LOCAL authorities, healthcare organisations and the NHS are joining together to promote an awareness-raising week aimed at supporting parents when babies cry.
ICON Week 2022 takes place from 26-30 September, and carries the message that ‘babies cry, but you can cope.’ Its aim is to raise awareness of infant crying and ways in which parents and carers can get support.
Research suggests that some parents and caregivers can lose control when a baby’s crying becomes too much. Some can go on to shake a baby, with devastating consequences.
Shaking a baby can cause abusive head trauma (AHT), leading to catastrophic brain injuries, significant long-term health and learning disabilities, or even death.
Locally, the NHS and councils across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are working together to support ICON Week.
Leicester’s deputy city mayor for social care Cllr Sarah Russell said: “Any parent will know how stressful it can be when a baby cries. But infant crying is normal, and it will stop. It’s so important that we all promote the simple messages of the ICON programme, which are aimed at supporting parents and, crucially, preventing young babies from coming to harm. I’m very pleased that local organisations are all working together to reinforce this vital message.”
ICON is a programme adopted by health and social care organisations in the UK. 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 a 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
Comforting techniques can include things like talking calmly to your baby, humming or singing, holding them close, or taking them out in a pram for a walk. Not all of these will work all of the time but remember, that’s OK – and help is at hand from your midwife, health visitor or GP if you’re struggling to cope.
Most babies start to cry more frequently from two weeks of age, with a peak usually being seen around 6-8 weeks.
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.
“By sharing these vitally important messages and coping techniques, we are working towards reducing the risk of harm to babies and protecting them from abusive head trauma, which is utterly preventable.
“Anyone who needs help and is struggling to cope, don’t continue to struggle. Help is available from your midwife, health visitor, GP or go online and there are more resources on our ICON website.”
Councillor David Wilby, cabinet member for children’s services at Rutland County Council, said: “We need to make sure parents have access to the right guidance and support when starting or growing their family. Even more importantly, parents must understand that it’s OK to need and ask for help. Caring for a baby can feel overwhelming – particularly if you’re a new parent. ICON carries a simple message but can prevent a great deal of harm and distress. We fully support this vital effort to raise awareness.”
Councillor Deborah Taylor, deputy leader and cabinet member for children and families at Leicestershire County Council, said: “Having a new-born is an exciting experience; however, it can also be overwhelming at times, especially with the lack of sleep and exhaustion. It may seem that your baby is crying a lot, and trying to soothe them doesn’t always work – but it is vital to know that you should never shake a baby.
“If you are feeling overwhelmed, ask for help. It’s also okay to walk away for a minute and come back when you have composed yourself. There is so much guidance around to support parents in this new stage of their lives. We want to make sure you know that you are not alone.”
Francesca Shearer from Turning Point said: “In addition to their substance use, the parents we work with often have a number of additional risk factors related to AHT in babies, such as parental conflict, domestic abuse and poor mental health.
“The babies of our service users are often “high criers”, due to withdrawal from substances and often being born prematurely. The ICON message is clear and easy to understand and we deliver the message to all of our service users and their partners, as we often work with expectant fathers who are sometimes difficult to reach for antenatal services. This work allows the delivery of the ICON message and any associated parenting support which is highlighted as being needed.
“The ICON message enables us to prepare parents for what is to come. It also helps us to develop a safety plan with them for when the baby arrives to reduce the risk of AHT, as well as relapse into substance use as a coping mechanism.”
Lyn Quinnell, public health nursing lead in Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust’s Healthy Together service, said: “We know that it can be distressing to hear your baby cry but remember it is normal and their way of communicating with us. There are many reasons why babies cry and as you get to know your baby, you’ll start to tune in to their different cries, spot cues and will be better able to anticipate what they need. For example, they may cry to let you know they’re hungry, tired, uncomfortable, overwhelmed, need comforting or even to tell you they’re bored.
“Sometimes there may not be an obvious reason. You may notice they cry more around 6-8 weeks old, which is completely normal. If this is happening it is okay if you need to leave them for a moment to take some time to calm down, as long as they are safe. Most importantly, remember: never shake your baby. If you have any questions, our health visitors are there to support you and you can find lots of advice on our website: www.healthforunder5s.co.uk .”
Chris West, deputy chief nursing officer at the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Integrated Care Board (LLR ICB), added: “Babies cry for different reasons, for example, if they are hungry, need to be changed, are unwell or sometimes for no particular reason.
“It can be distressing to see your baby cry, particularly when the crying is persistent, but you can help your baby and yourself by using comfort methods or by taking a few minutes to calm yourself.
“If you are finding it difficult to cope, you can speak to your GP practice or midwife for advice and support.
“The LLR ICB is committed to working with partners to highlight the important messages of ICON Week and we will continue to support our local midwives, health visitors and GPs to engage with parents and carers, supporting them to provide safe and healthy environments for babies and infants.”
For more information visit www.iconcope.org/iconweek2022.
Notes to editors
Parents living in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland can also speak directly to a public health nurse for advice and support by texting the ChatHealth service.
- Parents/carers living in Leicester city: text 07520 615381
- Parent/carers living in Leicestershire and Rutland: text 07520 615382
The service operates Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm, excluding bank holidays and texts will be responded to within 24 hours.