Tips for coping with a crying baby

WHITEMAN AFB, MO -- All babies cry, and as you have or may soon learn, crying can be very frustrating to parents and caregivers. Parents and caregivers may try everything they can think of to calm and quiet the baby, but in spite of their efforts, the baby keeps crying. 

Usually the first thought that comes to mind is that you are failing in your role as a parent or caregiver. 

Actually, normal, healthy infants go through a period of crying that increases after two weeks of age, peaks during the second month and begins to decrease between three and five months. 

Shaken baby syndrome occurs when a frustrated care giver loses control and violently shakes a baby. In most cases, the shaking begins with frustration at an inconsolable crying baby. 

Additional factors may contribute to a caregiver's stress level, such as unrealistic expectations, inexperience in caring for a child or little understanding of early infant crying. 

Usually in an attempt to comfort and/or quiet the child by holding or picking up the frustration is taken out on the crying child. Violent shaking of an infant or small child can cause brain damage which could lead to learning disorders, mental and developmental retardation, paralysis, blindness or death. These effects can be caused by violent shaking for as little as a count of five. Victims of shaking are usually less than 1 year old; most are younger than 6 months. 

Even the most kind and loving caregiver can feel frustrated by a crying baby. These feelings don't make you a bad parent or caregiver. Feeling frustrated is normal. Feeling you are losing control is not. Parents and caregivers need to understand that babies are not able to control when they will cry. They are just doing what comes naturally. 

We as caregivers need to control how we respond to the crying. Parents and caregivers need to recognize their own triggers that can cause them to possibly lose control of a situation. Every parent has been overwhelmed at one time or another. The good parents recognize it. If you are not capable of taking care of yourself you will not be able to take care of a baby. 

When a child's crying is too much to take, the best action to take is to place the child down in a safe location and take a 5 - 10 minute break to deal with your own stress. Get a plan of action. Pick up the phone and call a friend or family member who can help. Make sure that the child's needs have been met. Try swaddling the baby in a soft blanket, take a ride in the car, or go for a walk in the fresh air. 

Remember, there will be times you do get frustrated. Don't grab the baby. Grab the phone and call one of the new parent support staff at 687-4342 or myself at 687-4589. We can provide you with free information that will help you in caring for a young child. No healthy baby has ever died from crying, but they have died from being shaken. 

April has been designated as "Child Abuse Prevention Month." Be on the lookout for special events. This year's slogan is: Protecting children is everyone's mission.