How to Calm a Crying Baby

  • Remember - NEVER shake a baby out of frustration or exhaustion, as you may cause irreversible brain damage, or even death. 
  • NEVER shake a Crying Baby or Toddler, even when a child will not stop crying.

    A 3-month old BABY BOY suffered extreme abuse from hemorrhages to the right side of his brain and both eyes, with the retina almost detached from his brain. Doctors say the baby will likely be impaired the rest of its life, and will most likely have vision problems.
    (Baby Boy story: "Police investigating north Spokane parents of 3-month-old who showed signs of shaken baby syndrome," The Spokesman-Review, July 20, 2017)

    A 2-month-old BABY GIRL's father admitted to violently shaking the baby when he was tired and she would not stop crying. Medical experts said she will likely suffer from seizures for the rest of her life as a result of her injuries, including broken ribs and a broken leg, and is potentially blind and possibly deaf, as well. (Baby Girl story: "Father faces charges for assaulting baby," KREM-2 News, October 28, 2016)

    SHAKING any baby or toddler
    can cause permanent brain damage, or death.

    If you are having trouble managing your emotions or the stress of parenthood, please seek HELP. Make sure people who care for your children also know the dangers of Shaken Baby Syndrome.

    On this page....
    How to Calm a Crying Baby
    Signs of Shaken Baby Syndrome
    Survivors of Shaken Baby Syndrome
    Help that is available to Parents in Spokane

  • Babies bring a lot of joy, but there can also be moments of frustration if you feel like you can’t console their crying. Most caregivers handle those times just fine; but, if those feelings boil over, it can cross a line.

    Shaken Baby Syndrome is a form of Child Abuse.  When a baby is shaken hard by the shoulders, arms, or legs, it can cause learning disabilities, behavior disorders, vision problems or blindness, hearing and speech issues, seizures, cerebral palsy, serious brain injury, and permanent disability. In some cases, it can even be fatal.

    When a baby is shaken, its brain can bounce between the front and back of its skull. This causes it to bleed, bruise, and swell. It only takes a few seconds of aggressive shaking for this to happen.   (source:   WebMD)

  • Shaken Baby Syndrome is preventable.  Shaken baby syndrome usually occurs when a parent or caregiver severely shakes a baby or toddler due to frustration or anger — often because the child won't stop crying.

    The following things may make parents or caregivers more likely to forcefully shake a baby and cause shaken baby syndrome:
        •    Unrealistic expectations of babies
        •    Young or single parenthood
        •    Stress
        •    Domestic violence
        •    Alcohol or substance abuse
        •    Unstable family situations
        •    Depression
        •    A history of mistreatment as a child
    Also, men are more likely to cause shaken baby syndrome than are women.  (Mayo Clinic Staff)

  • Shaken Baby Syndrome symptoms and signs include:
        •    Extreme fussiness or irritability
        •    Difficulty staying awake
        •    Breathing problems
        •    Poor eating
        •    Vomiting
        •    Pale or bluish skin
        •    Seizures
        •    Paralysis
        •    Coma

    You may not see any signs of physical injury to the child's outer body. Sometimes, the face is bruised. Injuries that might not be immediately seen include bleeding in the brain and eyes, spinal cord damage, and fractures of the ribs, skull, legs and other bones. Many children with shaken baby syndrome show signs and symptoms of prior child abuse. 

    In mild cases of shaken baby syndrome, a child may appear normal after being shaken, but over time he or she may develop health or behavioral prob
Even brief shaking of an infant can cause irreversible brain damage. Many children affected by shaken baby syndrome die.

Survivors of shaken baby syndrome may require lifelong medical care for conditions such as:
    •    Partial or total blindness
    •    Developmental delays, learning problems or behavior issues
    •    Intellectual disability
    •    Seizure disorders
    •    Cerebral palsy
(source:  Mayo Clinic Staff)

  • Crying Babies is the #1 reason for the Shaken Baby Syndrome. 
What You Can Do
To calm a fussy baby...
  • Try to determine the cause of the crying.  It is normal for babies to cry.  Is the baby hungry, over-tired, wanting attention and stimulation, a change of scenery, hot or cold, need a diaper change, need to burp or pass gas, or actually sick?  Every baby has a fussy period. 

  • Bounce on a Ball.   Hold your baby in his/her favorite position and gently bounce and rock back and forth on the ball.  Gym/birthing balls inflate to about 24-26".  The constant bouncing movement comforts a fussy baby, and the baby usually calms down and will fall asleep.   

  • Swaddle the baby.  Some people find that swaddling the baby calms her and makes it a little easier to control and handle the baby.

  • Pacifier.  Sucking teaches babies to self-soothe.  Some people feel it interferes with breastfeeding, causes dental problems, hinders speech development, and is a hard habit to break.  (Breaking a pacifier habit may be easier than trying to take away your child's thumb.) 

  • Calm a Crying Newborn.

    Thanks to a video
    from a 30-year pediatrician, Dr. Robert Hamilton shows you how to calm a crying newborn baby with a simple baby hold, turning a screeching newborn from crying to cooing in no time.

    Dr. Hamilton's technique, termed simply "The Hold," involves

    1.  Fold the arms across the chest.  Wrap the baby's right arm across its chest, and the left arm across his body on top of the right arm.

    2.  Secure the two arms gently, with one hand, very gently holding his arms with one hand. 

    3.  Place your dominant hand gently on the diaper area, and position the baby so he leans forward at a 45 degree angle. 

    4.  Rock at this 45 degree angle very gently.  Gently bounce the baby up and down with your hand on its bottom. There's even an optional "booty shake" technique utilized by the doctor, where he gently shakes the baby’s bottom with his hand, in a motion back-and-forth, or rock him up and down, or gently stir him to the left and then stir him to the right. 

    The baby should comfort very quickly.  Everything you do is very gently…with no jerky motions.  Hold the baby with the fleshy part of your hands, not your fingertips.  Holding the baby at a 45 degree angle instead of holding him upright, keeps the baby from throwing his head back and losing control of holding him safely. 

    The hold is very effective for the first 2 months. 
    After that, the baby becomes too heavy; and it is very difficult to hold a baby this way at that point. 

    If your baby does not quiet down,
    Dr. Hamilton suggests the baby may be ill and not feeling well, or he may be hungry.   

    See a demonstration of “the hold” at The YouTube video.

    Newborn babies make people of all ages a little uncomfortable. They appear so delicate, their heads are floppy and everyone hears horror stories about that soft spot on the top of their head where their skull hasn't fused yet.  More likely, though, baby sitters and caregivers worldwide live in fear of a newborn that will cry unrelentingly. An adept parent can usually deduce the cause of the fussing and is able to remedy it with a feeding, changing, or a nap. There are times, however, when a baby seems unsoothable.  That is when “the hold” can comfort and calm babies and keep them quiet.    (“The Hold,” YouTube video with Dr. Robert C. Hamilton, M.D., F.A.A.P., Pacific Ocean Pediatrics, Santa Monica, California)

  • 5  S's  to calm a crying baby (by Dr. Harvey Karp)

    of Dr. Harvey Karp explaining the 5 S's:

    Read "The Happiest Baby on the Block," by Dr. Harvey Karp

  • When to see a doctor.  Seek immediate help if you suspect your child has been injured by violent shaking. Contact your child's doctor or take your child to the nearest emergency room. Getting medical care right away may save your child's life or prevent serious health problems.  Health care professionals are legally required to report all suspected cases of child abuse to state authorities.   (Mayo Clinic Staff)

  • Prevention.  Take a new parent education class to help parents better understand the dangers of violent shaking and may provide tips to soothe a crying baby and manage stress.  (Mayo Clinic Staff)

  • Help is available for parents who are at risk of harming a child. Parents also can educate other caregivers about the dangers of shaken baby syndrome.  When your crying baby can't be calmed, you may be tempted to try anything to get the tears to stop — but it's important to always treat your child gently. Nothing justifies shaking a child.

    If you're having trouble managing your emotions or the stress of parenthood, seek help. Your child's doctor may offer a referral to a counselor or other mental health provider.
    If other people help take care of your child — whether a hired caregiver, sibling or grandparent — make sure they know the dangers of shaken baby syndrome.  (Mayo Clinic Staff)

  • Contact the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery in Spokane.  Children from Newborn to age 6 may be dropped off for up to 3 days.  Parents who feel they have reached a crisis and are at risk of harming their children, may ask for help. 

    Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery
    1004 E. 8th Ave.
    Spokane, WA 99202
    (509) 535-3155
Local Organizations
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