Last year, 41 of our young kids in Hillsborough County died needlessly. Imagine a school bus – one that should be full of children – empty because these children will never grow up to attend kindergarten, graduate high school or live their lives. One child who dies a preventable death is one child too many.
When you think of preventable deaths, chances are that shaking a baby is one of the first things to pop into your mind. It may seem like something that would NEVER happen to your baby, however there are times when our child’s caregiver may lose control. A key to preventing more deaths from abusive head trauma is for parents to check out the background and parenting skills of any caregiver who will be entrusted with watching their child.
Have frank conversations with them and watch for the warning signs that a caregiver may not be responsible enough to watch your child. If the caregiver seems impatient or frustrated when the baby cries, that may be a red flag.
Crying babies cause stress for most people. For people not used to it, their response to this stress can be deadly. Here’s what you need to know, and to share with EVERYONE:
- Parents themselves most often cause the injury or death
- Don’t assume that a caregiver who loves you will feel the same way about your child
- A baby’s brain is fragile just like an egg inside a shell, and can be severely, even fatally, damaged inside
the skull when shaken
- Infants who survive shaking can struggle with the consequences for life
- The potty training period, up to age 4, is another critical flash point for stress and frustration
- It’s not only shaking – but also squeezing or throwing a baby down on a bed or hard surface – that can be deadly
Across Tampa Bay, more than a dozen babies and young children died in the past four years after they were shaken violently or suffered other kinds of abusive head trauma at the hands of a caregiver. The lesson from these tragedies is clear: Never shake a baby.
By understanding why babies cry and how to soothe them, parents and other caregivers can greatly reduce the frustration that can lead to shaking a child in their care.
Remember that crying is normal for babies – it’s how they communicate. However, a child will not die if you set them down for a few moments while they are crying so that you can collect yourself. The real danger comes when the caregiver becomes overwhelmed and frustrated, and not knowing what to do, shakes the baby.
Tell everyone that these steps save lives:
- Realize that crying is normal—it’s how babies communicate
- Have a list of what to check as reason for crying—hunger, dirty diaper, too hot or cold, teething, over-tired, etc.
- Know who is watching baby: ask them questions, notice their behaviors, ask how they’ll react to crying
- Have support system in place for anyone watching baby: family, friend, neighbors who can relieve stressed-out caregiver
- Know it’s okay for caregiver to take time out by putting baby in crib while taking a few minutes to reduce their stress
To read more about the effects of Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) and how to tell if your child has been shaken, click here.
Spreading awareness for this issue is the only way that we can stop preventable deaths of children. To learn more and to get involved, visit www.preventneedlessdeaths.com/category/head-trauma.