Never shake a baby

From Issue: 
January 2014

Sleep deprivation and a baby who won’t stop crying can be extremely stressful and frustrating for new parents. Sometimes, regardless of what comfort or soothing you are able to provide your baby may be inconsolable and he or she may continue to cry for an hour or longer.

Throughout the crying episode, it is important to remember to never shake a baby. Shaking can cause serious and permanent damage to a baby’s brain, resulting in disabilities such as blindness and paralysis. It can be fatal. Sadly, between 2000 and 2009, Statistics Canada recorded 41 deaths attributed to Shaken Baby Syndrome.

A baby will cry for many reasons; it is one the primary ways he or she communicates! Some of these reasons include hunger, pain, discomfort, being too hot or cold, or illness. Sometimes a baby will cry for no reason at all. Contact your paediatrician if you suspect your baby is ill.

The Canadian Paediatric Society has the following recommendations for coping when a baby keeps crying:

  • If you feel like you might lose control, stop! Place your child safely in the crib, take a time-out and leave your child's room for as long as it takes you to feel calm.
  • Take slow and deep breaths.

  • Cry.

  • Take a shower.

  • Talk to a friend, family member, neighbour, or anyone else you trust, and get some support. Ask a trusted person to take care of your baby for a while so you can take a longer break.

  • If you ever feel you may hurt your baby, call for help: a family member, neighbour, a local crisis line, your child welfare agency, or police. Check the first pages of your local phone book for the emergency numbers in your area.

  • It's a good idea to have plan in place before you become upset or frustrated. Have a list of helpful numbers handy and clearly posted for all caregivers.

Remember, no matter how frustrated, upset or exhausted you get, never shake your baby. Seek the support you need, accept help when it is offered and take time to care for yourself.