The #1 trigger for Shaken Baby Syndrome is frustration with a baby’s crying.
There are more than 1,300 cases of Shaken Baby Syndrome each year in the U.S. If you’ve ever been a primary caregiver for an infant, then you’ve probably been here: The baby won’t stop crying. It feels like it’s been days since you didn’t hear screaming. Your brain hurts and you are frazzled. You’re looking at the little baby in your arms wondering what on earth you have to do to get it to stop. You feel totally helpless and hopeless. You may be crying too.
You’ve tried everything. EVERYTHING. And the baby is still crying.
There may be a moment when you feel yourself tensing up. The baby is held at arm’s length—you just can’t stand the crying anymore.
I remember the moment very clearly. The baby was sick, had been sick for days, and I felt like the crying would never stop. I was trying to bounce the baby and holding it away from my ears and then I stopped. I felt like I’d come unglued. And it was the scariest thing because in that moment, I understood why people shake babies. I understood down in my bones.
The baby was still screaming, but I put it down in the crib, knowing it was safe there, and shut the nursery door and went outside and cried for about ten minutes. I was scared. I loved that baby, and I would never want to hurt it. I never would, but I felt like I was on the brink. After about ten minutes of crying and breathing deeply and pacing around out of earshot, I went in and started back up.
Eventually, the baby stopped crying, fell asleep or took a bottle. I don’t remember what happened after that, but I will NEVER forget that terrifying, dreadful moment.
If and when you ever find yourself in this situation STOP. Put the baby down somewhere safe and secure. Go outside for a few minutes. Walk around and take very deep breaths. Then return to the baby when you feel in control of yourself. NEVER shake a baby.
Shaken Baby Syndrome can cause severe, irreversible head trauma and death; it’s the leading cause of physical child abuse in the U.S.
The Period of PURPLE Crying is a normal period of time in a baby’s development when they cry more than usual. This is usually from about 2 weeks old to 3 or 4 months old.
If you need someone to talk to or need support caring for your baby, especially during the Period of PURPLE crying, call a friend or a mom. (Chances are they’ve been there and will have nothing but empathy and understanding.) Or use the resources below.
There’s no shame in being in a situation similar to the one above. We’ve all been there. But NEVER EVER shake a baby. EVER.
Here are a few resources to help you when your frustration is escalating:
In the U.S.: National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453)
In the U.S.: National Parent Helpline® 1-855- 4A PARENT (1-855-427-2736)
In the U.S.: 24 hour Parent Helpline: 1-888-435-7553
In the U.S.: Crying Baby Hotline: 1-866-243-2229
In the U.S.: Fussy Baby Warmline: 1-888-431-BABY
In the U.S.: National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-SUICIDE