Robyn felt alone, tired and desperate. She and her husband had just moved to a new town. She didn't have any friends to call or relatives to visit. Every day she stayed at home, growing increasingly frustrated with her colicky baby. Still, Robyn knew that was no reason to shake her.

Signs and symptoms

Shaken baby syndrome (SBS), although not always reported, occurs at least 1,400 times each year in the United States. The signs and symptoms resulting from violent shaking, or shaking and impacting the head of an infant, range from minor irritability, lethargy, tremors and vomiting, to major seizures, coma, stupor or even death.

The number one reason a baby is shaken is inconsolable crying. While it is sometimes okay to let a baby cry, it is never okay to shake him. Caregivers should deal with frustration by taking a proactive approach to stress management. Prevention specialist Karen Coleman suggests a caregiver make a list like the one below, before she finds herself out of control.

What to do instead

If the baby won't stop crying after all his basic needs have been met and he is not sick, try:

  • taking the baby for a walk in the stroller or going on a short drive
  • putting the baby in a wind-up swing
  • vacuuming the house or playing the radio. Babies sometimes love soothing noises, and these activities give the caretaker a break from the crying
  • asking a trusted friend if you could drop off your baby for a while
  • putting the baby in a safe place, like a crib or playpen, and leaving the room for a while. Check on the baby every one to 15 minutes. Remember it's normal for babies to cry, and it won't hurt them
  • calling for help. If you feel like you're going to lose control, do something about it.

Consider contacting a counsellor. Some areas offer crisis support nurseries or women's support groups.

For more information on SBS, visit the website of The National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome at Dontshake.org.

Originally published at TroubledWith.com under the title "A Cry For Help." © 2002 Lynne Thompson. Used with permission.

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