Child abuse is a major problem and Shaken Baby Syndrome is one of the most dangerous and tragic forms of abuse. SBS happens when a caregiver violently shakes a baby or young child, causing brain injuries, cerebral palsy, blindness, hearing loss, learning and behavior problems, seizures, paralysis and death. Between 1,000 and 3,000 children in the United States suffer from SBS each year. Just a few seconds of shaking can result in lifelong injury or death.
Shaken Baby Syndrome is preventable. Most adults responsible for causing SBS don't mean to hurt the child. Sometimes the caregiver is frustrated because the baby will not stop crying. SBS is more likely to occur when there is stress in the caregiver's personal life such as relationship or money problems. Educating parents and caregivers about the dangers of shaking a baby is a proven way to lower SBS rates. The nursing staff at The Birthplace of St. Mary's Hospital is providing comprehensive community education.
Our program increases awareness of SBS, provides tips for soothing a crying baby, and encourages parents to educate surrogate infant caregivers. We recommend that when parents leave their child with a caregiver to always provide numbers where either they or another support person can be reached, should the caregiver experience difficulty in soothing a crying baby.
Recently, we provided an educational program at the Lynch Middle School, reviewing safe infant care practices for emerging young adults who may be asked to care for an infant.
Simple educational points and a plan for support are effective prevention strategies. If you are caring for a crying baby, first check to make sure he/she is not hungry, hot or cold, sick, or that his/her diaper doesn't need to be changed. If the baby is still crying, try rocking the baby, rubbing his back, or singing to him/her.
If you feel overwhelmed, it is OK to place the child in a safe place (like a crib) while you take a break for five or 10 minutes. Once relaxed, try again to calm the baby. Maintain a list of people to call for support when feeling overwhelmed.
Please feel free to contact Julia Shafer, director of Women's Services at St. Mary's Healthcare, for additional information.
JULIA SHAFER, R.N.
Director of Women's Services
St. Mary's Healthcare at Amsterdam