As a pediatrician, one of the best parts of the job is seeing new, happy babies and their parents, and serving as a support system for families to provide the best care possible for their little ones. Unfortunately, our world is not absent of child abuse and neglect, but knowing what to look for and taking steps to prevent it can make all the difference in the life and well being of a child.
A very sad, recent event prompted my colleague, Dr. Moore to reflect on ways to protect our children whether they are under our own care as parents or with a caregiver. She also discusses some easy steps to help parents and caregivers when trying to soothe baby. ~Dr. Keegan
One of my most terrible moments as a pediatrician came when I had to order funeral flowers for a child who was the victim of child abuse. As I sat there choosing among the pink and white flowers that would adequately express my sympathy and emotions (they do not exist), my heart broke. Our objectives as pediatricians are to work with and educate parents and guardians to help provide our patients with the happiest and healthiest childhoods possible, and a death such as this one is a direct affront and reversal of how things are supposed to be.
Abuse of children is often extremely difficult to detect as it is typically a dark, closely guarded secret that is well kept within families until tragedy turns it loose. In other cases, such as my sweet patient above, abuse occurs unimaginably and unpredictably at the hands of someone who is unrelated to and has limited contact with the child – in these instances, abuse is even more difficult to prevent.
As a parent, you can never be too aware or cautious when it comes to selecting who is allowed to care for and to interact with your children, trust your instincts if something seems strange. It is also important to know your own limits and recognize that while parenting is usually very rewarding, it can also at times, be frustrating when trying to decipher what your child needs.
One of my most beloved mentors during my pediatric training taught me an invaluable mnemonic – the 5 S’s, developed by Dr. Harvey Karp helps soothe infants as well as prevent child abuse and post-partum depression.
1. Swaddle – Babies love to be wrapped snuggly in a blanket as it reminds them of being inside of their mother before they were born. Ask your doctor today how to wrap correctly and comfortably.
3. Stomach – Placing your baby on their stomach while you are holding them can provide comfort, and the gentle pressure on their stomach may help relieve gas pain. Remember if they fall asleep, to always place them on their backs in the crib.
4. Swinging – A gentle swinging motion can help soothe crying babies. These motions are similar to the
5. Shhh… Calming sounds such as a white noise device, the humming of a fan, or a recorded heartbeat are all very calming to a baby. Even the simple noise “Shhh” repeated over and over again can work!
If you find yourself frustrated with calming or soothing your baby, please ask for help. There is no shame in trying to ensure that your baby gets the best care possible. Discussing challenges and frustrations with your pediatrician or other professionals is a good way to ensure that you can be the best version of yourself and your baby has the best opportunity for health and happiness.
If you suspect child abuse, the National Child Abuse Hotline is 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). Crisis Counselors are available 24/7. You can also visit http://www.childhelp.com