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Keeping babies safe
Taking care of your baby is a great job. It’s also a big job. It’s normal to feel worried and a bit frazzled at times, even though you love your baby. Here you’ll be able to get tips and information on the everyday things you can do to make sure your baby is safe and well cared for.
On this page:
What all kids need
Your baby feels loved and safe when they have the things they need. This means:
- feeding them when they are hungry
- keeping them warm, dry and safe from danger
- helping them if they are in pain, scared or upset
- providing a routine and boundaries for them
- listening and talking to them
- making sure there is always someone you trust to look after them.
Coping with a crying baby
One of the hardest times as a mum or dad is when your baby just won't stop crying, and you can't work out why. It is really important that you know what to do before you reach breaking point. Picking up and shaking your baby, even for a moment, can seriously harm and even kill your baby. There's no need to be scared though, just follow these simple tips:
Know that it's normal
Crying is normal for a baby, they're not being naughty. It's the baby's only way of communicating with you. But almost every parent has times when the baby just won't settle and it's normal to feel frustrated, angry, confused and worried.
If you've tried everything and you feel like you're reaching breaking point, do not pick the baby up. The very best thing you can do for your baby is to walk away. It's OK to let them cry it out.
- If you are holding the baby, place them safely in their cot, then leave the room.
- Check the baby every few minutes, but make sure you don't pick up the baby again until you feel calm.
Do something to relax
Do something to distract you and help you feel calm:
- count to 10 before you do anything else. If you need to, count to 10 again
- sit down and have a cup of tea in another room
- take a bath or a shower
- do something that will distract you
- try not to keep thinking about what you can do to stop the crying. As long as you've made sure your baby is safe and their needs are met, it's OK to let the baby cry it out if they need to.
Talk to someone
You've probably tried everything you can, but sometimes just having someone to listen or give advice, can make the world of difference.
- call a friend
- don't be afraid to ask for their help - ask them to come over so that you can go out for a walk or have some time out. That's what friends are for!
- call your midwife, GP or one of the helplines listed below. They are there to help and want you to call.
Make a ‘crying plan'
As part of caring for your baby, write out a simple plan to manage your frustration if your baby won't stop crying. That way you'll know how to cope in the heat of the moment. Your plan could include the following:
1. Check the baby:
When your baby cries, go through this checklist:
- Check your baby's nappy
- See if they're hungry or uncomfortable
- Make sure they're not in pain, have a fever or might be sick (if they are, call a doctor).
2. Try these activities:
- Wrap your baby safely in a soft blanket and cuddle them
- Take them for a ride in a buggy or car
- Place them in a bouncy chair or gentle infant swing
- Play soft music, sing or hum quietly
- Give them a soothing bath.
3. Walk away:
If the baby still won't stop crying, put the baby down safely and walk away.
Do you need to call the doctor or midwife?
Would it help to call a friend for a chat?
What can you do to help you feel calm?
- Count to 10
- Have a cup of tea
- Take a bath or shower
- Read a magazine or watch TV for a bit
- Do a bit of gardening
- Do some baking
- Do something that will distract you.
4. Check on your baby after a few minutes:
But make sure you're calm before you pick your baby up again.
Why you should never, ever shake a baby
The most common reason for Shaken Baby Syndrome is because parents or caregivers become frustrated and angry when the baby won't stop crying.
Shaken Baby Syndrome is easy to prevent if you just plan ahead and follow the crying plan. Instead of picking up your baby when you feel frustrated, all you need to do is walk away.
What is Shaken Baby Syndrome?
This is the name given to injuries that can happen when a baby is shaken. A single shake can cause bleeding in and around the brain. This can lead to permanent brain damage, or even death.
A single shake can cause:
- brain damage
- broken bones
- delays in normal development
- your baby can die.
A few seconds of shaking may be enough to damage your baby for life. Handle your baby's head and neck with great care.
Never leave your baby alone in the care of someone you know has a problem with anger or violence.
If you think your baby has been shaken get medical help straight away.
Don't let fear or pride stop you from going to the hospital or doctor immediately, it could save your baby's life.
If you're worried or would like to know more about Shaken Baby Syndrome, call the Power to Protect helpline 24/7 on 0800 300 026 - a trained support person will be there to talk with you, offer support and advice, or put you in touch with services.
Getting help with caring for your baby
Caring for a baby is a big job, and we all need help sometimes. Even if you feel like you are alone, there are people who can help you.
Hints for getting help
Have a friend you can call:
Keep your family and friends' numbers on your fridge, or somewhere so you can call them when you're feeling stressed.
Take time out:
Ask someone to babysit for a while so you can have time off. Even if it's just to go out for a walk or have a cup of tea with a friend, it's normal to need a bit of time out.
Leave the house:
- Try to leave the house everyday - take your child for a walk or go visiting.
- Join a play group or baby group - even if you're reluctant to do this, you may be surprised at how helpful it is to be around other parents who are going through the same thing.
Call a helpline:
If you need help, there are trained professionals you can talk to. Call one of these numbers for help:
Power to Protect helpline 24/7 on 0800 300 026 - a trained support person will be there to talk with you, offer support and advice, or put you in touch with services.
Plunket 0800 933 922 or visit www.plunket.org.nz - for parenting advice and support. They know about the challenges of raising a new baby and have lots of tips to help with sleeping, breast feeding and child behaviour.
Barnardos 0800 472 7368 or visit www.barnardos.org.nz - for family support and counselling.
Healthline 0800 611 116 or visit www.moh.govt.nz - for health advice for the whole family. This service is staffed by registered nurses who can give information and advice to help you decide on the best level of care.
Parent Help 0800 568 856 or visit www.parenthelp.org.nz - for parenting advice and support. This service is available from 9am-11pm 7 days a week.
Youthline for young parents 0800 376 633.
Your midwife or doctor - they know you and are there to help.
If it's an emergency, call 111 for immediate medical help for your baby.
Call 0508 FAMILY (0508 326 459) - This is the Child, Youth and Family helpline, where you will be able to talk to a trained social worker. They can give you advice with any family problems or put you in touch with people who can help you.
Get help urgently if...
- you hurt your child - or you feel you will harm them
- you lose control often - or your child is afraid of you
- your partner hurts or threatens you or your child
- you're miserable, tense or can't cope
- you can't manage on the money you have
- anyone in the house has a drug or alcohol problem.
Don't be too scared to ask for help. Call a helpline or get a trusted friend to call for you.