Help convince me that it's okay to raise our baby in an apartment.
November 16, 2011 12:31 PM   Subscribe

Help convince me that it's okay to raise our baby in an apartment.

Yes, I know that millions of people raise their children in apartments and that it's my suburban upbringing that has me thinking that everybody needs a house before baby. However, my husband and I are expecting a child next year and my biggest concern is knowing how anxious I will be about having a noisy baby in our apartment. For example, when we first got our dog, I was in a constant panic about much noise she was making when we left her alone (she would cry for about 20 minutes when we left the house and it took about two weeks for her to adjust - she's fine now).

We live in a rowhouse that has been converted into 8 condo units. We rent our unit from the owner. There are a couple of other two-bedroom units like ours, but the rest of the apartments are small studios or one-bedrooms that attract mostly single grad students. It's a quiet building because the tenants are quiet but it's an old structure and sound definitely carries.

We'll obviously do everything we can do to keep the noise down, but it's inevitable that our neighbors are going to hear a crying baby. How do I keep this from causing me even more stress than the stress of trying to calm a crying baby?

It's likely that we'll need to move cities in 2013 because of my husband's job, so I'd like to avoid moving next year as well. Our current apartment is pretty great - we've got plenty of room for a kid, it's affordable, I can walk to work, and we even have a (virtually unheard-of) dedicated parking spot out back. I've been an apartment-living city-dweller for over ten years, and I'm comfortable with this lifestyle. It's just the baby thing that's got me freaked. Help?
posted by jrichards to Human Relations (31 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This is something that happens. It's less a factor of "apartment" living and more a factor of just urban living. When I lived in Harlem, I heard not only the odd crying baby, but the godawful singing Christmas ornament on the balcony three floors up, plus every single person that went in or out of the building. Comes with having your window by the front door.

This is just something people do. One of the things you get (and pay for!) with detached housing is the added privacy of not sharing walls, floors, or ceilings with anyone else. In the absence of such luxury, people just deal.

I think you'll also find that people are a lot more understanding of babies than other sources of noise, particularly dogs and stereos. You can always turn your stereo down, so there's really no excuse for playing it too loud, and there's a sort of instinctive sense that people should be able to control their dogs, whether or not it's true. But crying is just something babies do, and there's every expectation that the parents are just as annoyed by this as the neighbors, so people, in my experience anyway, tend to be a bit more tolerant.
posted by valkyryn at 12:39 PM on November 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

Some babies cry a lot. Others do not.

In an apartment you will have less flexibility to opt for the 'crying it out' school of sleep training, but otherwise, it is really not a problem. When baby cries, you'll take care of it - boob, swing, rock, a walk, car ride... Don't worry.

We've lived in condos with thin walls and now a rowhouse with a baby/toddler. It is fine.

You might not think about it yet, but what we found more problematic was noise from neighbors when baby was sleeping. We were never home to notice it before, but the leafblower at 2 in the afternoon or loud patio dinner at 8pm all of a sudden became incredibly annoying.
posted by k8t at 12:40 PM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

... it's inevitable that our neighbors are going to hear a crying baby.

Unless you end up having to deal with colic, you're likely imagining this to be a much bigger problem than it actually will be. We live in an apartment and have a ten month old, and the short, periodic crying jags haven't turned our neighbors against us - and we also live in a converted rowhouse where sound carries.
posted by ryanshepard at 12:40 PM on November 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

Yeah - this just happens. If you want to be a good neighbor... and I would urge you to do so.. is to talk to your neighbors and tell that you are expecting (if they don't already know) and that you know this is likely to impact the entire building in some way but that you intend to do everything possible to address noise/nuisance but that you'd appreciate their understanding on the random colicky nights, etc.

Do what you can in your baby's room to provide sound absorbing/dampening surfaces, including curtains, a rug, wall hangings, etc.
posted by FlamingBore at 12:42 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

Honestly, in terms of noise, a crying baby has NOTHING on a racing, thumping, screaming toddler. And you're already moving in 2013. So you're totally fine.
posted by kate blank at 12:44 PM on November 16, 2011 [20 favorites]

People have babies in apartments all the time, and people who live in apartments hear all kinds of noises. Reasonable neighbors know that babies can't help crying, and that noise in general is part of apartment living. I wouldn't worry about it -- there is LITERALLY nothing you can do about it. (If it makes you feel better, I used to hear our neighbor's baby crying when we lived in separate houses, so it may happen wherever you live, unless you're planning to move to the deepest woods.)

Your neighbors have seen you pregnant, so they know there's a baby en route, and everyone knows babies cry. It's a totally different thing than, say, when your next door neighbor is playing movies hella loud or blasting video games or having a loud party, or even a barking dog. It's not being inconsiderate, it's just a fact of life. Honestly, newborns often aren't even that loud, truly (they may SEEM loud to you, but you're right there in their faces. A three year old having a tantrum meltdown is WAY louder from the perspective of your neighbors).

Seconding that making sure the bedroom has rugs and wallhangings to dull the sound may give you some peace of mind, and help in general, but otherwise, seriously, don't worry too much about it and just do the best you can to keep the baby healthy and happy (as you would be anyway!) and things will take care of themselves.

Mazel tov!
posted by Countess Sandwich at 12:44 PM on November 16, 2011

Unless you end up having to deal with colic, you're likely imagining this to be a much bigger problem than it actually will be.

Find out if any of your neighbors are like me - I suffer from severe headaches that can last days at a time. And I can say this, my life has been a living hell since my upstairs neighbors moved in with their decidedly toddler daughter, who they let cry out on the balcony above my office. Ever. Day.

The sound of a crying baby destroys my day when I am having a headache. In fact, the stress of just hearing a noise like that that I relate to pain can actually BRING ON a headache. Worse is when I have managed to get to sleep for the first time in two days for more than 20 minutes because of the pain, and lo and behold, CRYING BABY wakes me up with ear splitting cries.

Please, please don't assume everyone is going to be able to just ignore a crying baby. If sound caries in your units, consider very much either finding a new place where it doesn't, or talking to your neighbors about it.
posted by strixus at 12:46 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

Honestly, in terms of noise, a crying baby has NOTHING on a racing, thumping, screaming toddler.

Seconding this. My neighbor just had a baby (like, last week) and she was fretting about us being able to hear her. I honestly didn't notice it in the slightest, because I'm so used to the other neighbor's tantrum-throwing, screaming four-year-old.
posted by restless_nomad at 12:51 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

You'll be fine. I think you're having a lot of anxiety because you care about people and their opinions of you and you want to make your neighbors happy. That means you possess some empathy, which will contribute to you being a great mom.

If anyone is cross with you about the crying once the baby comes, you are absolutely within your rights to say, "Babies cry, and we live in a multi-unit building in the city. The noise is well within reasonable limits, so there is no need for you to complain anymore." Then close the door or walk away. Whatever you do, don't apologize or promise to keep it down... an apology is an admission that you're in the wrong, and promising to keep a baby from crying is basically just a lie. So own it: you live in the city, you're having a baby, babies cry. People in multi-unit dwellings assume this risk when they move in, and if they try to paint you as unreasonably loud, they're failing to recognize that.
posted by juniperesque at 12:52 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding the idea to talk to your neighbors beforehand. To me, the courtesy heads up tells them at least you are thinking about the impact it's going to have on them and will probably assuage a lot of potential resentment. We live in a townhouse and when mr. something bought a drumset I went next door to apologize in advance and let them know to please feel free to come to us if the noise was a problem. We never heard a peep from them.
posted by something something at 12:52 PM on November 16, 2011

People have babies and unless your apartment building had a "no children" clause in the lease or something like that then this is just one of those things people will have to put up with. That said, I strongly second those who say that you should talk with your immediate neighbors about the fact that you've got a baby on the way and that you're taking what reasonable steps you can to muffle the noise. And if baby happens to have a REALLY awful night some time (maybe you know one of your grad students is prepping for a qualifying exam and baby jrichards chooses the night before to scream defiance at the world from 2AM to 6AM) be prepared to offer a bottle of wine or some such to your neighbor.

The talking is the really important thing here. A noise that comes into your apartment from mystery-person-upstairs is always far more upsetting than "oh, jrichards and little jrichards are having a time tonight, aren't they?" And chances are you'll find most people respond with delight and blessings for your newborn far more strongly than any transient annoyance at the noise it causes.
posted by yoink at 12:58 PM on November 16, 2011

Don't say 'Babies cry, this is now your problem, don't complain'. This might be true, but at best it's ineffective, and at worst you now have a neighbour who will play loud movies during naptime just to piss you off in return.

Tell your neighbours in advance -- give them all chocolate cigars if you want -- and tell them what you are going to do (rugs, wall hangings, keep the crib away from shared walls), and ask them to come to you if there is a problem so you can see if there's another solution. Apologising isn't always saying you're at fault, and an apology can go a long way to keep the peace.
posted by jeather at 12:58 PM on November 16, 2011 [5 favorites]

an apology is an admission that you're in the wrong.

Really? Wow.

Or it could be seen as "Hey, I understand. Trust me, I'm in this apartment and it's even louder in here. I wish there was a mute button too, but there isn't and we are being the best parents we know how to be. Bear with us and this phase will pass. When it does, we can celebrate it together!"
posted by FlamingBore at 1:01 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Your baby will cry, and you will hear your baby cry. In fact, you will hear your baby sigh and roll over and breath, even from rooms away.

Other people will not hear your baby the same way.

I was *amazed* when we stayed with my inlaws or my parents, and, just rooms away, they didn't hear the babies cries. I would get up and they would think that she had slept all night, when in actuality we were up for hours.

Parents are just more attuned to their kids than others are. Unless something unusual goes on, I think you'll be fine. If you're super worried about it, try to put the crib/bassinet not on a shared wall.
posted by dpx.mfx at 1:12 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

My baby did have colic. We lived in a building that sounds much like yours.

Even THAT was never a problem, or if it was, no one said a word to us about it and most people thought Toddler Zizzle was the mostabsoluteadorablethingintheworldeverlookatthatbaby!
posted by zizzle at 1:35 PM on November 16, 2011

Just to add to the "you probably don't need to worry so much" anecdata: this summer, I spent my vacation sharing a house with various family members. It turns out my 4-year-old nephew has screaming nightmares; I had the bedroom directly over him, and never woke up..... I never HEARD the kid, and if the parents hadn't told me I never would have known about the midnight screaming. All of which is to say, any sound probably won't carry as much as you fear it will.

Congrats on your future babyrichards!
posted by easily confused at 1:56 PM on November 16, 2011

I probably should have been more specific. An apology doesn't actually mean admitting you are wrong. But to an angry neighbor with unreasonable expectations about noise in the city, it absolutely will sound like it. Your extreme anxiety over inconveniencing your neighbors by the crying your baby is going to make at unpredictable times in the future could, if you're not careful, develop into an anxiety disorder or cause you an enormous amount of stress that you don't need.

It's not necessary to reach out to your neighbors to tell them you are expecting a baby. You are pregnant. It's not invisible. You will get more and more pregnant until you're not anymore, and there's a baby instead. Telling the neighbors that you wish there was a mute button isn't going to get a polite guffaw and an aw shucks, it is going to annoy them because they really DO wish there was a mute button. Telling them to bear with you is patronizing; they're not really bearing with you.

Look. I got from the tone of your question that you're already so nervous about offending the neighbors that it's causing you anxiety. Your dog issue, which lasted for two weeks, caused you to panic. So just let it go. Your baby is going to cry. You live in the city. You don't need to apologize for the normal noises you make going about your life. Enjoy your family and your baby and those first years because they will go by fast for you.
posted by juniperesque at 2:00 PM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

Your baby will cry, and you will hear your baby cry. In fact, you will hear your baby sigh and roll over and breath, even from rooms away.

This. I have a three year old who still wakes up almost every night and yells for me. No one hears her but me. No one. Not my daughter who sleeps in the same room with her, not my husband, not my son, no one. Now, if I don't go get her, she'll climb in bed with my daughter and poke her until she wakes up, but no one hears her. And I don't hear my sister's kids when they sleep here. I only wake up when I am in charge of the crying child. And anyway, it'll be better than that guy in my old apartment building who played "Maneater" by Hall and Oates over and over 24/7. (What was up with that?) And yes, I suck at making kids sleep in their beds.
posted by artychoke at 2:00 PM on November 16, 2011

I lived in an apartment where the neighbours had a baby. The baby cried most nights. The baby often cried during the day. Sometimes we sighed and grumbled. But we also put in earplugs and dealt with it.

And I can swear 100% that we did not judge the parents or think bad thoughts about them. Usually we said, "Oh my god, those poor parents. They were up all night with that baby and now it's crying again. I hope they can get some sleep later. I'm glad we don't have babies, huh?"
posted by lollusc at 2:20 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Having been neighbor to a few families with babies in my time as a renter, I'll join the chorus of people saying not to worry too much. When you share a wall with your neighbors you have to expect to hear their movies, their door opening and closing, their phone ringing, and their kids. A courtesy warning is a very friendly thing to give, and of course you don't want to be a total jackass and leave the child to scream into the open air of a common area (seriously, strixus, that sucks), but bear in mind there are much worse things you could be doing to your neighbors. I'll take the sounds of a child discovering the world over a Michael Bay marathon anyday.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:21 PM on November 16, 2011

Yes, don't stress yourself out about it. Most people love babies and will be understanding. Occasionally, some people will be annoyed. Most parents don't let the baby cry for long periods anyway, right? You'd just get out the stroller, sling, boob and comfort the baby. We've only lived in apartments and on the second floor which means baby Biscuits does a lot of stomping, running and screaming. Just keep checking in with your immediate neighbors and see if it's keeping them awake at night like, "aw, junior had a rough night last night. Hope it didn't keep you up....etc etc" If you are likely to be home during the day and you have neighbors who work at home, you can always bake some cookies with a nice note that says, "If the noise from junior is too much, please don't hesitate to call or text me at any time. We'll do our best!"
posted by biscuits at 3:10 PM on November 16, 2011

Hearing your baby crying wouldn't bother me nearly as much as hearing you having sex. The one place I lived where the baby who lived above us had cystic fibrosis and was frequently crying for long periods in the middle of the night, we just put pillows over our heads and felt sorry for the poor parents.
posted by MexicanYenta at 3:49 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Don't bother warning them ahead of time. Around month six they'll figure it out.

My suggestion would be this. You know all of those folks who are falling all over themselves to help out when a new baby comes - the ones who seem to want to pop up just when you're about to catch your third hour of sleep in as many days? Put them to work. If they ask what they can do, ask them to make cookies, cupcakes, pastries etc. Then, one by one, take the treats to your neighbors and thank them for their patience with the noise from the little one in your house.

Baked goods are a terrific way to preemptively disarm prospective complainers.

A few things could happen. A. Folks who do not notice will think you're the best neighbor in the building. B. From most you'll likely get some sort of "it's no bother at all, why I didn't even notice, Congratulations!" C. Anyone so miserly in their patience with a baby being a baby and a empathy for newly minted parents should be shamed into keeping their mouth shut and will follow suit with A and B. They'll say it's nothing, they don't even notice, but of course they don't mind.

In any case, you've acknowledged the noise and you don't have to apologize for it - just thank them for their understanding, leave sweets and enjoy the kidlet.

posted by space_cookie at 5:53 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

My downstairs neighbors had both an infant and a VERY screamy, tantrum-y toddler. Sometimes I got annoyed in the middle of an hours-long scream fest, and my quality of life in my apartment definitely suffered for about four months straight, but really - I never blamed the parents. This is just part of life.

A few months into the worst of the Terrible Twos, they left a card on my door that read, "Sorry we can't keep our kids quiet. Here's a gift card that you can use to get away from the screaming." The gift card was $30 at a local movie theater. It wasn't a necessary gesture, but it was really thoughtful & I appreciated it.

If you get into a persistent screamy period (like hours at time on most days), and you feel self-conscious about it, this tactic is a nice one. But I wouldn't bother doing it for regular baby noises.
posted by jenmakes at 7:21 PM on November 16, 2011

As someone who has noisy neighbors and resents them, I would be lying to myself if I said I wouldn't be pissed if someone had a crying baby in my building. Yeah, it's selfish, but guess what, I am not paying a lot of money to live in a miserable living situation where I can't find peace after a stressful day at work.

That said, I'm recently engaged and obviously baby talk has come up so I'm trying my hardest to put myself in others' shoes when it comes to kids. I have shitty patience though so I'm not sure I'll ever be good at it.

If you have to deal with people like me, know that quite often, we realize its not your "fault", but we're still fucking pissed at the situation and the fact that it won't change short of one of us moving is going to make us resentful no matter what. Anything you can do to help mitigate the cause of the situation is the only thing we care about. Period.

Examples include letting us know about the great soundproofing you are installing, or the thick rug and wall hangs you just got, letting us know when you (and the noisemaker) will be out of town, etc. Also, buying us a peace offering of a nice set of earplugs would be appreciated.

To those who say you should not be apologetic, I say BULLSHIT. You have forcibly worsened someone else's quality of living and brought more stress into their lives. While I'm not so unreasonable as to say you shouldn't have had a kid, you damned well better be apologetic about it since you certainly didn't ask my permission (nor should you) before you made my home a place of stress and restlessness.
posted by Elminster24 at 9:27 PM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

OK, as someone who lived in an apartment with paper-thin walls and a newborn next door: PLEASE don't put your baby's crib right by a shared wall. I think the new baby's cries were louder to me than they were to its parents (ie, I could hear their footsteps approaching and leaving the crib and could tell it was taking them a while, and I knew roughly how their apartment was laid out since all the units were basically the same, so I probably knew where they were sleeping and YES I thought all this through in my head because it was a loud baby and it was right by where I was keeping my ears). I had graduated from college a few months previous and I was not in a place in life where I could sympathize. Indeed, I remember thoughts such as "Maybe I shall never procreate" drifting through my head as I lay awake.

That said, I didn't blame the parents for having a baby, and I didn't blame the baby for crying. I did blame the parents for choosing a spot to keep their baby that was so inconsiderate to their neighbors.
posted by troublesome at 10:25 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was brought up in apartments. I'm fine. Well. Maybe.

But especially since you're likely going to move anyway, this isn't going to be a big deal. The child isn't going to remember.

I'm not sure if your place has stairs or an elevator or what, but I once saw a mom almost lose a stroller down a flight of stairs... with baby still in it.
posted by bluelava at 11:59 PM on November 16, 2011

I'm going to agree with others, it's not the crying that's the issue, it's the 4 year old upstairs that runs back and forth, back and forth, and sounds like he's dropping bowling balls on the floor, directly over my couch. But so it goes, it's the city.
posted by Sreiny at 12:21 AM on November 17, 2011

Depending on your relationship with your neighbours you can take the baby around to say hi to a few of them too. Obviously this depends a lot on the neighbour in question. It's not going to work if he/she hates kids. But many people like other people's babies. If they've seen the kid, cooed over it a little, etc they're less likely to get all grar-y when they hear it crying at night. I've seen this being done in planes as well.
posted by Ziggy500 at 2:48 AM on November 17, 2011

I have never been fond of children and have none of my own. One thing that I do not like is the sound of crying babies. Although I do not like it, I do not mind it and I am not annoyed by it. Occasionally I will be someplace like on an airplane and there will be a crying baby and some nearby adult acts like they are being imposed on. That bothers me far more than a crying baby does.

My downstairs neighbor has a three year old. I hear the little monster at least once a day. It is not a problem. The neighbors who can't be bothered to pick up their dog poop are worse than the three year olds by a fair margin.
posted by bukvich at 6:17 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

If they can hear the baby crying, they probably also heard you making the baby. It comes with the territory.

Listen, living in an apartment means hearing noise from the other apartments. It just does. People who can't handle it should live in detached homes.
posted by Ragged Richard at 10:01 AM on November 18, 2011

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