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Is Tossing My Baby Up and Down Harmful?

Closeup of African American Girl Wearing Blue Jean Hat

Q. Our 4-month-old loves to be tossed up and down, but my mother says this isn't good for her. Is she right?

A. Being tossed into the air no more than a foot isn't likely to generate enough force to cause harm to your baby. Your mother's concern most likely stems from the highly publicized and serious form of child abuse called shaken baby syndrome. It involves violently shaking an infant -- usually in response to a baby's crying. Forceful shaking can cause tearing of the small blood vessels on the surface of the brain, which can interrupt blood flow, leading to brain damage.

Even though tossing your baby up can't hurt her (and she enjoys it so much), there is always the chance that the person tossing her will accidentally drop her. While this risk is admittedly very small, it's probably better to choose other, safer ways to please your baby, such as dancing, swinging, swaying, and bouncing.

Claire Lerner, LCSW, is a child development specialist at Zero to Three, a national nonprofit promoting the healthy development of babies and toddlers (zerotothree.org).

Originally published in American Baby magazine, September 2004.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.