By LEE ANN MARTIN, family services manager
Pulaski County Social Services
Infants and toddlers are unable to control their emotions because they are immature and helpless. Please remember this when you care for a fussy infant who will not stop crying and you feel your frustration level rising. When adults lose control, babies are harmed. Shaken Baby Syndrome or Abusive Head Trauma, describes injuries that occur when an adult caregiver shakes an infant. Head trauma is the leading cause of death in child abuse cases nationwide. Babies have fragile brains; injuries can include brain swelling, severe mental retardation and blindness. The primary trigger for shaking and abusing infants is frustration with a crying baby.
Between two weeks and three months old, an infant may cry for long periods, especially in the afternoon or evening. This may occur despite your best efforts to provide soothing care. Experts call this the “period of purple crying,” which may last from 45 minutes to a few hours. This heavy crying is natural and will come and go no matter what parents do. Reacting in anger and handling a baby roughly can result in Shaken Baby Syndrome symptoms such as vomiting for no reason, difficulty breathing, inability to lift the head and seizures. Long term consequences may include learning disabilities, medical conditions such as blindness and behavioral disorders.
In Virginia, children under the ages of 12 months account for 84 percent of shaken baby inpatient hospitalizations. The good news is that you can learn how to calm your baby and yourself by following these tips: