Colic and Shaken Baby Syndrome
If you ever have the urge to shake your baby, call 911. Inconsolable crying, as seen in colicky infants, is the number one trigger for shaken baby syndrome (SBS) and the results are often deadly. Shaking a baby or young child for a mere 5 seconds can cause brain damage and death. Those who survive SBS can suffer from permanent damage including paralysis, blindness, and profound mental retardation.
Between 1,200 to 1,400 babies in America suffer from SBS each year and approximately one-third of these babies will die as a result. It is important for you to learn to recognize the symptoms of SBS, especially if you have to return to work or have someone else watching your baby during the fussy months.
Make sure you emphasize, and re-emphasize to your child's caregiver that they can call you when they are at their wits' end. Let them know that you will be there in a flash if they need assistance and that it is never an inconvenience for them to call for help—it is a necessity. You know how hard it is for you to keep your cool. Others might not have all that love inside to prevent them from doing the unthinkable: Shaking a baby.
Here are some of the warning signs of SBS:
- Unequal sized pupils and/or difficulty focusing on objects
- Change in eating habits: Poor sucking and/or swallowing
- Unexplained vomiting
- Unusual tiredness or limpness
- No smiling or facial expressions
- Failure to thrive
- Pale or bluish skin
If you ever think that someone has shaken your baby or notice any of the warning signs listed above, seek immediate medical attention for your baby and alert social services and law enforcement authorities. It is imperative to never let anyone watch your baby if you think for one second that they may hurt your child. There is always someone you can call for help: All you have to do is pick up the phone and call the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome at (888) 273-0071 or Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at (800) 4-A-CHILD.
Walk Away to Keep Your Cool
Remember, you are not a Stepford wife—you are a real, live human being. You were born with the beautiful imperfections of womankind and a lot of feelings to contend with. Next time your baby starts into one of her inconsolable fits, do the normal routine of changing, feeding, burping, cuddling, and so forth and then put her down in a safe place and let her "sing," as some call it. It's okay to let her cry it out for five or 10 minutes. The hardest part is letting go of the guilt and allowing yourself to close the door, walk away, and regain your composure.
Rest assured, there are plenty of other mothers going through the same thing right now. Try to find them so that you can help each other out. (Start talking to other moms with fussy babies here.)
After you walk away, it's best to engage in something that will help calm your nerves such as going outside, calling a friend to vent, or vacuuming (the noise muffles the cries!).
From the book The Colic Chronicles by Tara Kompare. Excerpted by arrangement with Da Capo Lifelong (www.dacapopress.com), a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2008.