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Keeping your baby safe

Keeping your baby safe

Parenting is not easy. All parents and caregivers feel stressed at times but no matter how you feel, never do anything that could hurt or frighten your baby.  Do not be afraid of asking for help, everyone has worries about their babies and no question is ever too silly.  If you are concerned speak to your midwife, health visitor, GP or call the NHS 24 helpline.

Why babies cry

Crying is the only way babies have to tell us that they need something. They might need to eat, to have their nappy changed or to be held. The baby could be too hot or too cold or in pain. Crying is normal. The amount of time a baby spends crying varies with age, health and temperament. Crying is an annoying sound. It is supposed to be. If it was a pleasant sound, crying would be easy to ignore and the baby's needs would never be met. Unfortunately, parents and caregivers are not always able to stop the crying. When a baby cries a lot and is not easily consoled, the parent or caregiver may start to doubt their own abilities to care for the baby. Lack of sleep and other life stresses can increase the feelings of helplessness and frustration. Sometimes parents or caregivers believe that a crying baby is misbehaving on purpose. Your baby is not trying to make you upset. Your baby does not know how you feel.

When your baby won't stop crying!

You may feel frustrated and angry if a baby cries a lot and nothing you do seems to help.

It may be hard to resist the urge to lash out.

If you feel angry – STOP – give yourself a chance to calm down.

Get away from the baby's cries for a short time.

You could:

  • leave the room - put baby safely in a cot on his or her back, go outside, walk, cry, talk out loud to yourself until you are calmer
  • hand the baby to another responsible person while you take a short break
  • phone someone who will listen and understand

Handle your baby with care

Your baby is precious and fragile. As you get to know your baby, you will learn how he/she responds and communicates. Stop immediately if your baby seems upset, frightened or hurt by the way he/she is being handled – even if it's 'only play'.

It is important to cuddle and interact with your baby but you should not rough handle your baby even when playing with them. For example, throwing babies in the air may seem like fun, but it can be dangerous and can cause serious injuries.  Remember adults can easily hurt a baby by rough, angry handling such as:

  • shaking,
  • jiggling,
  • dropping or throwing into a cot,
  • hitting,
  • slapping,
  • pinching.

For further information on handling your baby with care, please see the Handle with care - a guide to keeping your baby safe leaflet, developed by the NSPCC.

Never shake a baby!

Some parents or carers may lose control and shake their baby in a moment of anger or frustration, especially if the baby cries a lot or has problems feeding. Many do not realise the damage that shaking can do and the possible lifelong implications for the baby. Shaking a baby in a moment of frustration can cause serious harm or death. When an infant is shaken, the head jerks back and forth rapidly causing the brain to slam repeatedly against the inside of the skull. Blood vessels in and around the brain are damaged and begin to bleed into the brain and into the space between the brain and the skull. The bleeding and swelling of the brain causes pressure to build up inside the child's head. The resulting damage can cause permanent disability or even death. Because babies have weak neck muscles and heavy heads, even a few seconds of forceful shaking can cause serious damage to babies and small children.  Children under one year of age are most at risk. Older children can also be hurt if they are shaken hard. As many as one third of shaken babies die and others who survive often suffer lifelong disabilities due to the brain injury such as blindness, paralysis, mental disabilities, growth and development problems and seizure disorders.

It is important, therefore, to handle your baby with care and to remember that rough handling, especially shaking, is dangerous and can cause serious injuries. Injuries caused by shaking do not happen accidentally during normal play so this advice should not stop you cuddling, playing and doing all the things your baby really enjoys.

Other things to remember:

  • Do not give a baby medicines without advice and especially not adult medicines.

If you need to leave your baby with someone else

  • If you need to leave your baby with someone, make sure that the person is responsible and knows what to do if your baby cries.
  • If your baby is crying a lot, it may not be a good time to leave your baby with other people who may find the crying too stressful.
  • If you are feeling stressed, then anyone else who spends time with your child will also feel stressed by your baby's crying.

If you think your baby has been hurt

  • Get help straight away.
  • Take your baby to a doctor, hospital or call your emergency number (999) for an ambulance.

Where to get help

Never let things get so bad that you feel desperate. There are lots of ways you can get help. For advice about any aspect of caring for your baby talk to your health visitor or GP or ring one of the contacts listed below: 

ParentLine Scotland

Free telephone advice to any adult caring for a child in Scotland.

(Provided by Children 1st.)

0800 028 2233



Bluebell at ParentLine Scotland

Scotland’s first postnatal depression telephone helpline

0800 345 7457

For further information and advice, please see the 'All babies count, support for parents' booklet developed by the NSPCC.