Please don’t shake your baby

by Lara on June 12, 2009

I live in Oklahoma, the state with the highest rate of child abuse fatalities in the country. I’m not an expert in child abuse and I don’t pretend to know why this is such a huge problem in Oklahoma; all I know is that as a parent and a human being, I find it difficult to watch the local news or read the Oklahoma papers — because it seems like every time I do, I come across another story about a child being injured, often fatally, by his or her parents.

I was at Starbucks today to meet and friend and colleague for coffee, and I happened to glance at a newspaper while waiting for my friend. And I saw another one–a story about a six-month-old who was shaken to death by her father, because, as he explained, she was resisting his attempts to get her dressed.

Expectant parents all know that babies cry. What’s hard to imagine pre-parenthood is how persistently they can sometimes cry. How uncooperative they can be. How angry the cries can sound. And how frustrating and maddening the crying can be, especially after hours and hours of it. I experienced this with my own daughter. Lily was not much of a crier, but she had her nights, and she was never a very good sleeper. Which meant a lot of nights spent trying–for hours–to rock her, nurse her, and soothe her to sleep, despite her protestations, wiggling, and fussing. There were moments I thought I would lose my mind.

I didn’t know there was a National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome until today, when I started Googling in an effort to find out what kinds of resources are available to parents who feel like they’re losing control. I’ve felt that scary feeling, but I always felt that my awareness of what shaking could do to a baby–something I can’t bring myself to describe here, but is detailed on the Center’s website–helped keep me in line. I knew that no matter how out-of-control I felt, there was nothing Lily could do that would make me risk hurting her that badly, much less losing her completely. I have that information; I know the risks, and they’re sobering when you’re standing in the middle of a nursery at 3 a.m. with a screaming baby in your arms. But today, I started wondering how many people truly realize how fragile an infant’s brain is, how much damage even a relatively nonviolent shaking can do to it. I wondered how many parents even realized the risks to shaking their child.

So, I don’t know how many people will read this post and visit the Center’s website. But if you’re a parent of an infant or toddler, or think you might be a parent somewhere down the road, do me a favor and look over the site, will you? I want people to hear this information playing over and over again in their heads when they feel that their babies are pushing them to the limit. It won’t take long, I promise.

Thanks.

 

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Larasmama February 1, 2010 at 5:27 am

Very true post, I just had my first baby girl. I can put up with quite a bit of crying and have no problem letting my bub cry it out when she needs to (she’s 13 weeks.) However I’ve seen parents yell and abuse children because they’ve made a mess or are grumpy. I just wish people would realize that it’s NOT the child’s fault. As parents we need to remember that anytime a baby cries, it’s a cry for help. How would we feel if we couldn’t move or feed ourselves and had to sit in our own waste?
Keep up the good work!

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Edie Mindell July 30, 2010 at 9:36 am

Hi Lara, I really like your post today. As a parent myself, I am against child abuse. We parents know that in reality, taking care of our kids is never easy especially when they are uncontrollable. But, we need also to keep in mind all the time that they are still children, meaning they are still fragile. Disciplining your child the hard way is exposing them into great danger. Thanks for your post. I hope a lot of parents could read this also.:-)

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Nathan Jamison October 14, 2010 at 4:30 pm

I will definitely visit the site. Thanks for posting.

What you said was really sad. Shaking the baby to death just because your in trouble dressing her? What cruelty! As parents, we should understand that we will face obstacles when having a baby. (counterpart of the bliss that we feel upon having them)

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