Family Advocacy strives to prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome

| October 4, 2014 | 0 Comments
Soldiers and civilian members of U.S. Army Hawaii are on hand for the signing of a proclamation, Monday, making October Domestic Violence Awareness Month throughout the installation that is designed to heighten awareness of issues including Shaken Baby Syndrome. (Photos by Jack Wiers, Public Affairs, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii)

Soldiers and civilian members of U.S. Army Hawaii are on hand for the signing of a proclamation, Monday, making October Domestic Violence Awareness Month throughout the installation that is designed to heighten awareness of issues including Shaken Baby Syndrome. (Photo by Jack Wiers, Public Affairs, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii)

Gabriele Chapman
Social Services Educator, Family Advocacy
Program: Prevention, Education and Outreach
Army Community Service
U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Family Advocacy Program at Army Community Services (ACS) strives to reduce incidents of child abuse and Shaken Baby Syndrome by educating Soldiers and their families. Not only is it incorporated into mandatory annual training for units, it is also included in replacements training for new Soldiers on the island.

According to the National Center on SBS, 1,200–1,600 infants and small children are diagnosed with Abusive Head Trauma (AHT), also known as SBS each year.  Approximately 25 percent of the victims die and another 30 percent suffer serious, permanent disabilities.

I picked up baby Dennis from Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children. He looked horrible. His tiny face was red and scrunched up from crying. He had bald spots on both sides of his head, where the doctors had placed shunts to relieve the pressure in his skull. The nurse told me that he would be fussy because he was still in a lot of pain. To me, he was a stranger. I didn’t know anything about him. Did he like being held a certain way? Did he use a pacifier? Did he have a special toy or blankie? He smelled funny from all his hospital procedures. What if he cried like this all the time?

Three-month-old Dennis was a victim of Abusive Head Trauma or Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS). In a moment of frustration, his dad shook him. Dennis became unconscious and his mom called 911. Thankfully, he survived. I was his lucky foster parent, about to take him home to love and hold.

Victims can be up to 5 years old, and the average age of victims is between 3 and 8 months. However, the highest numbers of SBS occur among infants just 6 to 8 weeks old, when babies tend to cry the most (kidshealth.org). Long-term follow-up of the remaining survivors confirms that 25 percent who appear to suffer no immediate effects from shaking are diagnosed with learning disabilities or other delays after they reached school age.

Crying is a trigger
Inconsolable crying is the number one trigger in most SBS cases. The physical and emotional exhaustion that comes with having a new baby, coupled with the baby’s continuous crying, can push many parents over the edge. Out of frustration or anger, some of these parents will violently shake, hit or throw their children. SBS occurs from forceful shaking, which causes the baby’s immature brain to rotate in the skull cavity, damaging or destroying brain tissue.

Blood vessels leading to the brain can be torn, leading to bleeding, swelling and pressure within the skull, causing even more damage. Babies are extremely susceptible to SBS because their heads are extremely heavy (making up about 25 percent of their total body weight) and their neck muscles
are weak.

Awareness can defuse situations where parents may react out of frustration from a crying baby. (File photo)

Awareness can defuse situations where parents may react out of frustration from a crying baby. (File photo)

According to Donna Shock, ACS New Parent Support Program (NPSP) team lead social worker, parents should do the following when their baby is crying inconsolably:

• Check to see if baby is hungry, too hot or cold, or needs a diaper change.
• Try soothing techniques for baby such as playing music or white noise, or taking baby for a ride in the car.
• If you think your baby is ill, call your pediatrician.

“If your baby continues to cry and you are feeling stressed, put your baby in a safe place (crib or bassinet) and leave the room for a few minutes to calm down,” said Shock. “Or ask someone you trust to care for your baby while you take a break.”

In a national effort to prevent SBS, a campaign called the Period of PURPLE Crying was launched several years ago to help new parents understand that there is a very typical set of features of crying that all infants do in the first weeks and months of life.

The NPSP is a professional team of nurses and social workers that provides parenting support and education (for families expecting a baby, or who have children under the age of 3) on a wide variety of topics, including preparing for a new baby, potty training, sibling rivalry and discipline.

More on FAP
The Family Advocacy Program: Prevention, Education, Outreach (FAP-ED) also offers a variety of parenting classes. New parents can contact the ACS New Parent Support Program at 808-655-4ACS (Schofield) and 808-438-4ACS (Shafter) for help and tips in dealing with their baby.
In addition, parents can contact the Child Help Hotline (1-800-4-A-CHILD), a 24/7 toll-free number in which they can talk to a professionally trained counselor and get help.

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Category: Community, Safety

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