Shaken Baby Syndrome

Happy 1/2 birthday Tinishia!

But first, what is shaken baby syndrome? When a baby is shaken – however gently – his head may wobble and cause damage to the neck. The brain may accelerate into the skull and cause internal bleeding within the head, resulting in permanent damage.

Babysitters need to be aware – and parents need to be aware themselves and that their babysitters need to be aware – of this fortunately not-common but so-easily-done and very serious syndrome.

Most of the time your baby is wonderful! He cries when he needs your attention and usually you can find out what it is that she needs and give it to her. Successfully loving and responding to your baby is one of the most satisfying things you can do – and you are rewarded with your baby’s contentment and peace. Perfect!

Sweet little Tinishia here was born on 18th September 2010 and is the daughter of Ben from Canada and Doris from Kenya – true hope for our world and seen below warming up for her future singing career with ‘One Human Family‘ !

But seriously…

Sometimes babies cry and cry and scream and scream… For no obvious reason. This is known as colic. And for anyone in charge of a baby, this is one of the most incredibly distressing things that can happen.

Whatever you do, they still cry and cry. You feed your baby, burp her, change his diaper, cuddle her, talk to him, smile at her, dance with him, play with her… You try – in vain – to give them what they need to be content… You try and ease their wind… You imagine all sorts of terrible reasons for their crying and you start to panic? What are you doing wrong? What have you missed?

What Is Colic? Colic is pain or discomfort in the tummy and intestines – probably from gas – which a sedentary baby can’t easily move around and expel. A brand new digestive tract suddenly has to get used to food – milk. Normally colic causes a great deal of crying and wriggling and can go on daily, usually at the same time of day, for hours at a time over a period of weeks. However, if your colic is accompanied by fever, vomiting or diarrhea then please call a doctor at once.

You do everything that you know how to do – everything in your power – to soothe this baby. Very naturally you find yourself feeling upset and frustrated because you cannot think of another single thing that you can do… Baby is still crying. And, according to us (adults), crying = sadness. But maybe not? Maybe it’s a part of nature’s plan to tone up our muscles? Or to allow us (the baby) to vent the anger we feel at losing our cozy womb? Most of the frustration you feel inside is directed atyourself – for not being able to find ‘that magic answer’. Difficult to know the answer when we don’t really know the question. And we’re often so sure everyone else knows the answers…

Before you get to this point – or certainly as soon as you get to this point – gently take your red-faced and screaming baby and lay him or her – on his side – in a safe place (ie crib or pram) and leave the room. Give yourself a much needed break. Take yourself out of earshot of the crying – if possible. Take a walk round the garden if you can. Call a friend or call a hotline – talking to another human being right now is the best thing you can do.

If this is not your baby and you are babysitting, call her parents and let them know what is happening. You may not want them to come straight home but calling them is important. At the very least, talking about what’s happening will help to de-stress you. And that’s crucial. This is ‘just a job’… Do it well and remember that no baby ever died of crying…

Give yourself a break. NOW! Don’t wait until you are overwhelmed. Above all, never shake a baby… Whether in frustration or in an effort to calm him. Not even ‘gently’.

A baby’s head is heavy – disproportionately large and heavy compared to her whole size – and the baby’s neck is not strong with developed muscles to support it yet. Shaking baby – even gently – may well cause permanent damage to her neck. Even death.

Inside our heads, the brain is rather like jello in a bowl. Seriously! Imagine taking a closed bowl (one with a lid attached) that is full of jello… And then shaking it.

The jello would smash up against the hard sides of the bowl and become bruised and mushed. Remarkably easily. This happens in adults as the result of a blow – despite our strong and developed necks. And it happens very easily with a baby, causing swelling, inflammation and often fatal damage.

Lay your screaming baby down gently, in a safe place – particularly one who has been attended to. This will not harm them. Ever. They will probably scream anyway… Nothing much you can do. So give yourself a break. Call a friend, a helpline (there are numbers here on the ‘Useful Links’ page), or call the parents. Go through the list of things to do for a colicky baby – the list is below.

When you are calm, go back and pick up your baby. Soothe him in the best way you can. Remember that crying and screaming is the only way she has of communicating right now.

And if you feel yourself getting upset or frustrated again, calmly and gently lay her back down and take another break. Make your phone calls again – speak to another human being. This is one of the most stressful situations you can be in. Take every bit of support you can find. Give yourself the care and compassion that you need. It’s easy to forget this piece… This is not your fault… At all. A screaming and colicky baby is just one of those things that happens sometimes. Even to the most experienced and skilled caregivers. It’s OK…

Here is a list of 10 things to go through if your baby has colic…

1. Is your baby hungry or thirsty – he or she will take the nipple eagerly when he wants to feed

2. Does your baby have ‘wind’? Put him over your shoulder and gently pat his back

3. Does your baby have a soiled diaper or a sore bottom – clean her and put cream on her sore or red places

4. Always call the doctor straight away if there is vomiting and/or diarrhoea. Give your baby cooled, previously boiled water to drink to prevent dehydration – a leading cause of death in infants.

5. Does your baby have a fever? A crying baby will get hot but not so much as to be feverish but if you think he is feverish, call the parents. If there is a fever, call your doctor or hospital or take him to the emergency room. Don’t forget to strap him safely into his carseat, even though he’s crying and wriggling

6. Try different types of music – this often soothes both baby and you! I’ve had one son who adored Roy Orbison; another loved Elvis’s love songs; another absolutely hated Queen (until he grew up!). Remember, your baby may not share your taste in music! Be open to trying different genres.

7. Babies can also cry when they are overstimulated. Wrap your baby in a little sheet, hold him firmly and talk to him quietly and soothingly and take him into a room where it is just the two of you and there are no other distractions – ie no bright light or busy TV noise. This may help her to calm down.

8. If you start to feel frustrated – or just if all else fails – lay your baby down gently and take a break. Make a phone call. Walk in the garden – even at 2am. If you do this regularly – and as soon as you start to feel frustrated – you’ll keep yourself calm.

9. A trick that our great grandmothers used was to warm a small blanket or towel (they used to use the airing cupboard or hot water tank but you can also use a microwave for a few seconds; a hairdryer; an iron or even the oven) and check that the blanket is warm and not too hot. Place this soothing warm blanket on your baby’s tummy.

10. Make an appointment with your doctor or pediatrician so that she can check baby and make sure there’s no medical reason for the colic.

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Vitamins, supplements, clean air, pure water and exercise are also essential. A banana-a-day for the mother is one way to supplement naturally with potassium, a lack of which may be implicated in colic. Other potassium rich foods such as oysters and most fish may also help a colicky baby – as could magnesium, which helps with muscle cramps. Remember that calcium and magnesium must be taken together in a ratio of 2:1. There’s plenty of evidence that what mother supplements her own diet with eventually crosses over to the baby.

Most important of all: Remember that no baby ever died of crying! They will never remember this period of their lives but it will probably be etched in your memory for life! Do your best. Go through the check list above. Get medical help quickly where needed. But most of all, lay your baby gently down on his or her side in a safe place and take a break for ten minutes or so as often as you need.Phone a friend or a helpline.

GOOD LUCK!