Leaving Your Baby with a Babysitter? Having a Crying Plan May Help Prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome

by Jessa McClure on April 25, 2012

in Parenting

mom leaving baby with babysitterKnowing when it’s time to leave your baby with a babysitter is a personal decision that can be nerve-wracking and unsettling, especially for a first time mom. You want to make sure that your child will be safe and cared for while you are away.

One of the best ways to help your babysitter feel empowered to make good decisions while you are gone is to create what is called a crying plan.

A crying plan is a list that allows the babysitter and the parent to know what will happen if the caregiver becomes overwhelmed with a crying baby and helps to prevent shaken baby syndrome.

Some of the information includes what the babysitter will try to console the child, who to call if they feel frustrated and their physical address in case of an emergency. It also states that if a caregiver cannot cope with a crying baby, they should put the child in a safe place and walk away.

“Children can cry up to five hours straight,” said Jo-Ell Guzman, outreach coordinator for McLane Children’s Hospital and Scott & White Child Abuse Support Center. “So, it’s better to teach the caregiver, even if it’s a babysitter for a few hours, that the child may cry the whole time I’m gone, but if you become frustrated, these are the tools you can use.”

Creating a crying plan will help to prevent shaken baby syndrome, which is the leading cause of death in abusive head trauma cases. An estimated 1,200 to 1,400 children are injured or killed by shaking every year in the United States, according to dontshake.org.

Ms. Guzman said parents shouldn’t feel uncomfortable bringing up the crying plan and SBS with their babysitter.

“First reassure the [babysitter] that is okay to call if they have questions,” Guzman said. “Then say, do you mind if we take a couple of minutes to go over the crying plan so that you know not to shake if the baby’s crying.”

Most people assume that everyone knows not to shake, Ms. Guzman said. But that’s the reason that children get shaken, because they do not know.

And babysitters aren’t the only ones who could benefit from a crying plan. The outreach coordinator said they can be helpful to first-time dads as well.

“I tell moms that dads follow directions really well if you write it down,” she said. “That’s including saying, honey, if the baby’s crying and you start to feel frustrated, put the baby in a safe place, walk away and call me.”

Ms. Guzman offers some tips on how to soothe a crying baby, whether you’re a first-time parent or just a one-time caregiver:

  • Always meet the baby’s basic needs first (feeding, changing, burping, making sure clothing isn’t too tight or too warm)
  • Make shushing noises while holding the baby
  • Hold or place the baby near a washing machine
  • Take the baby for a walk in a stroller or a car ride
  • Sing or talk quietly
  • Sit and rock the baby
  • Turn on a vacuum, dryer or “white noise” machine

While having a plan in place for whomever will be caring for your baby will drastically reduce the risk of something going wrong, Ms. Guzman said parents should also know the signs that a baby has been shaken.

Symptoms can include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Bruising on the shoulder, arms, neck, ribs or back
  • Rolling of the eyes
  • Lethargy
  • Decreased appetite or vomiting for no reason
  • Extremely irritable
  • Inability to track movement or sounds
  • Absence of response to stimuli
  • Seizures or Convulsions

Children who have been shaken may also have a high-pitched cry due to the injury to the brain and the extreme pain being shaken causes.

For more information about shaken baby syndrome or preparing a caregiver to take care of a crying infant, visit dontshake.org or contact Jo-Ell Guzman at 254-724-6330.

Would you use a crying plan with your babysitter? What tips do you have for moms leaving their little ones with a babysitter for the first time?

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