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Coping with Crying/Shaken Baby Syndrome

Babies can be precious bundles of joy when they’re happy, but as a parent or caregiver, it is important to think about how you will react and what you will do when your baby cries.  Crying is how infants “talk” to us and is a natural part of being a baby.  Two to three hours of crying a day is considered normal for a healthy baby.  Babies who are not feeling well or have medical conditions may cry longer and you may not be able to soothe them.  Sometimes babies cry for no apparent reason.

A crying baby is also the main trigger for an adult to react violently when an infant seems to cry for long periods of time. This frustration can lead an adult to violently shake an infant. Shaken Baby Syndrome, now more commonly known as Abusive Head Trauma, is one of the most common causes of death by physical abuse to very young children in Florida.  Shaken Baby Syndrome occurs when a caregiver loses control and violently shakes a young child, causing permanent brain damage or death.  If a baby survives the violent shaking, he or she may be left with cerebral palsy, blindness, deafness, seizures, and/or learning/behavioral difficulties.

Infants under 6 months of age are at highest risk, but all children up to 3 years old are at risk.  For older children reasons for shaking include toilet training, crying, and oppositional behaviors (those “terrible twos”). 
 
Parents and caregivers can get overwhelmed and frustrated when their child won't stop crying.  But stay calm and try these tips:

  • Check the comfort of the baby:  does she need changing?  Is he hungry?  Is she hot or cold?  Is she teething?  Has he had shots? Call your baby’s doctor if you suspect your baby may be ill.
  • Try to calm your baby by: 
    • hold the baby against your chest and walk or rock the baby
    • Offer a pacifier
    • talk, sing and play with your baby
  • One of the most reassuring sounds to a baby is the sound of a familiar voice
  • Take your baby for a walk or a ride in the car

Sometimes nothing will calm a baby.  Remember babies can cry for no apparent reason.

If you begin to feel frustrated, understand that it is no longer about the baby crying, it is now about YOU.  How can you tell if you are frustrated?  Do you have any of these signs? 

  • Racing heart
  • Sweaty palms
  • Anger
  • Panic stricken
  • Feeling of Helplessness
  • Thoughts racing
  • No longer in control

How to Take Control of Your Frustration

As the caregiver, you are responsible for controlling your actions and learning how to keep control of your feelings and behavior under great pressure.  Place the baby in a safe place such as a crib and leave the room.  Take a deep breath.  Deliberately focus on your breathing.  Repeat deep breathing until you feel calm.
Calmness is a choice.  Consciously choose to stay calm.

Now is the time to ask for help.  Asking for help is your greatest sign of strength.

  • Call a friend for support -- ask someone you know and trust to come over and sit with the baby so you can get some relief
  • Make sure the baby is safe in the crib and go into another room for a few minutes
  • Try listening to music yourself
  • Exercise or do some physical activity
  • Think about how much you enjoy your baby when he is not crying
  • Refuse to judge yourself as a failure.
  • Reassure yourself that it is normal for babies to cry – a lot!
  • Feel your control returning.

You are now in control because you have de-stressed and de-escalated the situation in your mind.

No one who has cared for an infant can honestly say that they have never felt frustrated over a baby’s constant cries. But….Remember no baby ever died from crying!

Print a brochure with this information to keep on your refrigerator or in your nursery for when you need to remember how to cope with your child’s crying. It may also be a good idea to print a brochure with information for your child care provider.

Coping with Crying (PDF 279kB)

United State Senate Resolution 55, 2001, designates the third week in April as “National Shaken Baby Syndrome Awareness Week”.

Additional Resources: 
Prevent Child Abuse Florida  http://www.ounce.org/shakenbaby/preventshakenbaby.html
National Shaken Baby Coalition  http://www.shakenbabycoalition.org/
Shaken Baby Alliance  http://shakenbaby.org/