ICON Awareness

When babies cry it can be stressful and overwhelming. Help is out there and all you need to do is ask.

This week is ICON awareness week (25 to 29 September 2023) to raise awareness of infant crying and how to cope to support parents/carers and prevent serious injury, illness and even death of young babies as a result of Abusive Head Trauma that happens when someone shakes a baby.

ICON is a programme adopted by health and social care organisations in the UK to provide information about infant crying, including how to cope, support parents/carers, and reduce stress. Please see this short video for more information.

This is a charity doing amazing work.  The idea for the ICON programme and the different interventions within it was conceived by Dr Suzanne Smith PhD following a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Travel Fellowship to USA and Canada in 2016 which included the study of effective interventions and research into the prevention of Abusive Head Trauma (AHT).

Research suggests that some lose control when a baby’s crying becomes too much.  Some go on to shake a baby with devastating consequences. Suzanne found that the most effective evidence-based programmes studied provide a simple message that supports parents/caregivers to cope with infant crying. 

ICON stands for: –

Infants crying is normal, and it will stop, after 8 weeks of age babies start to cry less.

Comfort methods can sometimes soothe the baby and the crying will stop. Think are they: hungry, tired, or in need of a nappy change? Try simple calming techniques such as singing to the baby or going for a walk.

Its OK to walk away if you have checked the baby is safe and crying is getting to you. After a few minutes when you are feeling calm, go back and check on the baby.

Never, ever shake or hurt a baby. It can cause lasting brain damage or death. If you are worried that your baby is unwell contact your GP or call NHS 111.

Studies show that a key trigger to a baby being shaken is the caregiver’s inability to stop an infant crying and the link between the normal age of peak crying around 6 weeks to 3 months.  Periods of crying should decrease by 4 to 5 months.  It also shows that around 70% of babies who are shaken are shaken by men.  So any prevention programme should include male caregivers and use the best opportunities to reach them as well as support all parents/caregivers with information about crying and how to cope with a crying baby.

Intervention points

The full ICON programme consists of 7 potential intervention points.

  1. High School: Link to lesson plan and lesson

  2. Hospital Based: Link to leaflet and script and commitment statement

  3. Community Midwife home visit: reiteration of the 4-point message

  4. Health Visitor Primary visit: reiteration of the 4-point message

  5. Health visitor topic-specific contact: dedicated contact discussing normal crying and exploring how parents/caregivers are coping.

  6. GP 6/8 week check

  7. Any professional involved with babies to provide opportunistic support/advice.

ICON is approved for endorsement by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGPs). The ICON information has been included within the RCGPs Toolkit.

Please see the below for more information, tools and resources for ICON week: 


I always add the great work from the ICON programme in my safeguarding training, and all levels of our Safeguarding Children courses feature ICON.

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