June 20, 2005
Everyone gets upset. Everyone gets frustrated. It is what people
do with their anger and frustration that makes all the difference.
"When a baby is
vigorously shaken, the head moves back and forth. This sudden
whiplash motion can cause bleeding inside the head and increased
pressure on the brain, causing the brain to pull apart and resulting
in injury to the baby. This is known as Shaken Baby Syndrome,
and is one of the leading forms of fatal child abuse. A baby's
head and neck are susceptible to head trauma because his or her
muscles are not fully developed and the brain tissue is exceptionally
fragile. ... Shaken Baby Syndrome occurs most frequently in infants
younger than six months old, yet can occur up to the age of three.
Often there are no obvious outward signs if inside injury, particularly
in the head or behind the eyes. In reality, shaking a baby, if
only for a few seconds, can injure the baby for life."
Babies are small and
fragile, and they break easily. Even a few seconds of shaking
from a frustrated or out-of-control caregiver can change their
lives forever. Receiving medical attention right away can improve
a baby's chance of survival, and can limit continued damage from
"... Immediate emergency
treatment is necessary and usually includes life-sustaining measures
such as stopping internal bleeding and relieving increased intracranial
pressure. ... Generally, the prognosis for children with shaken
baby syndrome is poor. Most will be left with considerable disability."
Shaking can lead to deception.
The baby may initially begin to cry more (out of fear), but may
soon quiet (as a result of the brain damage that has occurred).
No obvious signs of trauma are visible, and the child has given
the caregiver the desired result (quiet).
Even in milder cases,
in which babies looks [sic] normal immediately after the shaking,
they may eventually develop one or more of these problems."
Each year, hundreds of
babies are shaken to death in this country. Those who do survive,
will live with the effects for the rest of their lives, and those
effects may not be immediately apparent.
"How does it happen?
Often frustrated parents or other persons responsible for a child's
care feel that shaking a baby is a harmless way to make a child
stop crying. The number one reason a baby is shaken is because
of inconsolable crying. Almost 25 percent of all babies with Shaken
Baby Syndrome die. It is estimated that 25-50 percent of parents
and caretakers aren't aware of the effects of shaking a baby."
"It is estimated
that 25-50 percent of parents and caretakers aren't aware of the
effects of shaking a baby."
"A number of state
lawmakers are pushing a bill in effort to prevent a form of child
abuse that leads to brain damage and even death. The Prevent Violence
Against Children Act will promote prevention of Shaken Baby Syndrome.
... The proposal would require that all new parents receive information
and view a video tape on Shaken Baby Syndrome prevention. It would
also include prevention education in school districts."
Not all medical professionals
are in favor of this bill, yet others see the need, and see the
good that can come from such education.
"Dr. Mark S. Dias
was trying to comfort his newborn son in the middle of the night
when he felt himself losing control. ... Dias, now a pediatric
neurosurgeon at Pennsylvania State University Milton S. Hershey
Medical Center, could identify with parents who spin out of control
and shake their babies. He cared for such infants in the Buffalo
hospital where he worked at the time and had seen the brain damage
from violent shaking. That insight eight years ago led Dias to
develop a program to teach new parents about shaken baby syndrome.
... Last month, Dias reported in the journal Pediatrics that the
incidence of abusive head injuries declined 47 percent in western
New York after hospitals began showing parents a short video and
offering brochures on how to soothe a crying baby. Dias said the
timing of the education program is critical. 'You have to remind
the right people at the right time,' he said. 'The right time
is before they take their baby home.' ... Since abusers tend to
be men, hospitals try to get fathers involved. Recently, Crystal
Washington, 32, a single mother in the city's Logan section, watched
the video from her bed at Temple University Hospital with her
2-day-old daughter, Kikira. Washington knew that shaking a baby
was bad, but she did not fully understand how devastating it could
be. 'I didn't know you could even shake that hard,' she said.
"That is something I would never do.' ... "The main
message we give is that you should walk away from the baby when
you're feeling stressed,' Horan said. 'Take a break, don't shake.'"
Once again: "It
is estimated that 25-50 percent of parents and caretakers aren't
aware of the effects of shaking a baby."
be designed to educate the entire ... population -- adults and
youth -- about the dangers of losing control when caring for an
infant. Key messages should explain that the most common trigger
causing an individual to shake a baby is the child's crying, and
that physical discipline has no place in caring for children.
The emphasis should be: 'Never shake a baby!', and to seek help
if a baby's demands create anger or frustration, making it difficult
for a person to maintain control. Parents need to learn that there
are alternative strategies for dealing with exhaustion and feelings
of frustration toward a baby, and that caution must be taken in
choosing alternate caregivers. Great caution should be used in
letting inexperienced caregivers, those who have difficulty controlling
their anger and those with any resentment toward an infant look
after a baby, even for a short time."
Questions of the Week:
What do caregivers need to know before caring for a baby or small
child? What do parents need to know before taking their babies
home from the hospital? How can the information be presented so
that it can be remembered in a moment of frustration? What can
parents and other caregivers do when faced with a baby that will
not stop crying? What can they do when frustration levels mount?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum