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Mama Drama: Preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome

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Dear Mama Drama:

I am pregnant with my first child and due in a few weeks. I am very anxious about being a good mother and especially how to help my baby when she is crying.

I will only be able to take six weeks off of work, so I am also worried about finding a caregiver I can trust. I have heard of situations where a frustrated babysitter has shaken a baby and caused a lot of harm.

~Scared of Shaking

(photo credit)

Dear Scared:

Most new moms are anxious about how they will handle being a parent as well as the care their baby will receive when they are not with them. Planning ahead for providing the best care possible for your baby is a great start to alleviating some of those worries.

Crying is the way babies communicate. They cry to tell us they are tired, hungry, wet, agitated, and more. A baby can cry for up to five hours a day.  As parents and caregivers we need to expect crying to occur, do our best to figure out what they are trying to communicate, and meet their needs. As we get to know a baby better, it becomes easier to read their cries and even notice other cues to their needs before they start crying. However, at some point a baby may cry inconsolably and as caregivers we need to be prepared for handling that situation.

Having a good parenting resource to help you problem solve what your baby may need is the first step. Two excellent options are The Baby Book by Dr. William Sears and Martha Sears and The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley.

If the baby cannot be consoled and you are becoming frustrated, put the baby down in a safe place, i.e., the bassinet, crib, infant seat, etc. As long as the baby is safe, it is okay to shut the door or go into another room for a few minutes.  Take some deep, slow breaths to calm down and regain your self-control.

If you are still feeling too frustrated to safely support your baby, call a friend or relative who can help you calm down further or who may be able to care for the baby for a short while. Plan ahead who you will call and have their phone numbers easily accessible.

When interviewing prospective caregivers for your child there are many important topics to discuss. One of the most critical, and potentially difficult, is how that caregiver will care for him/herself and your baby when it is a difficult day with lots of crying. The caregiver’s plan should be similar to the one described above. Be sure he or she knows you are available for support if they are having a hard time.

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and The Children’s Hospital, Kohls, and The Kempe Center are sponsoring a campaign to raise awareness of and prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome.  You can visit The Children’s Hospital website for more information as well as  www.calmcryingbaby.com.

Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column runs on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions and challenges to Lisa@milehighmamas.com, and your Mama Drama could be in next week’s column! All emails and identifying information will remain confidential.

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