Q: Our baby loves being tossed up and down. Is this safe?
A: Being thrown into the air no more than a foot isn't likely to generate enough force to harm your baby. It's different from the highly publicized and serious form of child abuse called shaken baby syndrome, which 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.
Originally published in American Baby magazine, September 2004. Updated 2009.