Bringing a baby home is one of the most exciting yet terrifying moments in your life. This is what you’ve been waiting for the last nine months but now this tiny, little human is depending on you to meet all their needs.

You may have been told or seen conflicting information about how to care for a crying baby. You can't spoil your baby by meeting her needs. You are helping her feel secure and loved. Babies who are carried and attended to caregivers quickly cry less than babies who only get attention when they cry. In fact, a study found that babywearing for three hours a day reduced infant crying significantly — 43% overall at night.

What is Shaken Baby Syndrome?

Shaken Baby Syndrome is caused by the forcefully and violently shaking of a baby or toddler, usually under age 2. This causes their brains to move around inside their heads and causes long-lasting brain damage.

You should never shake a baby under any circumstances.

An infant’s brain is still quite soft and their neck muscles are not fully developed. Also, they have delicate blood vessels. When they are shaken and brain trauma occurs, it can cause long-lasting and irreversible severe damage. This includes learning disabilities, physical disabilities, behavior issues, blindness and seizures. It can just result from only 5 seconds of shaking.  

Why do parents shake their babies?

It usually occurs in the first year of a baby’s life when caregivers become frustrated or angry by the baby’s crying. Crying is a normal communication tool for your bub. However, parents that are exhausted and at their wit’s end may tend to shake the babies to make them stop crying. Shaken baby can be preventable, it is very important to relieve your stress when your baby cries for an extended period of time.

Why do babies cry?

This is their only way to tell you when they need something. They cry to let you alarm they need help! Some reasons babies cry are:

  • Diaper needs changing
  • Hungry
  • Too hot or too cold
  • Needs to be held
  • Pain or sickness
  • Bored
  • Tired and need help to fall asleep
  • Overstimulated (too much noise, light, talking, toys)

The fourth trimester is a period of time coined by Dr. Harvey Karp describing the first three months of a baby’s life. This is a time or adjustment for the newborn outside the womb. He suggests mimicking the conditions of the womb to help ease the transition. Babies are used to being held tight and constant movement. They feel very insecure on their own and this can activate the moro reflex which causes babies to startle and start crying. Baby-wearing mimics the feeling of being in the womb. Held tight, safe and secure with the familiar sound of the heartbeat.

Here are some ways you can help a baby that is crying:

  1. Feed
  2. Hold your baby
  3. Swaddle or carry in a sling
  4. Offer something to suck
  5. Go into a quiet, dark room
  6. Gently rock your baby
  7. Check body temperature
  8. Add gentle noise like a fan, white noise machine or make a shhhh sound

Offering a combination of these is often the fastest and easiest way to calm a baby. By carrying your baby close to you, the baby can hear your heartbeat and have the benefits of being skin-to-skin. You can offer the breast or a dummy for the baby to suck and swing side-to-side in the sling or go for a walk. Baby will feel safe and happy next to you and will often fall to sleep in a short while. Other caregivers can do the same. Feed the baby and let someone else carry the baby in the sling while you grab some much-needed rest.

Preparation is the best prevention. Swings, bouncers and rockers are not the same as a living person's arms. Get a sling and practice with a demo doll before the baby comes, so you can get ready to use it from day-1. Get a variety of dummies as babies can be fussy about which type they prefer. Decide who will be available to help you after the baby is born or even six months later. A family member, neighbor or friends that you can call when you are at your breaking point. Prepare the numbers to call for paid help as well. Midwives, doulas, night nurses and counselors are available so have their information ready before your little one comes home.