The number one trigger for shaken baby syndrome is frustration with a baby’s crying.
Studies show that frustration with an infant’s colic-associated crying is the most common reason for shaken baby syndrome (SBS). To have a screaming baby day after day, for hours on end, can drive new parents or caregivers to reach breaking point, lose control and shake the baby out of frustration and anger. Sadly, this is when permanent head injury and brain damage can occur.
What is shaken baby syndrome?
SBS is a form of head injury that occurs when a baby is shaken forcibly enough to cause his brain to rebound and bounce against his skull. “This rebounding may cause bruising, swelling, and bleeding of the brain, which may lead to permanent, severe brain damage, blindness, or even death,” says the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome in the US. “SBS resulting in head injury is the leading cause of death and the most common cause of long-term disability and permanent damage in physically abused infants and children,” says Marilyn Barr, founder and former executive director of the centre.
What is colic?
Colic is defined as repeated episodes of excessive and inconsolable crying in a newborn who is otherwise perfectly healthy. The condition can affect up to one in three babies. One way to determine if it may be colic-associated crying is to take note if the infant’s crying matches the ‘rule of threes’. When a baby cries excessively for:
- Three or more hours a day
- Three or more days a week
- Three or more weeks.
If your baby’s crying matches the above criteria, he may have colic.
How are colic and shaken baby syndrome related?
Colic peaks at about six weeks, while the incidence of SBS peaks about one month after that. It’s important to note that it is not colic that causes SBS, but rather that a colicky baby is going to cry more, which in turn raises the chances that a parent or caregiver will shake him.
Try these four tips to help soothe a colicky newborn
- Swaddle your baby.
- Turn on a white noise machine or a vacuum cleaner near your baby.
- Use the colic hold – your forearm supports your baby’s tummy and either your palm, or, depending which way your baby is turned, a slight bend in your arm cradles your baby’s head.
- Colief infant drops have been clinically proven to reduce colicky symptoms associated with temporary lactase deficiency. This is when some babies are temporarily unable to fully break down lactose, a complex sugar that is found in both breast and formula milk, causing wind, bloating and discomfort. The lactase in Colief Infant Drops is a natural enzyme which breaks down the lactose in the milk by up to 70%, aiding digestion and helping to reduce the hours of crying.
Calming tips for new parents
If you can’t calm your baby and feel like you are about to lose control:
- Stop what you are doing immediately.
- Put your screaming baby down in a cot, swing or other safe spot.
- Walk away – to the next room, outside, anywhere that will get you away from the situation until you have regained your composure and are able to comfort your baby.
- Reach out for help. It’s important to take care of yourself, too. Even asking your partner, a friend or family member to watch your little one while you walk around the block for a little break can help.
Colief Infant Drops are available from Dis-Chem, Clicks and selected pharmacies.
Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day. Learn more about Xanet Scheepers.