighbors had called me like that, I would have wound up in complete tears and had been on the phone with my husband immediately after who would call that person all sorts of unpleasant names for saying something of this sort to me.

There may be a way to have a conversation of this sort more warmly and in person, but I am hard-pressed to think of one at the moment.
posted by zizzle at 8:18 AM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would add --- if you do venture an in-person discussion, bring them a home cooked meal as a gesture of good will.
posted by zizzle at 8:19 AM on December 7, 2010 [14 favorites]

Expensive sound dampener sheets - you might find them used from a musician or studio.

Ask them politely if they can move the crib into another room. Maybe bring them some food to help start the dialog.
posted by beardlace at 8:22 AM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't think there is anything you could or should do here other than acquire some tools to help you sleep until the new baby settles a bit (baby should be more used to the world by 6 weeks or so). In the meantime, consider ear plugs (custom made ones, which can be puchased for about $75 from places that sell hearing aids, are infinitely more comfortable than the expanding foam kind) and a sound machine (your choice of white noise, pink noise, jungle, stream, etc.). It will also be important to practise excellent sleep hygiene - try to get your body used to going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time each morning, and make your bedroom as soothing and non-stimulating as possible (no laptops, TVs, etc. in there).
posted by analog at 8:25 AM on December 7, 2010

Maybe another nighttime machine on? I have a humidifier that sounds like a jet engine when it's on high.
posted by spec80 at 8:25 AM on December 7, 2010

Yes, beardlace said what I was going to: Is it possible to move the baby's crib? I think that is more what the OP would like, I am pretty sure most grownups realise you can't keep a newborn from crying. Or -OP can ask the upstairs neghbour to run a fan as white noise on their end, that may help as well. Finally, OP can ask if they would put an area rug under the crib/in the baby's room. There are plenty of things that can be discussed without saying "shut the damn kid up".
posted by kellyblah at 8:27 AM on December 7, 2010 [4 favorites]

I know many parents. I've lived in the same apartment building as new parents. All of them are painfully aware that their child is crying and that others may hear it. To the point the parents would apologize to the neighbors on every meeting. I also heard of neighbors calling the police because my friends baby was crying. The police profusely apologized for this. In my book it's crazy behavior. If someone suggested I move my newborn infant to another room because it's more convenient for them, I would not take to it too kindly.

Get some earplugs. Get a white noise generator. It will get better soon, and everyone will be happier, most of all the parents.
posted by Shusha at 8:27 AM on December 7, 2010 [4 favorites]

Strongly agree with above: not only is it absurd to ask, it would make you look selfish. The parents will be ragged, tired, and stressed. Adding one more thing for them to worry about (that is, you), would be unfair.

A white-noise machine, and/or earplugs, and patience. If you want to ask them about moving the crib, etc., you should consider doing it several months from now.
posted by scblackman at 8:29 AM on December 7, 2010 [6 favorites]

Yes, people, OP knows you can't keep a baby from crying. Thanks for that.

Talk to them about it, absolutely. I would shy away from asking them to move the crib, though. If they're at all typical, they've spent a lot of time and energy getting the baby's room ready. And that's if the baby is even in it's own room. My little brother spent his first few weeks in a crib in my parent's room.

If you have wood floors (and the means,) maybe offer to get them a nice throw rug to help dampen noise. I can't really think of anything else you could tactfully ask them, though. I don't know what else they could do on their end.

May I suggest a white-noise machine? No idea if it would drown out a baby, but regardless it is the best investment I've made in my sleep this side of a new mattress.
posted by InsanePenguin at 8:32 AM on December 7, 2010

As others have pointed out, they can actually do little to stop the crying and the attendant noise that may result from their attempts (e.g. the creaking of floor boards as they rock or walk the infant). I recommend toughing out with earplugs and white noise.

If, however, you really wish to have this conversation, then proceed with the following in mind: they are acutely aware of the noise involved; no one wants the child to sleep more than they do; and they are likely doing everything within their means to soothe the baby.

Do not t cold call them. Do this in person. A good opener is to ask, with sincerity, how it's going with the new baby. Be warm as they may feel a little defensive since they are more sleep deprived than you and are very aware of the noise. If an actual conversation results, acknowledge the noise and offer any help you may provide (you can't actually help but it's nice to hear the offer).

The best possible outcome is that you may have a better idea of when things will improve for them and for you.

Good luck.
posted by Verdant at 8:34 AM on December 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

It is also very much not reasonable to ask them to move the crib. They have chosen to put the crib where they have for their own reasons. They want it to be a certain distance from where they sleep, or whatever.

You are a human who has chosen to live in high population density. The noises made by new humans is something you have to deal with. This is not the same thing as loud parties at all hours of the night. Get earphones. Or move to the country.
posted by 256 at 8:38 AM on December 7, 2010 [12 favorites]

My suggestion is to tell them the exact opposite: "Congratulations on the baby! I sometimes hear her crying but I want you to know that IT DOESN'T BOTHER ME AT ALL. Please DO NOT be concerned about it. Just focus on getting to know her needs and getting yourselves rested up and DON'T WORRY, it will get better soon." Say this with feeling. Say it with authority. If you can reference some personal experience, even better ("My sister's kid was sleeping through the night pretty soon."). Believe me, they feel like falling apart in a crying ragged muddle of unwashed clothing and exhaustion. Any expression of slack they can get will make them feel able to get through the next few weeks with grace. They will remember your kindness a hundred fold.

Other than that, I suggest Benadryl or some other mild sleep aid for you. It may prevent you from waking up as much, make you feel more rested, less on edge about the crying, etc. and it's just for the short term. (I'm a mom with two kids who wake periodically during the night but can settle themselves pretty well, and it's what I use).
posted by cocoagirl at 8:42 AM on December 7, 2010 [14 favorites]

I really don't want to make their lives any more difficult than I'm sure it is when dealing with a newborn, but I can't sleep on my couch everynight.

Well, there's the "make lemons into lemonade" option. Furniture is moveable. Move your bedroom into the living room. Partition that off with nice-looking curtains if you like. Move the living room into the bedroom to make it a sort of cozy den. It's not ideal but it will solve the noise problem for now, and might be better than the current circumstances in terms of peace of mind and rest.

I don't know what the floor plan of a 1 BR co-op is like, so I don't know if this would work or if there is a living room, but that's what I'd be looking at temporarily.
posted by crapmatic at 8:42 AM on December 7, 2010 [4 favorites]

I'm sorry to hear this, but there's not much you can get them to do. :(

I'd suggest a white noise machine off of Amazon! They're about $60 but are a godsend against crying babies, barking dogs, neighborhood shennagans and/or snoring bed partners.
posted by floweredfish at 8:45 AM on December 7, 2010

Asking to move the baby would mark you as borderline insane if you made that request of me. Keep in mind as well that, if one or both parents is working, one of them may be sleeping in the living room so as to get an uninterrupted night's sleep (my wife and I alternated shifts on that, for example.)

Unless you signed up for a no-children community, these are the potential downsides of sharing the walls of your residence with others. I'm afraid you'll have to work on the mitigation strategies on your end.
posted by stevis23 at 8:48 AM on December 7, 2010 [6 favorites]

Wait six weeks. At that point the baby's feeding and sleeping schedules should have settled down considerably. There's not a lot they can do before then, and not much they can cope with beyond, you know, coping.

At six weeks not only are they less likely to burst into tears upon conversation, but then you could reasonably at least ask about crib placement if the crying hasn't diminished to a tolerable level.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:53 AM on December 7, 2010

(And I don't mean, like, "can you move the crib?", but sort-of subtly let them know the crib is right over your bed. I'm assuming you know the shape of the apartments and how many bedrooms and stuff so that your assumption that the crib COULD be in a different room is at least within the realm of the possible, if not the reasonable for that family.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:55 AM on December 7, 2010

Mod note: few comments removed - as usual this thread is not a referendum about what you think about parenting or what you think about what other people think about parenting. Stop bickering with each other. thank you
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:59 AM on December 7, 2010

Obviously parents can't magically make a baby stop crying. No one is suggesting to muzzle a baby. But even in densely populated areas and apartment buildings, there are noise ordinances - not just for parties, but construction, repairs, and generally other noises that cause disturbance during certain hours of the night. In one's own home, one is entitled to a reasonable amount of peace and quiet, particularly at night. It is not the responsibility of anonymous to just suck it up, when there might be some options for the upstairs tenants - rugs, moving the crib, buying noise-minimizing devices because of noise coming from their unit. I'm sorry - but just because you have a child, doesn't give you a right to disturb your neighbors in their own home. Understandably taking care of a newborn is incredibly difficult, but letting your neighbors share part of your burden is not ok.

Anon, I would first talk to your landlord before talking to the neighbors, and see what they suggest. But I don't think it is unreasonable to ask them to put rugs down or re-arrange/not walk the baby directly above your bedroom. Noisy neighbors are noisy neighbors, and in my opinion, the onus is on them (or your landlord) to try and find some solutions.
posted by raztaj at 8:59 AM on December 7, 2010 [26 favorites]

I'm going to come down on the side of "don't add to their stress by sharing with them your stress." Of course, I'm biased, about to have a newborn myself and not looking forward to middle-of-the-night crying jags.

I vote for the friendly-congratulations route. This opens the door for communication and will make you both sensitive to the other's issues without bringing them up at all. A meal with a bottle of wine and a sincere congratulations make them feel that you are on their side. They'll probably try to be considerate of you but they'll do so warmly and not in a middle of the night panic "oh god, the baby is crying and it won't stop and that person downstairs hates us and everything sucks and I'm a terrible parent and waaaaaaah." That kind of agitation may, in fact, make things worse.

Also, like others have said, there may be no crib to move. Our newborn will be with us in a co-sleeper for the first six months. Then we'll do a crib (small house, we're like a game of Tetris).

This is not to say I don't sympathize. I really, really do. However, this is one of those human situations which has no good answer. You're both kind of stuck. So you can do stuff on your end but I really do think making friends and being overly kind will serve everyone's interest in the long run.

The baby's sleep habits will change. Consider, on top of white noise and earplugs, a sleep aid like Melatonin for the next couple of weeks while everyone gets their bearings. You may find that you can tune it out.
posted by amanda at 9:01 AM on December 7, 2010

I'm going to go against the majority here and say you can at least, you know, do some mild recon before you completely scrap the idea. Bring up something lovely for them to eat or a muffin basket because "you know they must be exhausted." See if you can at least find out if the baby sleeps in a crib or not or if the floor is carpeted or not. While it's possible the situation may be at an impasse, it's also possible that they had not thought of the placement of the crib as problematic. or that placing a rug might muffle the sound enough to help out a neighbor.

Now it's also possible that you might just have to bite the bullet and get some kick ass earphones.
posted by miss-lapin at 9:14 AM on December 7, 2010 [4 favorites]

As a life-long city dweller, I'd ask them to move the crib.

You have every right to sleep undisturbed in your own apartment. I don't think that the fundamental essence of living in a densely populated area is "Hey! We're all in this together!" so much as "Given the close quarters, we must all be especially mindful of other people." You are not a bad person for "adding to their stress."
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:16 AM on December 7, 2010 [20 favorites]

My second year of law school I lived in a basement apartment of a family with a toddler who had just started teething.

I went through ear plugs like they were candy. Worked like a charm.
posted by valkyryn at 9:25 AM on December 7, 2010


Parents will, in general, not be rational or receptive to comments from a stranger about issues involving their kids. I think some of the parental sounding responses above give you an idea of the wall you would hit in even a reasonable and calm confrontation.

Sure, the crying will stop after a year or two. Then the stomping and running will start, and the knocking over of things, and then the yelling, and then maybe even another kid, etc. The parents will be completely deaf to it. They have to be or they would go insane.

Realistically, you could be facing quite a few years of noise that is just not going to get better. Some people don't care and get used to it. If you are not one of them, just move and you will be much happier.
posted by quarterframer at 9:29 AM on December 7, 2010 [9 favorites]

Re: the various commenters who've said that people have a right to peace and quiet in their city apartments: well, not so far as babies go. Babies are a positive social good. They grow up into the adults who will take care of you when you are old and decrepit. They will pay the taxes that will power your Social Security payments. If you can't stand noise, find yourself a top floor apartment above some old people, or a townhouse. People have a right to have babies. They keep the human race going.

When you, in turn, become a parent, you'll appreciate everyone else's forbearance.

Instead of getting upset about the noise, how about just coming to terms with it. It isn't your baby. Other people will take care of it. Tell your id that it does not have to alert you when a baby is crying. In a city, there are always noises that you have to be concerned about (people trying to break in, fire alarms) and noises you don't have to wake up for (creaking floors, faraway sirens). Train your brain to put babies in the "safe to ignore" slot.

Aside from white noise, you can also get CDs or MP3s of, e.g. a tropical rain forest. That might give you some other sounds for your ears to process.
posted by musofire at 9:40 AM on December 7, 2010 [5 favorites]

I've chimed in to support the theme here that indeed, these parents want the child to be quiet even more than you do. Realize that what emanates through the walls to you is an annoying sound, but upstairs it is essentially one human being screaming at the others. This renders it an emotional situation for the parents, which when compounded with severe sleep deprivation MAKES THESE PARENTS PSYCHO whether or not you ever see the psycho. You may be lying awake annoyed at the sound while the child's caregiver on that night sobs quietly for hours as they don't want to contribute to the din. The other parent has their earplugs in and simply cannot help because it's their turn for rest and they need it, further isolating that night's caregiver who is still being screamed at.
Around the rest of the world these parents put on their everyday faces, but inside they might be simply tormented no matter how much love is in the family.
Whatever you decide to do, walk on eggshells and don't add to that torment.
posted by No Shmoobles at 9:48 AM on December 7, 2010 [4 favorites]

I had the opposite problem. I had a newborn that was quiet from the beginning (we still thank the stars for it) and my upstairs neighbors were having loud parties every Thursday and Friday night. We went upstairs to talk to them. We got agreement as to a time the parties would start and stop. We moved the crib into the living room on those nights and in several weeks, they ran out of energy to have these parties. We did used to go upstairs and have a beer or two after we met them and discussed.

My point is it goes both ways. You know they have a new born. When you don't hear it crying it is probably sleeping or feeding. Not sure how much noise you make, but they may be willing to discuss mutally acceptable solutions like moving the crib. If you watch tv in bed and it is right below them, the baby might hear it.

Go talk to them with low expectations and an open mind. You never know.
posted by AugustWest at 9:51 AM on December 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

Soundproof your ceiling.

I mean, yeah, you can talk with them and maybe they'll buy a nice cushy rug with a thick felt underpad for under the crib or whatever, and you'll all laugh about it and it will be delightful.

And then they move away to a suburb with better schools and the next people arrive and maybe they have a noisy dog or they wear wooden shoes in the house or whatever, and maybe they're jerks.

Ultimately, all you can really control is your own environment. There are a lot of ways to soundproof a ceiling, and it's an investment in the resale value of your apartment as well.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:11 AM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


They can put rugs down. You're in a co-op, so you can modify your ceiling with an extra layer of Quiet Rock (soundproof sheetrock) and/or sound deadening fiber board, they can maybe put sound blankets on their floors at night... there are literally a million combinations of solutions here, but nothing positive will happen if you don't start a polite dialogue with your neighbors!

It's not the parents fault if the building is constructed without significant soundproofing between units, but that doesn't mean you can't work together. In fact, if together you can fix the sound leak issue sufficiently, I'm sure it would be a HUGE worry off their minds!

I've done a lot of research lately about sound proofing. If you'd like links to the good info (there are a lot of adverts out there in the guise of info) then feel free to MeMail me.

Good luck!
posted by jbenben at 10:13 AM on December 7, 2010 [4 favorites]

I see you're renting a co-op (sorry, I just fixated on "co-op" and assumed you were the owner), so obviously you'd have to get the owner's approval to do the soundproofing.

If the upstairs folks are owners and you're a renter, be aware that in any dispute between you, the deck will be stacked enormously in their favor.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:13 AM on December 7, 2010

White noise machine and earplugs supporter here. I have a huge amount of sympathy for those dealing with noisy upstairs neighbors (really, really huge). But the kid situation is different. If your coop is in a noisy city, it is likely that the living room is simply not an acceptable place to put a crib due to external street noise, light, or what have you. It is also pretty standard these days to have the baby sleep in the bedroom with you for at least the first few weeks/months to make feedings easier.
I doubt most people think having a baby in a 1-bedroom apartment is ideal, so hopefully you will get lucky and they'll move before the baby turns into a running stomping toddler. I point you to this excerpt from Gopnick's book "Through the Children's Gate", about having kids in a NYC apartment and their tormenting of his downstairs neighbors.
posted by ch1x0r at 10:17 AM on December 7, 2010

I have this white noise machine, and it blocks out pretty much everything except thumping bass. I don't know about crying baby, however.
posted by Mavri at 10:58 AM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I say talk to them.

I don't think you asking makes you "borderline insane" either. I have a hard time understanding why many people think it's horrid to ask them if there's anything they could do like place down a rug or move the crib a dozen feet. They're stressed? Well, after enough nights without sleep you'll be pretty stressed as well, right? Does your physical and mental well-being not matter? They made the choice to have children. And while that child is understandably the center of THEIR universe, that doesn't automatically mean everyone should suffer.

I understand that that IS a risk of living in a apartment. The best you can hope for is for everyone to remain mindful of everyone else. But just as it is on you to not have loud crazy parties all night, it's upon them to at least try one or two easy solutions so that you can get sleep as well.
posted by Windigo at 11:06 AM on December 7, 2010 [10 favorites]

I took this out of my original answer, but will add it here for the folks who are saying noise from a newborn is somehow different and understandable...

I'm thinking of a tenant where I used to live. This personal example is the extreme end of what saying nothing and/or not seeking to work towards mutual comfort and a Good Result might encourage.

A much much longer story cut short: Couple lives in a 1 bd apartment. Couple has a baby. Couple has nice neighbors and one neighbor that they hate. Couple teaches 1st child to taunt the hated neighbor in the common areas when he/she is about 3 years old. They allow the child to make lots of noise knowing it infuriates this one particular neighbor. No one else really says anything about the one child for all the reasons MeFites cited above, and also, fellow neighbors don't necessarily figure out that the child is being allowed and encouraged to be disruptive. The nice folks living around this situation just can't imagine that type of bullying is going on, even if the noise from the child is excessive from time to time. Because there are no complaints directly to the parents, the parents begin to feel emboldened and somewhat untouchable.

They have a second child when the first child is around 4 years old. The second child cries a lot. A lot. This crying continues as the 2nd child grows into a toddler. Frankly, both kids now seem supremely miserable living in that 1 bd apartment (and YES, they can afford to move! BUT, the parents are enjoying the feud and their current address has a certain cachet they are unwilling to part with even though more reasonable 2 bd or 3 bd housing is available at the same rent rate in the same neighborhood.) The parent's solution to the space problem is to throw open their doors (including the front door) and all the windows as often as possible - double bonus as this "solution" allows even more noise to disturb the retired neighbor they hate. And everyone else by default.

I recently met some people at a christmas party who live in the building next door to my old place. When they found out I had lived there, they immediately commented on the screaming kids from my old building. So it's still that bad. And sad.

At this point, the parents responsible for this whole mess are so consumed by this cycle they are involved in, they seem stuck. The bullying has paid off and no one dares challenge them. No one wants to speak up politely, be the "bad guy" for outright complaining, or risk earning the parents' wrath in any way. On the parents' side of it, you can kinda tell they feel guilty, but they've taken it so far already they just can't do the right thing now. They can't admit they are in the wrong. Their children continue to suffer.

I was one of the few people that alerted management to the nasty taunts of the first child towards the retired neighbor back in the day, but looking back, I wish I had done more. By this time, the feud was an established fact with the management. Truth be told, I don't think anyone ever imagined it would get so out of control or go on for this long.

If a bigger issue had been made about the noise in the beginning (maybe polite requests for better soundproofing from the nearest neighbors, with whom the parents were on good terms when this all began?) I imagine the parents might have gotten the clue. Instead, one thing lead to another, lead to the next.

OP, I encourage you to politely talk to your neighbors! I'm sure your situation 100% will not turn into anything like the one I just described. I'm sure your neighbors are already worried about the comfort of their neighbors. I think everyone would be much happier if you could work together towards minimizing the sound leaks. It would be one less worry for them to know they can move about freely without disturbing others. And if the problem were to get worse, it wouldn't come as a big fat unwanted surprise when someone finally did say something to them.

Open a dialogue while you can.

Good luck!

PS - sorry for the length of this post everyone!
posted by jbenben at 11:54 AM on December 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

not only is it absurd to ask, it would make you look selfish.

I used to ride my exercise-bike every morning at 6am. Since I work from 9am until 11pm a lot of the year (with a commute before work), that really was the only time I could work out. I know the-desire-to-work-out is not the same as the-reality-of-having-a-baby, but it was pretty important to me.

The downstairs neighbor complained to my wife that my bike was right over where he slept, and that I was waking him every morning at 6am and making it impossible for him to sleep any later than that.

I don't like to disturb my neighbors.

I moved the bike into another room.

If it was a baby instead of a bike -- and I had the ability to move it -- I'm SURE I would have.

This is just one data-point to let you know that sometimes, some people do what they can to not disturb their neighbors. But if my neighbor hadn't talked to my wife, I never would have done anything.

Oh, and I don't think of my neighbor as selfish. I think of him as an ordinary human who needs sleep. And I am also really glad he spoke up. I would not want to unknowingly disturb someone when it's in my power to not do so.
posted by grumblebee at 12:12 PM on December 7, 2010 [9 favorites]

I don't see how talking to them is going to make a real difference for you long term. Unless you or the parents or your landlord are willing to invest in some serious soundproofing throughout the apartment you are looking at a continuing source of noise. Babies grow into toddlers and I can tell you from my experiences living above a toddler for the past 2 years that the kind of noise they make is varied and is not confined to their own room.
I currently play a CD of ocean waves and that combined with a very conscientious mother has made things bearable, except for a few nights where the poor little guy was kept up and screaming with an ear infection. For weekends when I'd like to sleep in I've been eying this adaptive noise machine for a while since I don't like to wear earplugs. Perhaps it would help for your situation?
posted by tinamonster at 12:32 PM on December 7, 2010

Everyone is making a big deal about this. Go to CostCo, buy them a large thing of diapers*. Go up to them and explain that you've been having to sleep on your couch in your living room to get a good night's sleep and would really appreciate it if they were able to move the crib elsewhere in the apartment until the baby sleeps through the night.

*I know for a fact this will go along way to show that you're not just being flippant. In a just world you wouldn't have to do this, but it makes you look less like the single guy/gal who has no cares in the world and is making a big deal over nothing. The fact you can hear it one room and not the other is a good thing, as it shows that the problem should, in theory, be a solvable one. Be prepared for them to act like crazy parents, but it is a lot harder to get angry at someone who just saved them a diaper buying trip.
posted by geoff. at 12:38 PM on December 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

The baby may be where it is because that's the place that keeps it quietest.

I'd say bring your neighbors a food offering and express your sympathy. Just doing that may help you if they look sufficiently miserable. There's nothing like knowing someone else has it worse.

It may open a dialogue, but you'll get further by letting them take the lead. If they comment that they're worried that they're bothering people, you might (if you're smooth) mention that you've got a spare rug and a white noise machine which might block sound movement.

But don't go when you're miserable from a bad night. Go when you can fully engage your compassion.

And, on your own end -- it may not seem it, but it may be more practical for you to move your bed than for them to move their crib. You'll be happier focusing on what you can control.

(I am, btw, a crazy-lady light sleeper. People who've lived with me have Stories. So I am sympathetic!)
posted by endless_forms at 12:46 PM on December 7, 2010

Mod note: more comments removed - as I've said, the less you can call various actors in this outline jerks and assholes the better this thread will go. If you do not have specific advice, feel free to not answer,
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:59 PM on December 7, 2010

Grumblebee wrote: And I am also really glad he spoke up. I would not want to unknowingly disturb someone when it's in my power to not do so.

I recently asked this question about soundproofing a large window in our apartment because our first child is due in April. I've been researching solutions for that one flimsy window, which why I know so much about soundproofing lately!

Some folks do actually think ahead about this sort of thing, especially if they've previously been on the receiving end of a sound or sleep disruption. It's OK if you bring up your sound issue now in a constructive manner since there are practical easy* solutions available that can be implemented in your unit and theirs. Really.

*some solutions are easier than others to implement, but any attempt to mitigate the sound leak will result in improvement for everyone.
posted by jbenben at 1:07 PM on December 7, 2010

I don't think approaching them is unreasonable, although it's probably best to be sure that you can't solve the problem (for you) on your end first.

Personally, half a dose of melatonin (available over the counter) plus a fan for white noise puts me out like a LIGHT. I live in a very old house with three early-twenties Irish guys on exchange sharing the apartment above me. My bed is directly below their kitchen which is the only space in their house without carpeting -- it's basically plywood and linoleum between them and me. And I have never heard them at night. Either they're all sitting at the kitchen table silently passing notes to each other all night or melatonin + white noise is amazing. Good luck!
posted by kate blank at 1:14 PM on December 7, 2010

It's OK if you bring up your sound issue

Here's what we've learned in this thread:

If "OK" means ethically allowable, then, according to me and some other people, you're not going to go to hell or be cosmically classified as an asshole if you politely bring it up -- as long as you make it clear you realize there may not be a solution.

Other people in this thread DO think that only selfish bastards bring up stuff like this. Which means that if you bring it up, your neighbors (and anyone they might tell) may or may not think you're a selfish bastard. So we've learned that, in terms of ethics, you've stepped on contested ground.

If "OK" means "Is it likely the story will have a happy ending?" then -- as we've also learned in this thread -- it's impossible to tell. If it was my baby (or bike) it would end well, at least in terms of neighborly relations and -- MAYBE -- in terms of a solution. If it's someone else, it may not go so well.

So, in your shoes, since the outcome is ambiguous, I would either flip a coin or -- perhaps better -- get to know the neighbors a bit before making a choice as to whether or not to broach to the subject. Maybe after you've spent some time talking to them, you'll have a better idea how they're likely to react.

In the end, this question is similar to "How will much will SOME PERSON like it if I get him a subscription to 'The New Yorker' for his birthday?"
posted by grumblebee at 1:19 PM on December 7, 2010

Ambien. If it allows me to sleep through my husband's horrendous snoring, it can probably help you sleep through the baby noise until the child settles down more.
posted by Jacqueline at 1:23 PM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

This is not just your problem, anon. It's also most definitely your landlord's problem. If the noise is enough that it's interfering with your sleep, no other tenant is really going to be that eager to take your place, which will mean repeated problems or complaints for the landlord if you move. That is why I would tackle this immediately, and contact the landlord at once if I were you.

But I also want to say that Grumblebee makes a good point. I will take it further. It is shocking how common it is for people to remain utterly oblivious to their inevitable interdependence on neighbors in high-density or apartment-type situations. I have lived in several cities, and in several different kinds of apartments. A lot of people, a lot of the time, are very reasonable when you point out your *inevitable* common interests to them. A few, like Grumblebee, even think ahead. But a whole lot of folks simply don't think at all. They are not necessarily bad people; maybe they're just people so used to the suburban experience of utter freedom in one's own home they don't have any other prototypes in theirs heads. I don't know. All I do know is folks can be wildly oblivious.

In your case, the point of interest here isn't just that the upstairs neighbors' baby is infringing on your sleep; it's also that you are *not* infringing on the baby's sleep by (1) playing music loudly, (2) hosting late-night parties, (3) engaging in noisy date nights, and so on. Note that if you moved, no one could promise your neighbors that your replacement wouldn't do one of these things, or God forbid, all of them.

What I'm trying to point out here is *you* are already doing something for them. You are being quiet. Assuming they would like you to continue to be quiet so you, you know, don't suddenly wake up the baby once the baby is asleep, which, you know, would almost inevitably wake up *them*, it would seem to me it would behoove them to work with you on this. It's worth your mentioning this to your landlord, as this gives him or her a little ammunition, too. As I say, your relationship with your neighbors (and your landlord with his or her condo co-op) is one of common interests. Common interests are most successfully realized when people understand that by giving a little, you also gain a little--and sometimes, without realizing it, people (your neighbors with the baby, for example) already have it good and they shouldn't necessarily take advantage of that.
posted by Violet Blue at 8:43 PM on December 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

I am with the poster above who cited the endless misery that is to come if you do not improve the soundproofing, move, or convince them to move. Think of the toddlers.
posted by salvia at 12:36 AM on December 8, 2010

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