Prevent Abusive Head Trauma
Abusive head trauma (AHT), which includes shaken baby syndrome, is a severe form of
physical child abuse. It results in injury to the brain of a child. AHT is a leading
cause of physical child abuse deaths in children under 5 in the U.S. Babies less than
1 year old are at the greatest risk of injury from AHT. AHT can be prevented.
Shaking, hitting, throwing, or dropping babies and toddlers can have dangerous results.
A baby's neck muscles can't support the stress of shaking. When the baby is shaken,
its head moves in a sudden whiplash motion that can cause bleeding inside the head
and increased pressure on the brain.
Shaking, hitting, throwing, or dropping baby or child can cause irreversible brain
damage, learning disabilities, intellectual disability, blindness, deafness, seizures,
paralysis or death. Babies who survive severe shaking will likely need lifelong medical
care. Nearly all victims of AHT suffer serious, long-term health problems.
Many new parents and caregivers may not understand that crying is the baby's only
way to communicate, and that some babies cry more than others. Babies will cry because
of hunger, the need to suck, pain from illness, teething or earache, colic, the need
for comfort or cuddling, or the need for rest. Parents who understand that babies
cry often may be less likely to feel stressed to the point that they shake their baby
out of frustration and anger.
Here are a few tips to remember when your baby just won't seem to stop crying:
Understand that a baby's crying is worse in the first few months of life. It will
get better as the child grows.
Understand that healthy babies may cry for as long as 1 to 2 hours. Even those who
are well cared for and loved.
Make sure the baby is fed and dry.
Feed the baby slowly.
Burp the baby often.
Sing or talk softly to your baby.
Rock the baby gently or go for a walk.
Hold your baby against your bare skin (skin-to-skin).
Take the baby for a ride in a stroller or car.
Try a wind-up infant swing.
If your baby won’t stop crying, check for signs of illness. Call your baby's healthcare
provider if you think your baby is sick.
If you're feeling overly tense or angry and you think you may shake, throw, or hit
your baby, lay them in a safe place such as the crib and walk away for a short break.
Call a friend or a family member and try to get help taking care of your baby. Sometimes
being the primary caregiver can be overwhelming. Asking for help is the best thing
to do for both you and your baby.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, talk with your baby’s healthcare provider about childcare
options, counseling, or other resources that can help.
Call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 800-422-4453. A trained counselor can help you deal
with your frustration, so you don’t hurt your baby.
Never leave your baby alone with a person who is easily irritated, or has a temper
or a history of violence.
These tips should be also shared with all of your child's caregivers because babysitters
and partners of the parent often feel frustrated by persistent crying.