Shaken Baby Syndrome

Shaking a baby that won’t stop crying may be an instinct of frustration. Even the saints among us have been to that point and somehow stopped themselves.

PACIFE Music to Calm stops the crying minutes after the screamer takes a breath and is quiet enough to hear it.  The mathematical character of this music along with the primal tunes Bernstein talks about quickly engage them.

Newborn drug babies, after the third day, begin a terrible and violent drug withdrawal.  The muscles in their legs undulate and cramp (we can see it and feel it), they purple cry nonstop, they shake, they have explosive diarrhea that eats their bottoms raw and they are beyond comfort.  This is the comment of one NICU nurse about a baby in drug withdrawal…

“I found a tape player and began to play the PACIFE music for him… I’d no sooner put it into the tape player than he stopped crying. It’s instantaneous. He’s looking around with a relaxed, peaceful face.”

– S. S., NICU Registered Nurse


Watch a Child’s School Experience Carefully

Several years ago, in a Portland middle school, a little girl did not have a food voucher at the end of the lunch line.  Her mother forgot to renew them.  The cashier scolded, berated and humiliated the child, took her food tray and threw the food into the trash.  The nightly news reported it and interviewed the principal who defended the cashier.

A similar experience of public humiliation from a kindergarten teacher, has left me with a lifetime of horrible consequences.  And because children are cheerfully sent off to school by parents, they believe that the parents are in agreement with everything that happens to them.

Parents need to keep an open, clear conversation with children, every day, about what happened in school that day.  Pay full attention, careful to not blame the child for anything or become overly agitated as the story unfolds.  You don’t want to shut this communication off, children are literal, they only learn embellishment and lying later, embellishment if they are not listened to and lying to avoid bad consequences to what they are saying.  Then go to that school and raise hell!

One of my children did not bring an expected drawing home from her small religious school that day. When asked she said the teacher threw her drawing into the garbage. I took the book Picasso’s World of Children,  went to see the teacher and told her she would have thrown away Picasso’s work and that she had no business being anywhere near a child. Then I joined the Board of Director’s of this school and fired her. As an adult, this child of mine was blessed with the entire gene pool of generations of portrait painters, she could draw as a photograph looks. This could bring hours of delightful magic to her life but she will not draw or paint.

Teachers, nurses and police are professions that appeal to the same segments of society, the supporters and the controllers.  Because exchanges between them and client patients, students and the public are essentially private, the controllers can be as nasty as they wish.  Watch out!

With Children, Our Goals Change

When our children begin to venture beyond home, our goals are that they have wonderful experiences and remain happy always. Then in school the goal changes to ‘may their quest for knowledge not be harmed.’, then as middle school rears it’s ugly head the goal is singular… that they come through it without a drug or alcohol addiction.  In high school, black parents goal is that their child live through it.

Parents however have no idea what is happening to their child’s self esteem, his confidence and his view of the world. In his very special book, Real Boy’s Voices, William Pollack interviewed boys from ages 10 to 20 around America asking them about their lives and learning they’re being taught a formula of secret angst and fears which evolve to rule their behavior and preoccupy them constantly.  Who is saying these things to boys? Who cultivates these fears?  Teachers.  Women teachers! Why?

“Call Home for a Ride”

Parents need to show this sequence to children and tell them to: “Call home for a ride… no questions asked, happy to come and get you”.

This is an episode of the Judge Judy show that illustrates the fragile relationships and betrayals of teenagers.  It’s called Set up for an attack and there’s a 3 video clip sequence telling the story.

Ashley, the victim in this scenario, needs expensive and extensive plastic surgery to repair that broken nose and restore her beautiful face.

Clues to How the Family is Doing

Some tricks to tell what’s going on behind the scenes in your family.

There is an entire subtext evolving behind the scenes in families with children… how they are interacting together, what they think of their parents, how it’s going with neighbors and friends and then there is school.  For much of it you have no way of knowing but there are clues.

  • DRAWINGS:  Pencil and paper will give you an amazing glimpse into your child’s life, worries and solvable problems. When they are still in the stick figure drawing mode, ask them to draw their family, to “draw you and Billy”, draw themselves with someone they like a lot, someone they don’t like a lot and the playground at school. Family drawings can be a mom with no ears which means she does not listen, the dad with a huge round mouth means he shouts, one sibling bigger than mom or dad means he’s a bully.  Drawings showing the child drawing as very small means he sees himself as powerless in his family, drawing a parent without arms means he gets no hugs.  When my children were young, I’d have them make these drawings every few months, snatch them up and seriously begin working on the problems.  One of my children, an extremely talented artist in adult life, drew me (a single parent with 4 little children.) with a smile on my face and tears running down my cheeks.
  • PHOTOGRAPHS:  There has been much written about reading faces and it’s deadly accurate stuff.  Choose a picture showing a smile for example.  Take 2 white pieces of paper (this gives no distraction) and cover one half of the face, then the other.  What seems to be a smile can become a grimace! The face may be smiling but the eyes are crying!  Then cover everything but one eye, then the other, then both eyes, then the mouth. As you do this, give one word to the emotion you are seeing in that one eye.  fear, worry, imp…  this is how the child is feeling generally.  It may also reflect how he’s feeling about the photographer.  Information from posed photos is somewhat different than from snapshots.  It’s very interesting to do this with old posed photos where the photographer was busy setting the camera.  The subject would hold the pose and begin to adjust it to be what he considered his ‘best look’  and fatigue or boredom would degenerate his pose to reflect the reality of his personality.Then there are those photos of the married couple, each leaning away from each other.  Remember, there were probably other photos in the series but this was the one chosen!  In group photos, watch if someone is consistently tilting the head away or leaning away from another.
  • THE MIRROR:  If you want to know how someone felt with a certain expression in a photograph or in conversation, go to the mirror and arrange your face in the same way.  Then hold that pose a minute.  Your body will feel what that person was feeling.  Arrange your face with a frown, a straight across mouth and a straight head for example.  you feel one way. Then keeping the same expression, cock your head and you feel another way.  Anther good exercise is to watch a talk show with the sound off and you will be seeing something very different than with the sound on.

Holding and Carrying the Baby

First time parents are afraid to touch the tiny baby and handle him stiffly but there’s a way to fix that. Before a feeding, sit with your partner, cross legged on the bed and practice handing the baby back and forth, putting him up to the shoulder, different feeding positions and practice the football hold. (Holding his head in your hand, his back along your forearm, legs on either side of your elbow.  This allows you full control, he can see your face and you can clamp his leg against your body for a more secure carry.)

About sling carriers… with a one piece cloth sling carrier,  gravity forces the newborn down into a deep curve at the bottom, bending his head so the chin is tight against his chest.  This can obstruct, clamp-off the airway.

Important in an infant carrier is stability, supporting the head and exposing the face to air. The perfect front or back carrier and one that keeps the newborn’s chin up and carries  growing children easily is the Boba,  (formerly SleepyWrap). Their page of pictures is very exciting. Almost makes you want to have another baby!


Thin Hair

Whenever I’d meet a patient with thick, wonderful hair I’d ask her what she did to keep it that way and get the same answers… brush with a wire brush and take Cod Liver Oil, (the great majority of these women were European).

The wire brush stimulates the scalp, increases blood flow to it and feels great. It should have smooth rounded tips, not one with the tips attached so that the hair catches in it. Brookstone had the perfect brush but it seems to be gone.

The Cod Liver oil must be cold water cod which is only Norwegian Cod Liver oil. It comes in capsules and is available everywhere.

And then, it seems we are lacking in some minerals needed to keep hair from falling out.

A story:

  • For 2 years I commuted to LA every week and when in LA, my hair was not falling out. Returning to Portland, every morning’s lost hair was alarming. The most important difference was that in LA, I drank only bottled water. It seemed that it wasn’t just bottled water but specifically  Arowhead water that stopped the hair loss and grew lovely thick, long hair.  (Only the water from Arowhead California in the San Bernardino Mountains grows hair, and you can tell it because the taste is a bit flat.  The other source is sold in Washington State and Canada and this water tastes sweet.)

Stress will make hair fall out, so one worries about becoming bald which adds to the stress.  Bad hair loss in women presents a dilemma, should you shampoo often or not.  The answer is yes. Failing to keep the scalp free of dandruff plaques will smother hair follicles and prevent new growth.

Then there is post-partum hair loss.  Dreaded.  It’s hormonal and happens at three months and three weeks after birth of a child. Don’t worry, it grows back.


Every person has as much right to all the benefites of earth as a king, simply because we were born human.

We are all muddling through this life experience together and supporting each other. Being careful of others, tending to our own stuff would make it an interesting adventure, but in America at least, this becomes further from reality every day.

The other side of this coin is evil and increasingly, evil is winning.  This is evil and it pretty much defines the American culture today:

  • Hurting another’s self-esteem, dreams, goals, personality  because it makes one feel powerful and alive!  Nasty parents and school bullies.  (A parent or teacher who  watches silently is absolutely complicit.)
  • Destroying another’s hard work.
  • Stealing what another has earned.
  • Killing another human.  Up close or war, it’s all the same.
  • Hurting another’s body.
  • Going through life, causing mayhem and not giving it another thought.
  • Selfishness.

“But it was an accident!”  Wrong.  There are no accidents. Hurting people with a car when drunk driving is no accident.

“But the bible says they are evil.”  Giving permission to hate other’s in the name of God has been around for a very long time.  Self-righteous stereotyping is destroying our ability to like each other, we have become suspicious and afraid of each other and therefore, isolated.

In every dysfunctional social exchange there is one-up and one-down.  It can be fixed, first of all, by understanding the mechanism.  Born to Win is a simple and fascinating way to understanding and to repair.

What it’s Like to be Disabled

Many years ago, the talk show host, Tom Snyder had as guest a forty year old Psychologist in a wheelchair, with very severe Cerebral Palsy.  At the end of  the interview, Snyder said to her: “What’s it like to be a spastic?”

She said:  “It’s depressing, it’s exciting, it’s boring, it’s interesting. It’s sad, it’s happy, it’s just like anything else in life.”


It’s a rock in the road.  An annoyance to work around, that’s the interesting part.  The nasty part is how some people treat you and, with that in mind, anything other than young rail-thin, beautiful and perky in America is a disability.

Preemies are Overprotected

They are made of tough stuff and fearless.  Here’s a story.

The mother of one of our smallest, in NICU for a year (20 years ago, with new technology that never happens any more) and trached at home for two years more called into NICU one night and said she felt awful.   Ryan  was jumping on the sofa, fell off and broke his arm.  I told the nurses working nearby and they cheered!  The mother on the phone asked what that was about.

I told her they were cheering her because preemies are so tenderly overprotected as they’re growing up that they can never experience life.

Your preemie as a toddler will climb on a chair and jump to the sofa. Again and again.  Even falling does not stop him.  I wondered why this was so common.  Maybe because he has learned to trust.  He trusts people because everyone in this NICU experience was essentially kind to him, and gentle.  But he also has learned to trust space!  Infants understand perspective and there are studies where a deep floor of black and white squares was painted on the bottom of a large sheet of glass.  The mother was on the far edge and the newly crawling baby near the opposite edge.  The mother called him to her and he crawled to the part of the glass painted with his edge, saw what appeared to be a drop-off and would go no further.  So why do preemie infants seem to not react to the drop-off?  It may be because he has lived in a glass house, perceived that it was high and was not worried about the consequences of falling.

The truth about preemies growing up is that they are made of strong stuff, happy, brave, daring, smart.  Enjoy them.