Why should shaking an infant be forbidden?
Why should shaking an infant be forbidden? Today, we will learn more about shaken baby syndrome common in kids under two years old. The causes include mistreatments, such as unintentional shaking or tossing, leading to injuries, disabilities, or even death.
Why do parents shake their babies?
Newborns and infants cannot relate their needs verbally. When they feel hungry, uncomfortable, sleepy, afraid, etc., they communicate by crying. Usually, parents should search for the cause of the crying and respond immediately. However, there are situations when a baby won’t stop crying even after the parents have tried everything.
If you are a new parent dealing with the daily routines of newborns, for example, feeding, putting the baby to sleep, and changing diapers multiple times throughout the day and night, you will inevitably feel tired, do not have enough sleep, and accumulate stress. When the babies cry, they may inadvertently erupt in anger and shake them unintentionally.
Another dangerous play is tossing a baby in the air, believing your kid will like it. On the contrary, it is harmful, particularly for babies under 3 – 4 months old, because their neck muscles have not fully developed. Shaking, tossing, or swaying a baby’s neck back and forth or side to side may cause injuries to your baby. These may be safe for kids two years old and above.
What are the adverse consequences of shaking a baby?
Firstly, parents should know that shaking does not stop their baby from crying. This action is not a proper way to soothe a baby. On the contrary, it is downright dangerous and can cause the following injuries to an infant.
Because the newborn and infant skulls are the biggest-sized body part, with a higher proportion of fluid than adults, together with weak musculoskeletal structure in the neck area, when someone shakes a baby back and forth or side to side, it is like shaking a lump of meat in a bag of water. The brain, represented by the meat lump, will bang against the skull, causing injuries to the brain tissue. Moreover, due to weak blood vessels in the young brain, a tear can occur when the brain moves forcefully and suddenly, which can cause subdural hemorrhages and death in severe cases.
Other body parts that could be affected by such movement are the retina, causing retinal hemorrhages and loss of vision in the long run; neck vertebrae and spinal cord, which may lead to weakness, paralysis, or disability.
In addition, pressure from blood clots can cause further injuries to the brain and bring about various types of disability, depending on the injured area. Seizures and epilepsy can develop over time.
How to recognize if your baby suffers from the shaken baby syndrome
Usually, it is not harmful to calm or lull a baby to sleep with gentle rocking. However, if parents unintentionally shake their baby too forcefully and later notice symptoms, such as drowsiness, poor appetite, regurgitation, vomiting, seizures, longer sleep, and discomfort, these indicate the baby may have been affected by such forceful shaking. Another finding in newborns whose anterior fontanelle is not closed is a bulging fontanelle, signifying increased intracranial pressure. Parents should promptly take the baby to a hospital and provide truthful accounts of events to facilitate prompt diagnosis and treatment.
“How long does it take for the symptoms show up?” – a question parents may ask.
In the case of severe head injury with heavy brain bleeding, the symptoms are apparent immediately or within the same day of injury. For milder injuries, it may take a few days for the symptoms to appear. 1 in 3 affected children recovers after being hospitalized and receiving treatment. However, they may have neurological abnormalities when they grow up. The other two-thirds are of two groups: those who are disabled and cannot regain their regular, healthful life and those who die.
How to safely play with or lull your baby to sleep.
Avoid interacting violently with children. The best and safest way to rock a baby to sleep is to cradle a baby while walking or to gently rock a baby while cuddling a baby close to your body and singing lullabies. There are various ways of effectively playing with kids without imparting force. For example, peekaboo, pattycake, and noise-making toys are harmless ways of entertaining your kids.
What to do when your baby wouldn’t stop crying
Parents need to understand that their babies cry to communicate their needs. Initially, check for their basic needs, including hunger, diaper soiling, temperature, and discomfort. Responding to their needs is the first order of business to soothe a baby. However, if your baby is still crying after you have tried everything, you must cope with your stress and exhaustion. See the next topic to learn how.
Never shake a crying baby. Understanding a baby’s nature is vital.
Infants are fragile and often cry for a long stretch without known reasons. Grandparents or parents should understand the baby’s nature and learn to rein in their temper. If parents are weary, exhausted, or frustrated, a helping hand or alternating parental responsibility can help solve the problems. If a baby keeps on crying or is still awake after being lulled for some time, parents should take a turn so that the other can rest and find a quiet corner to ease their mind from the stress and annoyance of the baby’s crying.
Additional caution in taking care of infants.
Warnings for parents, who may cause harm to their baby due to their lack of knowledge and understanding of the physical limitations of infants, include:
Parental caution on potential harm due to their lack of knowledge and understanding of an infant's physical limitation includes:
- Holding position: Avoid holding an infant under their armpits. Doing so will overload the shoulder muscles with hefty body weight, resulting in shoulder dislocation.
- Pulling by the arms: Jerking or pulling an infant by their arm forcefully can cause dislocation of the elbow joint.
Note: If you wish to pick up and carry a baby, place your hands around the trunk to lift the baby, the part of the body’s core that can safely withstand body weight. In cradling an infant, always support the head and neck.
Understanding infants’ behaviors and physical limitations ensures safe, sound, and proper ways of looking after a baby. It is crucial to remember that physical violence cannot calm a baby or stop them from crying.
Dr Nathicha Setthana
A specialist doctor in pediatric critical care medicine