Keep My Children Safe
Our children are precious. It's up to all of us to make sure they're safe and shielded from violence to provide the best quality of life possible.
We all have the power to stop tragedies before they happen. Give a child a voice.
Nobody should have to feel scared in their own home. If you do, reach out for help.
More than 1200 babies are treated for Shaken Baby Syndrome in the U.S. each year, and 20 percent die as a result of their injuries. Shaking can cause blindness, swelling of the brain, severe developmental delays, cerebral palsy, and death. Crying is the number one trigger for caregivers shaking a baby—the key is to have a plan in place for when a baby cries.
What is Shaken Baby Syndrome?
Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) is the diagnosis given to many serious—and sometimes fatal—injuries that can occur when infants or young children are violently shaken or their heads are impacted. Not only is it a serious type of head injury, it is a serious form of child abuse.
Babies’ brains are very fragile and their neck muscles are not strong. When they are shaken, their heads flop back and forth, causing the brain to slam against the inside of the skull. This causes the blood vessels to tear and blood to collect inside the baby’s skull, causing irreparable damage to the brain.
SBS occurs most frequently in infants younger than six months old, but older children can receive severe injuries from shaking.
How can I calm a crying baby?
Check physical needs first: Is the baby hungry? Thirsty? Does he/she need to be burped? Too hot or cold? Is his/her diaper dirty? Also check for signs of illness or fever. If you think the baby may be sick, seek medical attention immediately.
If your baby isn’t experiencing any physical needs, try one of these tips to calm your crying baby:
- Gently rock the baby, hold the baby close, or walk the baby
- Stand up, hold the baby close, and repeatedly bend your knees
- Sing or talk to the baby in a soothing voice
- Gently rub or stroke the baby’s back, chest, or tummy
- Offer a pacifier or try to distract the baby with a rattle or toy
- Swaddle the baby with a soft blanket
- Take the baby for a ride in a stroller or in a car seat in the car
- Turn on some music or noise, such as a vacuum cleaner or clothes dryers
Try each of the above for a few minutes before trying something else, or try a few together. If nothing works, it is okay to leave the baby in a safe place like a crib or infant seat and take time to calm down. Leave the room. Take a few deep breaths. Call a friend or family member.
Why is my baby crying so much?
You should always respond when your baby cries—but sometimes, no matter what you try, you might not be able to stop the crying. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and your baby won’t stop crying, remember:
- Crying is how babies communicate. You cannot "spoil" babies by picking them up when they cry. Being held is reassuring and comforting when babies cannot express themselves any other way.
- Babies start to cry more frequently around two weeks of age. The crying increases and peaks in the second month of life.
- Infants may spend 4 to 5 hours a day crying. They generally cry more in the evenings. It’s frustrating, but it’s also normal.
- Babies often cry intensely when they are physically fine, even though they may look like they are in pain.
- Sometimes babies may need to cry to relieve stress, and it’s okay to let them cry.
- The crying will eventually stop.
As a parent or caregiver, you are human. You have limited energy, patience, and tolerance. It's normal to feel overwhelmed, helpless, and even angered by the constant demands of a baby. When you feel this way, find a way to calm yourself before you do something you’ll regret. Read "Keeping Your Cool" below for tips on how to calm down.
The next time everyday pressure builds up to the point where you feel like lashing out—STOP! Try these simple tricks to keep your cool.
- Take a deep breath ... and another. Then remember that you are the adult.
- Close your eyes and imagine you’re hearing what your child is about to hear.
- Press your lips together and count to 10—or better yet, to 20.
- Put your child in a time-out. Remember this rule: one time-out minute for each year of age.
- Put yourself in a time-out. Think about why you are angry: is it your child, or is your child simply a convenient target for your anger?
- Phone a friend.
- If someone can watch the children, go outside and take a walk.
- Take a hot bath or splash cold water on your face.
- Exercise. Do some pushups or jumping jacks.
- Turn on some relaxing music.
- Pick up a pencil and write down as many positive words as you can think of. Save the list.
- Call for prevention information: 1-800-CHILDREN
Make sure you really know who’s watching your child. Do they have what it takes? Ask yourself these questions:
- How does your friend/partner/caretaker treat and interact with other children (nieces, nephews, or friends’ children)?
- Does your partner/friend/caretaker:
- Treat other people in his/her life with disrespect?
- Get angry when you spend time with your child?
- Get angry or impatient when your child cries or has a tantrum?
- Call your child bad names or put them down?
- Think it’s funny to scare your child?
- Make all the decisions for your and your child?
- Put you down or tell you that you’re a bad parent or that you shouldn’t have kids?
- Pretend when he/she hurts your child that you are to blame or that it’s no big deal?
- Scare or threaten your child by using guns, knives, or other weapons?
Your child could be at risk if you answered “yes” to even one of these questions. Never leave your child alone with someone you don’t trust to keep your child safe.
Babies sleep safest:
- In a crib
- On their back
How can I keep my sleeping baby safe?
- Use a crib! Sharing a bed with your baby greatly increases the risk for accidentally suffocating him.
- The mattress should be firm and fit snuggly in the crib’s frame, and sheets should fit tightly around the mattress.
- Place the baby on her back to reduce the risk of suffocation.
- Keep the room temperature comfortable for a lightly clothed adult.
- Use infant sleep clothing that doesn’t cover the baby’s head. Infants are typically comfortable with one layer more than an adult would wear to be comfortable in the same environment.
- For the first six months, keep the baby’s bed in the same room as her caregiver in order to be attentive to her cries.
How can I avoid dangerous sleeping situations?
- Although they may be cute, pillows, blankets, bumper pads, and toys can suffocate your infant.
- Despite popular belief, items like wedges and sleep positioners can increase the risk of infant death due to suffocation. If the infant shifts at all, the soft objects can actually trap the baby in a fatal position.
- Sleeping with your infant may be more convenient and look peaceful, but the risk of rolling onto or pinning the baby and suffocating him dramatically increases.
- Each baby should have his own bed—even multiples and other siblings increase the risk of suffocation.
- Adult beds, air mattresses, beanbags, reclining chairs, sofas, etc. are not made for babies and can cause suffocation.
- Any loose cables, wires, or strings around the crib could be fire hazards and/or wrap around your baby’s neck and strangle her.
- If you do not place your baby on his back to sleep, his airway may not be clear.
- Avoid exposing your baby to smoke both during pregnancy and after birth, as exposure to smoke is a major risk factor for Sudden Infant Death (SIDS) and Sudden Unexplained Death Syndrome (SUID).
How can I help my baby sleep comfortably?
- Give your baby active play time during the day, including “tummy time” that allows the infant supervised play while lying on his belly. Tummy time strengthens back, arm, and neck muscles, is important for coordination development, and decreases the risk of Flat Head Syndrome.
- You can reduce your baby’s stress by responding quickly to her needs during the day.
- Putting babies to bed when they start to look tired, but are not asleep, helps them learn how to fall asleep on their own.
- If your baby seems restless at bedtime, try putting her down 30 minutes earlier. Sometimes babies can get fussy and energetic if they are overtired.
- Give your baby a pacifier (never a bottle) when he goes to sleep. If the baby does not want the pacifier, do not force it into his mouth or reinsert if he discards it in his sleep.
- Have a bedtime routine to allow your baby to wind down, like giving a bath, massaging muscles, spending quiet time together, or reading a book.
- Talk or sing softly to your baby before bed. The sound of your voice is very soothing to your baby.
- Use dark colored shades over windows near your baby’s sleeping area so no light will wake him up.
- Make sure your baby’s nose is clear before bedtime. A cool-mist humidifier may help with congestion. Dust regularly and remove dust collection items from the baby’s area.
- If your baby is teething, check with your pediatrician to see what medications or pain-relieving options may be available.
- Make sure you do not put your baby to bed with a wet diaper, which can cause her to wake up.
- Place a warm towel on your baby’s crib sheet and remove it just before you place him down.
Here are some simple tips you can follow to prevent heat stroke tragedies involving cars:
- “Look Before you Lock”: Always open the back door to check the back seat for children before leaving your vehicle.
- Create a reminder to check the back seat:
- Put something you’ll need like your cell phone, handbag or briefcase, employee ID, or even a shoe in the back seat so that you have to open the back door to retrieve that item every time you park.
- Keep a large stuffed animal in the child’s car seat. When you put the child in her car seat, put the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat. It’s a visual reminder that the child is in the back seat.
- Never leave children alone in or around cars, not even for a minute.
- Make sure you have a strict policy in place with your childcare provider about daycare drop-off. Everyone involved in the care of your child should always be aware of his whereabouts. If your child will not be attending daycare as scheduled, it is the parent’s responsibility to call and inform the childcare provider. If your child does not show up as scheduled, and they have not received a call from the parent, the childcare provider pledges to contact you immediately to ensure the safety of your child.
- Keep vehicles locked at all times, even in driveways or garages. Ask home visitors, childcare providers, and neighbors to do the same.
- Keep car keys and remote openers out of reach of children.
- If a child goes missing, immediately check inside passenger compartments and trunks of all vehicles in the area very carefully, even if they are locked. A child may lock the car doors after entering a vehicle on her own, but may not be able to unlock them.
- If you see a child alone in a vehicle, get involved. Call 911 immediately. If the child seems hot or sick, get him out of the vehicle as quickly as possible.
- Be especially careful during busy times, schedule changes, and periods of crisis or holidays. This is when many tragedies occur.