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How Do I Stop Myself from Shaking My Baby?










QUESTION:

Things went great for the first year, but now I want to get a handle on myself before it gets worse. My wife weaned our baby recently and some nights are amazing either she will get our baby to bed or I will work some magic and get the baby to sleep. The scary part is if the baby wakes up in the middle of the night, twice I have found myself getting frustrated (probably from lack of sleep). The first time I did a small shake and the second time I yelled and jerked. The wife and I went back and forth because, understandably, she is worried about our baby and thinks I did a lot more out of anger.

I am looking for tips and help to show that I know I was in the wrong and that I getting angry can lead to much worse consequences. I want some help to make sure I don't do this again so I can share duties and help the baby sleep and make it easier on both of us.

My wife is great. She already told me to not be afraid to ask her for help, but I feel like there is more and I want to explain to her. I tried telling her I did wrong and even apologized to our baby. I love them both so much and want to be a better dad and one that can calm himself down before things get out of hand again. It is not worth the risk.




ANSWER:

It can actually be surprising to some how little force is needed to cause serious damage from shaking a baby. That said, most cases of shaken baby syndrome are in babies under the age of one, because it does take more force to hurt older babies since they have larger brains, more developed neck muscles, etc. Shaken baby syndrome happens when we get frustrated or angry, which is something all parents feel at some point, that's why we discuss it in every single Boot Camp for New Dads class.

Getting so frustrated has the potential damage to your relationship with your baby (if you feel guilty or like a failure, you might back off) and with your wife. The relationship damage is limited because you jumped on it early. For us fathers, mistakes like this provide opportunities to fix the problem and take our relationships to a higher level. Here are a few suggestions so there's not a third incident:

  • Make a deal with your wife: When you feel frustration coming on, you will tap out and she will take over. This guarantees the safety of your baby. If no one else is around and you feel yourself getting frustrated, put the baby in a safe place and leave the room until you calm down. They key to either of these techniques is to recognize your frustration or anger before it reaches a level 10.
  • Think through what triggers your anger; it is more than sleep deprivation and likely includes some other stress. Learn to handle those and you'll have a solution for any future anger issues as a dad. Check out Reddit's dad forum and do a search for "anger"; you will find lots of company and more insights and solutions.
  • Step up your protector role. I’ve often thought us dads should carry a paramedic bag along with a diaper bag given a one year old’s propensity to damage themselves. Sign up for a First aid/CPR course and tell your wife you are concerned about your increasingly mobile baby’s likelihood of getting hurt. You can also get a big (you are making a statement here) first aid kit for the house and car.
  • Keep up the normal roughhousing; maybe even step it up; we need to make our girls tough.
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