Bumps and Bruises are Normal

Infant Karenni Boy by joeymarasek/via Flickr

Infant Karenni Boy by joeymarasek/via Flickr

Infant Karenni Boy by joeymarasek/via Flickr

Dear Mr. Dad: I’ve got a six-month-old son who doesn’t sleep very well. As part of my calming-him-down-in-the-middle-of-the-night routine, I walk around the house rocking him. A few nights ago, I lay down on the couch with him on my chest. He fell asleep and I didn’t want to wake him by standing up so I fell asleep too. Maybe an hour later I was jolted awake by a thump and crying and I realized that my baby had rolled off of me and had landed on the floor. I picked him up right away and he stopped crying after about 10 minutes. I called our doctor and the advice nurse asked me a bunch of questions and decided that there was no need to come in. That was reassuring and my son is his usual cheerful self. But I still feel like I’ve failed as a dad for being so careless in the first place. Do you think I’ve done any permanent damage to my child?

A: If your doctor didn’t have you come into the office and your son is behaving normally, chances are very slim that he’ll have any long-term effects. I can’t say the same about you. If you were to ask everyone you know who has children whether they’ve ever hand a similar experience, you’ll hear dozens of stories about falls, head-bumps, black eyes, stitches, and broken bones. Babies fall a lot and bumps and bruises are normal. So try to stop torturing yourself. You’re not a bad father—just a human one who’ll be a lot more careful in the future.

That said, I understand your residual fear. When my oldest daughter was about your son’s age, I walked through a doorway with her riding on my shoulders and she smacked her head on the top of the door frame. Our pediatrician reassured me that everything was okay. That didn’t quite do it for me, though. In fact, it wasn’t until she got an A on her AP calculus final that I finally stopped worrying that I’d caused brain damage.
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