This April, MountainView Hospital is raising awareness about the dangers of shaking a baby, in conjunction with national Shaken Baby Syndrome Awareness week, honored the third week of the month. Throughout the month, new parents will be given hand-knitted purple infant hats for their babies, in hopes of educating and reminding new parents that shaking a baby is always dangerous.
The hats were knitted by community members and donated to MountainView Hospital to help raise awareness of “Purple Crying” which can often lead to Shaken Baby Syndrome.
The National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome states there are about 1,300 cases recorded of Shaken Baby Syndrome per year in the United States. About 25% of those cases end in death, and about 80% of those cases result in lifelong disabilities.
What is Shaken Baby Syndrome?
Shaken Baby Syndrome is a serious type of brain injury that can occur when an infant or toddler is violently shaken. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) describes Shaken Baby Syndrome as a subset of Abusive Head Trauma with injuries possessing the potential to lead to death or permanent neurologic disability.
“I can recall speaking with the parents of a new born infant, and the father had shared that he remembers the moment of great frustration and anger when their first born child would not stop crying. He caught himself before any serious injuries happened,” said Veronica Sequeira, RN, director of Womens’ and Children’s services at MountainView Hospital. “He just wanted his wife to get some sleep, so he decided to watch the baby that night. The baby wouldn’t stop crying and he felt so frustrated because he couldn’t figure out what to do.”
What are the Triggers?
The No. 1 trigger for Shaken Baby Syndrome is frustration with a baby’s crying. The frustrating features and characteristics of increased infant crying is often described as “Purple Crying.” The letters in “Purple” stand for:
- Peak of Crying
- Resists Soothing
- Pain-like Face
- Long Lasting
Your baby may begin to cry more each week. The peak of crying is typically in month two, and will decrease in month’s three to five. Crying can be unexpected, and you won’t know why. Your baby may resist any soothing method you try, and continue crying with a pain-like face, even when they are not experiencing pain. The crying can last as long as five hours a day or more, and you may notice your baby crying more in the late afternoon and evening.
“Shaken Baby Syndrome is a very serious issue,” said Sequeira. “The biggest injury that could occur to a baby is a brain bleed. A baby’s brain is still very soft and unstable, like Jell-O, and when hit against the wall of the skull, it will suffer a brain bleed. There needs to be an understanding that even the slightest amount of shaking will cause damage.”
Shaking a child of any age may cause injury; however, violently shaking an infant for even a few seconds can cause severe injuries. Babies have weak neck muscles that aren’t strong enough to support heads that are too heavy and large in proportion to their bodies. When forcefully shaken, the baby’s brain repeatedly strikes the inside of the skull, injuring the brain.
What are the Signs of Shaken Baby Syndrome?
Some possible signs of Shaken Baby Syndrome and Abusive Head Trauma include lethargy and decreased muscle tone, extreme irritability, decreased appetite and poor feeding or vomiting for no reason, no smiling or vocalization, difficulty breathing, seizures, unequal pupil sizes, and enlarged or bulging head or forehead.
Long-term consequences of Shaken Baby Syndrome and Abusive Head Trauma include learning, physical, visual, hearing and speech disabilities, cerebral palsy, seizures, behavior disorders, cognitive impairment and death.
“One thing we tell the parents that come through our hospital is to make sure they get their sleep. Lack of sleep is a big problem, and makes things even more difficult for parents,” explains Sequeira. “We encourage parents to take turns taking care of the baby every other night. It’s also very effective to use any kind of white noise or rhythmic noise because it mimics the sound of the womb the baby’s used to.”
Other calming techniques recommended by the National Center of Shaken Baby Syndrome for when you feel frustrated, overwhelmed or angry are:
- Swaddle the baby
- Use “white noise” or rhythmic sounds like a vacuum cleaner or washing machine
- Offer a pacifier
- Sing or talk to the baby
- Gently swing or rock the baby
- Put the baby in a car seat and take a ride in the car
- Take the baby for a walk in the stroller
- Hold the baby close and breathe calmly and slowly
- Call the doctor for support or medical advice
- Call a friend or relative for support
- Have someone cover and give you a break
- Put the baby in a safe place like a crib, close the door, and check back when you’re calm
Try one calming technique for a few minutes before trying another technique. If nothing seems to work, it is okay to leave the baby in a safe place, like a crib or infant seat, and take time to calm down.
“It’s not easy to cope with a baby. Parents are adjusting to this new life coming into the world, and the baby is also adjusting to its new life outside of the womb,” said Sequeira. “It’s important for parents to be very patient and focus on learning about their baby. Don’t worry about other things like how dirty the house is for the first three to six weeks. Just focus on learning about your baby.”
Have a Strong Support System
“Another important fact parents need to know is having strong support systems,” said Sequeira. “A support system gives parents a way to communicate their frustrations and receive support and help when they need it.”
According to Sequiera, the aforementioned father of his first newborn sought out counseling and went back to the nurses who helped deliver his baby, as well as his community, and shared everything he had learned. He brought more awareness of Shaken Baby Syndrome just by word of mouth.
“Not everybody has a solid support system, so the Labor and Delivery department here at MountainView Hospital does everything we can to be a reliable support system,” Sequeira said.
The Labor and Delivery department at MountainView Hospital offers a mandatory discharge class every day to all moms. Every discharge class educates moms about “Purple Crying” and Shaken Baby Syndrome.
To learn more about Shaken Baby Syndrome and the Purple Crying Program, please visit dontshake.org. To contact a doctor for support or medical advice about your infant or increased infant crying, please visit our website MountainView-Hospital.com to find a physician.