Last week I was lucky enough to attend a lecture by Dr. Carol Berkowitz, former President of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She is a smart, spunky pediatrician who specializes in child abuse and had much wisdom to share regarding shaken baby syndrome (now also known as abusive head trauma). Today I’d like to share a few points I took away from her talk on this important topic.
Abusive head trauma (shaken baby syndrome) results from an infant or small child being shaken in a violent manner by a larger person. This type of shaking often results in serious brain injury or death. Despite recent news reports suggesting otherwise, the science behind abusive head trauma is sound. And, sadly, it happens all too often. It is the most common type of physical abuse in children under one year of age, and is the leading cause of death related to physical abuse of young children.
This type of abuse is hard for most everyone to talk or even think about. But, we must. Why? Because, as Dr Berkowitz suggested, studies tell us that at least in some cases it is preventable. The key to preventing more children and families from facing this kind of devastation is openness and education.
Most of the risk factors that increase the likelihood that an infant will be shaken are related to stress: unstable family situation, parental depression, history of maltreatment, domestic violence. But, the number one trigger for shaking is a crying baby and the frustration that caregivers feel when they can’t stop a baby’s crying.
We need to talk more about this. When a baby is born into the world, society’s message to parents is largely, “oh, isn’t he so cute” and, “being a parent is the most wonderful thing in the world”. And while these things are true, we don’t talk enough about the fact that parenting a young infant is also hard, very tiring, and sometimes overwhelming.
I want all new parents to know these things:
- Young infants cry a lot.
- Crying tends to peak between two weeks and four months of age.
- Some babies cry more than others.
- If your baby is crying, and you have trouble getting them to stop, this does not mean you are a bad parent.
- If you feel overwhelmed or frustrated, it is always okay to ask for help or to put your baby in their crib and walk away for a few minutes. Take a few deep breaths and wait for the feeling to pass.
- It is never okay to shake a baby in order to get them to stop crying.
The Period of Purple Crying is a proven child abuse prevention program. Their website has more detailed information about infant crying, soothing methods, and what to do when nothing works. Please spread the word.
This article disturbs me greatly. You won’t understand how terribly mistaken and UNsound the “science” behind shaken baby is until you get accused AND convicted of shaking your baby by one of these “doctors” when you absolutely KNOW that you did not do it. The court will find you guilty because the “doctor” said it happened, no matter how strongly you deny it. It doesn’t matter if you are a good family, if you don’t drink or use drugs, if you are consistently kind and faithful to your mate, if you have happy, good relations with extended family. It doesn’t matter if your baby is a sweet baby who doesn’t cry excessively. It doesn’t matter if you have character witnesses which can testify as to your stability and character. Nothing matters except the word of the doctor. If you say you didn’t do it, they don’t believe you. You are sunk in the water — guilty until proven innocent. Yes, here in America! And how can you prove yourself innocent when you don’t know why your baby got sick? That’s supposed to be their job, isn’t it?
Their entire belief is that whenever there is a subdural hematoma and retinal hemorrhages, you shook your baby, period, end of story, no matter what you say. Many innocent people have their babies ripped away from them because of this. Many innocent people go to jail for YEARS, if their babies happen to die, all based on the belief that these “doctors” know what they’re talking about and have “solid” science behind them. Nothing could be further from the truth! But you’ll never know until you actually experience it for yourself, until you are convitec by their word alone, even though you are completely 100% innocent. Beware, people! The above is NOT the truth.
I do not stand as judge or jury in any one particular case. The fact remains that children are injured by shaking every year, here in the US, and around the world. My aim in writing is to increase awareness of how hard parenting a young infant can be, and to let parents know there are resources if they need help. My aim is prevention of child injury. I stand by the truth of my post, as written.