Never shake a baby

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.

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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:

  • Give the baby a pacifier after you make sure that his or her diaper is clean.
  • Run a vacuum cleaner or turn on the dryer; these sounds soothe some babies.
  • Take the baby for a walk in the stroller or for a ride in the car.
  • Cuddle the infant close to your body.
  • Rule out sickness by calling your pediatrician if the baby has been crying for several hours.
  • Gently swing or rock the baby.
  • Ask for help from a caring, appropriate friend or relative and take a break.
  • Avoid misdirecting your anger toward the baby.  Parents can call 800-CHILDREN for more information on ways to calm a crying baby.
  • If your frustration level is extremely high, walk away from the crying baby.  Let the infant cry in his or her crib for a short period of time while you calm down while checking on your child at least every five minutes.
  • Count to 10 slowly and take deep breaths.
  • Avoid disciplining your child while you are angry.
  • Avoid holding your infant during any arguments.
  • Make sure that all caretakers for your child are appropriate and responsible.
  • NEVER shake a baby under any circumstances!



One Response to Never shake a baby

  1. Ali Pinschmidt

    April 17, 2014 at 1:54 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this potentially life-saving information! For any reader that is interested in supporting SBS prevention education, please watch this moving video. It’s estimated that 60% of the country doesn’t know about Shaken Baby Syndrome or how to prevent it, and this campaign is trying to change that.

    Thank you again for your coverage of this topic.

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