4 Concerning Effects of Vibration on Infants to Know

Gentle vibrations provide soothing effects on babies. After all, babies spend nine months in the womb feeling and listening to their mothers’ heartbeats. Therefore, it’s natural for newborns to enjoy being swaddled or rocked by their caregivers as they sleep.

Moderate vibrations generally don’t cause significant harm to infants and can benefit them. However, exposing them to excessive vibrations can increase the risk of developing shaken baby syndrome. It can also cause developmental delays, stress, and overstimulation.

In most instances, vibrations help relax and calm infants. Medical professionals also use them as therapeutic tools for intervention and rehabilitation in conjunction with standard treatments. However, as proven true by many things, anything excessive poses risks.

4 Concerning Effects of Vibrations on Infants

1. Shaken Baby Syndrome

crying baby

Rapid, frequent, and excessive vibrations caused by forcefully shaking a newborn infant or toddler can result in a traumatic brain injury called shaken baby syndrome. Some also call this condition shaken impact syndrome or whiplash shaken infant syndrome.

Shaken baby syndrome can destroy an infant’s brain cells by preventing their brain from getting sufficient oxygen, leading to the destruction of the child’s brain cells. It can cause permanent brain damage and, in some instances, death.

Survivors suffer from long-term effects and usually require lifelong maintenance and care. The complications range from partial or total blindness and intellectual disability to seizure disorders and cerebral palsy.

Some signs that indicate the child is suffering from shaken baby syndrome include pale or bluish skin, extreme irritability, breathing problems, and vomiting. You might also notice that the infant finds it challenging to stay awake or eat.

Sometimes, it’s tricky to detect shaken baby syndrome because there are no noticeable exterior signs of physical injury. The symptoms are typically internal. Bleeding in the brain or eyes, spine injury, and fractures in different body parts are examples of this.

Seizures, paralysis, and coma are severe symptoms of this condition. Meanwhile, for mild cases, the impact might appear over time and present as health or behavioral problems. Shaken baby syndrome is usually the result of child abuse.

Infants have weak neck muscles. Forcefully shaking them will result in bruising, swelling, and, worse, bleeding. Impatient caregivers who get irritated by constant crying commit this grave mistake often.

Most cases involving this syndrome occur among infants between three and eight months old. Shaken baby syndrome is easily preventable. New parents must educate themselves on the dangers of violent shaking, how to soothe and calm babies, and how to manage stress.

If it’s challenging for you to manage your emotions due to the stress of parenthood, seek help. Visit a mental health specialist if necessary. Find the essential support you need, even if it requires you to ask your parents or relatives to take care of your baby or hire a caregiver.

2. Developmental Delays

baby on a hammock

As mentioned earlier, gentle, rhythmic rocking movements mimic the mother’s womb, making babies feel comfortable. Hence, many parents and caregivers use baby hammocks to lull their babies to sleep.

Using a baby hammock exposes infants to whole-body vibrations (WBV) brought by the vertical rocking motion. Aside from discomfort, excessive vibrations can cause adverse effects on the infant’s brain development.

3. Stress

Whole-body vibrations bring many adverse effects among adults. Fatigue, vomiting, irritability, motion sickness, blurred vision, chest or abdominal pain, and shortness of breath are only a few. WBV can also damage the cardiovascular and respiratory systems.

One study explores the effect of WBV on babies during transport. According to the result of the study, excessive vibrations from ground and air transportation have a stressful impact on infants, given that they exceed recommended levels for adults. 

4. Overstimulation

baby covering his ears

Rocking your baby too hard can overstimulate them, making them cry and become more agitated. Some parents might opt for vibrating cribs or bassinets. After all, these additions to the baby’s nursery can calm fussy babies or babies with colic or reflux.

Infants with colic episodes cry intensely and frequently for long periods, stressing them and their parents alike. Some parents describe the intense crying to be more like screaming. Most of the time, there’s no apparent reason for the baby’s outburst. 

The downside of vibrating bassinets or cribs and similar baby products is the chance of developing shaken head syndrome if exposed to high vibration levels for long periods. They might also cause the baby’s heartbeat to spike

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Vibrating Baby Products Safe?

baby crib

Numerous soothing baby products like vibrating mats, pads, bouncers, cribs and bassinets are available in the market. These are practical tools that help parents and caregivers calm fussy babies. When used properly, they can be helpful additions to an infant’s bedtime routine.

Although research on the effects of using these baby products is limited, many parents recommend them. After all, the soothing vibrations these tools emit help babies relax and sleep better. The question of whether they’re incredibly safe to use or not depends on various factors.

Firstly, products such as vibrating bassinets are best for babies suffering from colic or reflux. Vibrations can relieve pain and stimulate the digestive system by reducing trapped gas.

If your baby is merely crying because they’re bored or lonely, exposing them to constant vibrations might only stress them out more. Too much stimulation might make them fussier and cry harder.

Secondly, you must use products like vibrating bouncers for only a few minutes to avoid exposing your child to excessive vibrations. Remember not to leave your child unattended in one, carefully read the instructions before using such items, and follow safety precautions.

Lastly, never let your baby sleep in a vibrating bouncer. According to a 10-year study of infant sleep-related deaths, several hundred babies die yearly because of sitting devices like bouncers. Therefore, it’s crucial not to leave your baby sleeping in them.

Can I Vibrate My Baby While They Sleep?

You can gently vibrate your baby while they sleep, but be mindful of the intensity of the vibration to avoid posing risks to your child’s safety. Letting them rest in a comfortable and quiet environment is best. Try swaddling, back-patting, and putting white noise instead.

How Should I Rock My Baby?

mom soothing crying baby

First, you must remember to support your baby’s head while vibrating them to avoid letting its head bounce up and down. Pick them up and shake them gently when soothing them while crying.

Refrain from shaking or vibrating them harder if the crying gets more intense. Try another position instead. Another thing you must be cautious of is losing your temper while comforting your baby.

Many cases of shaken baby syndrome result from the impatience of parents and caregivers. Some have unrealistic expectations of infants. Others suffer from alcohol or substance abuse, extreme stress due to young or single parenthood, domestic violence, or depression.

It’s imperative to be self-aware and know when to step back from caring for your baby. You can also let the baby cry for a short period before soothing them again. Take deep breaths if that helps, and don’t hesitate to call someone you trust for emotional support if you need it.

Consider going to a pediatrician if the situation escalates because the excessive crying might be due to a medical problem. Lastly, never entrust your child to someone you don’t trust entirely or lack the qualifications for caring for an infant.

Final Thoughts

Vibrations are everywhere, from a mother’s heartbeat to different modes of transportation and baby products like vibrating bassinets and mats. Babies, especially newborns, like the vibrations, and in most instances, they bring various benefits.

Still, parents and caregivers must be cautious of exposing infants to excessive vibrations that can harm them in the short or long run. Use vibrating baby products only when necessary. Remember that babies are vulnerable to vibrations because their bones and muscles are still developing.

Contact your child’s healthcare provider if you need clarification on the pros and cons of vibrating baby products you’d like to use. Ultimately, treat babies with gentleness and utmost care to avoid the risk of developing shaken baby syndrome.

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