APHN: Don't shake your baby

FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- You knew your baby would cry. But picture yourself up for the 10th night in a row with a crying, inconsolable infant. The baby isn't sick, wet, cold or hungry.
Did you know how frustrating that crying could be when you have tried everything to comfort your baby and the baby keeps crying?

Dealing with a crying baby can be very hard, and parents often don't realize just how frustrating it is until they are in a stressful situation. After feeling very inadequate, sleep deprived and resentful, the caregiver grabs the infant and shakes.

No one thinks he or she will shake an infant but research shows crying as the No. 1 trigger leading caregivers to violently shake and injure babies. Parents and caregivers need to know and understand the dangers of shaking and how this abuse usually occurs out of frustration.
Shaken Baby Syndrome is the term used to describe the injuries sustained from being violently shaken. SBS occurs most frequently in infants younger than six months, but can also occur up to the age of 3. Shaking a baby, if only for a few seconds, can injure the baby for life.

These injuries can include: bleeding between the brain and the skull; tearing of the child's brain tissue; bleeding along the back layer of the child's eye; or the detachment of the innermost layer of the eye from the rest of the eyeball. These injuries could lead to blindness, mental retardation, coma or death.

Based on a North Carolina research project published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in August 2003, approximately 1,300 U.S. children experience severe or fatal head trauma from child abuse every year.

About 70 percent of the perpetrators in SBS cases are men, and are usually the father of the victim or the mother's boyfriend. Any person who gets frustrated can shake a child to death. There are also many cases of mothers, grandparents, child care providers and babysitters who have seriously injured a child by shaking.

Education is the key component in decreasing the incidence of SBS. It is estimated that 25-50 percent of parents and caregivers aren't aware of the effects of shaking a baby.

Saying, "Don't shake a baby," is not enough. Parents should share the message of the dangers of shaking with all who care for their infant, including spouses, their own parents, siblings, day care providers and others. A plan of action or suggestions to deal with the situation should be offered.

Many programs have been designed and proven effective include hospital-based programs for parents of new babies, programs for dads called Dad 101, and public educational campaigns.

The program, called "Period of PURPLE Crying" is designed to help parents and care givers understand that crying is normal, even when it goes for long periods of time. Parents and other care providers need assurance that allowing a baby to cry is OK if all the baby's needs have been met.

Understanding crying as a normal and healthy part of infancy can greatly reduce the stress in anyone who cares for a child. No baby has ever died from crying.

Page last updated Thu October 27th, 2011 at 00:00