Mary Muscari, associate professor at Binghamton University, State University of New York offers advice on preventing shaken baby syndrome.
Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) refers to the medical findings that result from the violent shaking of an infant or young child. SBS is a form of child abuse that can cause significant permanent brain damage, resulting in learning disorders, severe mental retardation, blindness, paralysis, and even death.
The American Association of Neurological Surgeons notes there are an estimated 50,000 cases of SBS per year in the United States. Victims range from the newborns to 4-year-olds, although the majority of cases occur before age 1-year with an average age of 3 to 8 months. Most victims are male, as are most perpetrators. The perpetrator is most often the father, the mother's boyfriend, a female babysitter, or the mother.
The most common reason for shaking a baby is inconsolable crying. Many parents become frustrated because they do not know what to expect, and have questions such as: "How much should a baby cry?" "Why won't the baby stop crying?" "Is there something wrong?" "Am I doing something wrong?"
Parents should talk to their child's health care provider to get assistance in learning to understand how and why their baby cries.
When your baby cries, remember that the baby is not misbehaving, as crying is a form of communication.
Parents can also use these tips to help deal with crying:
- Offer the baby a pacifier, toy or other distraction.
- Make sure all of the baby's basic needs are met (food, clean diaper).
- Cuddle the baby close to you.
- Walk or console him.
- Sing to the baby or play soft music.
- Swaddle the baby.
- Take the baby for a ride in the car or use an infant swing.
- Call a friend, relative or neighbor to give you support.
- Be patient, remember that the crying will come to an end.
- If nothing else works, place the baby in his crib making sure he is safe, close the door and check on him about every 5 to 10 minutes.
- Take a break - exercise, listen to music.
- Call a crisis hotline if necessary.
- No matter how angry you become, never shake your baby.
Parents should also use appropriate measures of choosing babysitters and other childcare providers. And new moms with new boyfriends, who are not the baby's dad, should make sure the new beau cares for and knows how to handle her baby before leaving the two of them alone.