Child Abuse Prevention Month: Preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome

Newswise — Mary Muscari, associate professor at Binghamton University, State University of New York, and author of Not My Kid: 21 Steps for Raising a Nonviolent Child, 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.

Parents can also use these tips to help deal with crying: When your baby cries..... Remember that the baby is not misbehaving; crying as a form of communication. 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 child care 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.

Topics areas include parenting, from toddler age and up, especially teens. She has conducted a number of parenting workshops around the country; most popular topics: keeping kids safe from predators ('live' and Internet), bullying, raising nonviolent kids

Parenting books include: Let Kids be Kids: Rescuing Childhood (2006) Not My Kid: 21 Steps to Raising a Nonviolent Child (2002) Not My Kid 2: Protecting your Kids from the 21 Threats of the 21st Century (2004)

New books: Everything Book: Raising Adolescent Girls (Moira Mc Carthy with Dr. Mary Muscari) Everything Book Raising Adolescent Boys (Robin Weiss with Dr. Mary Muscari)