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Colic and Shaken Baby Syndrome

by Cyndra Neal

Your baby has cried with colic for the last 2 weeks almost non-stop. You’re scared. You’re frustrated. You are sleep deprived. You’re not thinking clearly. You are shaking your baby.

Experts believe more than ninety percent of cases of Shaken Baby Syndrome are caused by colic. It’s ironic that the frustration of watching your baby in pain and the helplessness of not being able to help can lead to more harm to the baby. Doctors often send mothers of colicky babies home with no hope, telling mothers they just have to wait out the crying which could last up to six months. It’s no wonder that some parents snap under the pressure. Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) is also known as Abusive Head Trauma/Inflicted Traumatic Brain Injury (AHT). When a baby is shaken, because the infant’s neck muscles are not developed, the brain can bounce back and forth inside the skull and cause trauma. Head trauma is the leading cause of death in child abuse cases in the United States.

The award-winning KidsHealth website from Nemours, one of the largest nonprofit organizations devoted to children’s health has this helpful information:

One method that may help is author Dr. Harvey Karp’s “five S’s”:

1. Shushing (using “white noise” or rhythmic sounds that mimic the constant whir of noise in the womb, with things like vacuum cleaners, hair dryers, clothes dryers, a running tub, or a white noise CD)
2. Side/stomach positioning (placing the baby on the left side — to help digestion — or on the belly while holding him or her, then putting the sleeping baby in the crib or bassinet on his or her back)
3. Sucking (letting the baby breastfeed or bottle-feed, or giving the baby a pacifier or finger to suck on)
4. Swaddling (wrapping the baby up snugly in a blanket to help him or her feel more secure)
5. Swinging gently (rocking in a chair, using an infant swing, or taking a car ride to help duplicate the constant motion the baby felt in the womb)

If a baby in your care won’t stop crying, you can also try the following:

• Make sure the baby’s basic needs are met (for example, he or she isn’t hungry and doesn’t need to be changed).
• Check for signs of illness, like fever or swollen gums.
• Rock or walk with the baby.
• Sing or talk to the baby.
• Offer the baby a pacifier or a noisy toy.
• Take the baby for a ride in a stroller or strapped into a child safety seat in the car.
• Hold the baby close against your body and breathe calmly and slowly.
• Call a friend or relative for support or to take care of the baby while you take a break.
• If nothing else works, put the baby on his or her back in the crib, close the door, and check on the baby in 10 minutes.
• Call your doctor if nothing seems to be helping your infant, in case there is a medical reason for the fussiness.

To prevent potential AHT, parents and caregivers of infants need to learn how to respond to their own stress. It’s important to talk to anyone caring for your baby about the dangers of shaking and how it can be prevented.

It’s worth mentioning again there are ways to deal with the emotional devastation colic can cause the whole family.

• Ask for help from friends and family. Taking time away from the incessant crying can help you cope.
• Try alternative medicine. If your pediatrician won’t help, research chiropractors and acupuncturists that specialize in pediatric patients. Also research natural homeopathic medicines- they can not only help ease the symptoms of colic but can possibly shorten the duration of colic. Beware of supplements that contain Sodium Bicarbonate (Baking Soda) which can alter the PH in baby’s delicate system.
• Ask for help from your community. Many churches and children services have programs set up to help mothers in need.

The National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome offers a prevention program;

Period of Purple Crying:

This organization helps parents and care givers understand the different dynamics of a baby’s crying and how to deal with the emotions the crying can invoke in caregivers.

Other organizations that can help are:

The Shaken Baby Alliance
1201 West Lancaster Street
Ft. Worth Texas 76102
1-877-6ENDSBS (toll free)

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)
National Institutes of Health
Bldg. 31, Rm. 2A32
Bethesda, MD 20892-2425

1010 Wayne Avenue
Suite 650
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Think First Foundation [National Injury Prevention Program]
5550 Meadowbrook Drive
Suite 110
Rolling Meadows, IL 60008
800-THINK-56 (844-6556)
Fax: 847-290-9005

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