Crying baby? Help is at hand

Somerset County Council’s Public Health Team has joined other organisations from across the county this September to promote lifesaving messages to parents.

‘Babies cry, you can cope’ is a key message being delivered as part of ICON Week (26-30 September). The ICON programme helps families create a nurturing environment and learn supporting comfort methods which can help soothe crying babies.

 Working with the NHS, healthcare organisations, social care, early years and community and voluntary partners, Somerset County Council’s Public Health team are sharing tips, advice, and best practice to help parents cope with crying babies.

Research suggests that some parents and caregivers can lose control when a baby’s crying becomes too much, with some going on to shake a baby bringing devastating consequences.

Abusive Head Trauma (AHT) is a preventable and severe form of child abuse that may result from shaking an infant by their shoulders, arms or legs. AHT causes catastrophic brain injuries, which can lead to death, or significant long-term health and learning disabilities. 

The ICON programme, which they launched in Somerset this April, provides information about infant crying, including how to cope, support parents/carers, reduce stress and prevent AHT in babies.

The second annual ICON week aims to raise awareness of infant crying and how to cope in a bid to support parents/carers and prevent serious injury, illness and even death of young babies a result of these incidents.

Research points to persistent crying in babies being a potential trigger for some parents/care givers to lose control and shake a baby, with around 70% of incidents involving men. The evidence-based programme consists of a series of brief interventions that reinforce the simple message making up the ICON acronym:

I           Infant crying is normal and it will stop

C          Comfort methods can sometimes soothe the baby and the crying will stop

O         It’s OK to walk away for a few minutes if you have checked the baby is safe and the crying is getting to you

N         Never ever shake or hurt a baby

Councillor Adam Dance, Lead Member for Public Health, Equalities and Diversity at Somerset County Council, commented:

The ICON programme shares information about the difficulties of infant crying, helping parents to be better prepared and supported to cope with the way their baby cries to communicate. Most babies start to cry more frequently from two weeks of age, with a peak usually being seen around 6-8 weeks.

The ICON training programme guides health professionals in the techniques that can be used in these situations. They can then pass on this information to parents and carers, helping them to cope.

The programme supports parents and carers to respond to crying in a nurturing way that prevents incidence of serious head injury in babies, caused by shaking.

Nurse, health visitor and founder of ICON, Dr Suzanne Smith, said:

Abusive head trauma can occur in any environment when a parent or carer is on the edge due to infant crying.

The pressure that families are under is only being exacerbated by added pressures of the cost-of-living increase and the impact can be far-reaching and have devastating consequences.

ICON is about sharing messages of support and advice to parents and carers who might be struggling to cope. We want to normalise the fact that babies do cry and some aren’t easily soothed and we want to share information far and wide about what to do in these situations and how to stay calm.”

More than 15 webinars are taking place throughout the week with speakers from the military, police, primary care, parent ambassadors, health visitors and the education sector. These webinars are open to everyone and details can be found at at Icon Week 2022 | ICON (iconcope.org)

For anyone who needs help and is struggling to cope, help is available from your midwife, health visitor, GP or go online:

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