Crying is the universal language of infants. It's your infant's main way of communicating their needs to you. Crying, especially incessant crying, can be very hard for parents. Sometimes, in frustration, it may seem that hitting or yelling is all you can do to make the crying stop or to relieve your tension. Of course, We all know that hitting and yelling don't solve anything; from the baby's perspective violent outbursts are a terrifying experience but serve no purpose. Shaking your infant to stop the crying is also never an answer. Shaking, even for a brief moment, can cause serious injury, even death. In interviews parents and caretakers that have admitted to hitting, shaking, or otherwise abusing their infants they have described feelings of intense frustration, tension, inadequacy, and in some cases anger. It is important to note that in such cases that the abuser is not simply "evil" or "a psycho" or "monsterous" but rather these are parents that, when confronted with a child who wouldn't stop crying, didn't know how to react appropriately or how reach out for the help they needed. When hearing about these tragedies on the news it is critical that our take-away is not simply "what a monster" but rather that caring, loving parents and caretakers need to know what to do when they can't stand the crying any longer.
So what should you do? Be a detective. Try and find out why your child is crying. They could be hungry or wet, feeling ill, cold or hot. Check for these signs and respond by feeding your baby or trying a pacifier, changing the infant's diapers or clothes, and checking for a temperature. If your infant is acting sick, call your doctor. Maybe your child just needs some cuddling. Rock your baby, sing to them, take them for a walk or ride, play some music, or give a gentle massage. If these don't seem to work, it could be that your child just needs some crying time.
It's very important that you keep calm and don't lose your temper. If you feel yourself losing control, stop in your tracks! Put the baby into the crib and leave the room. Try counting out loud from one to ten a few times to help calm yourself. Take a relaxing bath or shower. If this doesn't seem to work, call a relative or a friend to relieve you, then leave the house for a while.
If you still feel close to hitting your infant and need help stepping away from the situation, call a help line (in Massachusetts, call the Parental Stress Line at 800-632-8188). Remember your baby needs your love and protection. Acting out of anger by yelling or physically striking out against your child must always be avoided.
The above information is an excerpt from "Parenting Through All the Ages and Stages" (2000), a Massachusetts Citizens for Children publication.
Some Resources & Links:
PARENTS PLEASE VISIT the Shaken Baby Syndrome section of our web site.
Some parenting tips from Circle of Parents
Parents Helping Parents offers free and ongoing self-help groups to support families and prevent child abuse. Groups meet throughout Massachusetts and are open to all parents. Also runs a 9AM-5PM hotline for parents 1-800-882-1250.
"Getting Your Baby to Sleep" at Family Resource
Learn about colic: what is it, why do some babies get it, how do you soothe a colicky baby? at www.babycenter.com
Newborn tips & resources at http://www.babycenter.com/baby
http://www.parentsaction.org/ for parenting tips, expert advice, child development information, safety tips, advice for selecting child care, early childhood resources in your state, more...
Learn about the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program & services.
The Magic of Everyday Moments, helping parents and other caregivers understand and gain ideas for how to use simple, everyday moments to promote your baby's social, emotional, and intellectual development. www.zerotothree.org
Baby Safety, tips and resources from the National SAFE KIDS Campaign. www.safekids.org