People tend to think of infant crying and colic as a parenting nuisance. But it is much more serious. In fact, sleep deprivation and blasting the sound of crying babies for hours are used to prepare the Navy elite SEALS to endure torture!
Crying -- and the demoralization and exhaustion it provokes -- trigger a cascade of serious consequences, including marital conflict, postpartum depression, breastfeeding failure, SIDS/suffocation, car accidents, cigarette smoking, maternal obesity... and child abuse.
Almost 580,000 children were reported as abused in 2008, 1,740 of them died of their injuries. In addition to this terrible human cost, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates the financial cost of these abuses at $124 billion/year.
To rally citizens against this scourge, we observe Child Abuse Prevention Month each April. And, to bring national focus on stopping infant shaking -- the #1 cause of child abuse deaths -- the third week of April is designated Shaken Baby Awareness week.
Unfortunately, infant shaking is not rare. Experts estimate that tens of thousands of infants are abused in this way each year. And two recent studies found that rates of Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) have increased by as much as 100% during recession.
- The SBS victims are usually 3-4 months of age.
- On average, one child is killed by SBS every day.
- The main SBS trigger is infant crying.
Child welfare leaders are beginning to realize that SBS prevention programs must include showing parents how to effectively and safely calm their babies -- not just teach them never to shake their infants. Adding a baby calming approach may not only stop the vicious cycle of parent frustration leading to child abuse, it may create a virtuous cycle! Empowering parents to calm their babies with effective, evidence-based techniques like the 5 S's may increase parent confidence and nurturing relationships...as well as reduce SBS and other serious problems triggered by infant crying.
The "5 S's" System
According to Dr. Harvey Karp, to sooth a crying infant, recreating the womb environment helps the baby feel more secure and calm. Dr. Karp recommends:
- Swaddling: Tight swaddling provides the continuous touching and support your baby is used to experiencing within the womb.
- Side/stomach position: The infant is placed on their left side to assist in digestion, or on their stomach to provide reassuring support. “But never use the stomach position for putting your baby to sleep,” cautions Karp. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is linked to stomach-down sleep positions. When a baby is in a stomach down position do not leave them even for a moment.
- Shushing sounds: These imitate the continual whooshing sound made by the blood flowing through arteries near the womb.
- Swinging: Newborns are used to the swinging motions within their mother’s womb, so entering the gravity driven world of the outside is like a sailor adapting to land after nine months at sea. “It’s disorienting and unnatural,” says Karp. Rocking, car rides, and other swinging movements all can help.
- Sucking: “Sucking has its effects deep within the nervous system,” notes Karp, “and triggers the calming reflex and releases natural chemicals within the brain.”
NFI partners with The Happiest Baby for its potential to reduce child abuse. When you know these techniques for calming a baby (and can teach them to those around you) it means a happier baby—and a happier you!
More sleep and a happy baby...in just one click. Magic? A miracle? No...it's a reflex! Find details about The Happiest Baby.
Who can use The Happiest Baby?
- Health Departments & Home Visiting Programs > An easy "plug and play" tool to enhance existing parenting curricula, programs and services (such as WIC).
- Hospitals & Pregnancy Centers > Ideal for use by nurses and childbirth educators with expectant parents or parents with young babies.
- Military Bases > New Parent Support Program staff can distribute DVD+CD Combos to military families on base and in military hospitals.
- Community Organizations > serving fathers and families
- New Parents > If you're a new mom or dad who needs help with a crying baby.