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Sinai Works with Parents to Prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome

Posted Apr 23 2010 12:00am
Your newborn won’t stop crying. What is your plan?

That’s the conversation many nurses at Sinai Hospital are increasingly having with post-partum mothers, and their partners, before the baby goes home. The goal is to reduce the incidence of Shaken Baby Syndrome .

Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) is believed to be the most common form of child abuse. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month , and presents a chance to increase education on preventing SBS.

SBS occurs when a baby is violently shaken, resulting in head trauma. Symptoms can include lethargy, decreased muscle tone, extreme irritability, decreased appetite, no smiling, difficulty breathing or seizures.

“It’s totally preventable,” says nurse Lauren Underwood, R.N., who divides her time between Labor and Delivery , Neonatal Intensive Care , and the Pediatric Intensive Care at Sinai Hospital. She has been an advocate of talking more with parents about not shaking their baby, a topic that’s gained traction. The 15 states that have instituted mandatory education on Shaken Baby Syndrome have seen a dramatic reduction in incidence rates of SBS, she says.

“There’s enthusiasm growing among the Sinai staff for educating parents on Shaken Baby Syndrome,” she says.

Part of this stems from the extreme consequences of SBS. According to the National Institute for Neurological Damage and Stroke , “the majority of infants who survive severe shaking will have some form of neurological or mental disability, such as cerebral palsy or mental retardation, which may not be fully apparent before 6 years of age.” Shaking also can cause blindness.

Parents do not always realize the consequences of shaking, Lauren says.

“Often the parent says something like ‘I didn’t shake him that hard,’” she says. “This is something that can affect all families.”

“All parents go through a time when they are frustrated and the baby won’t stop crying,” Lauren says. “We ask parents to watch a movie on Shaken Baby Syndrome and to answer the question ‘what do you do when you’re at wit’s end?’”

Answers can be to call someone for help, to put the baby in a safe place like a crib and walk away, or to take a walk.

“You check to see if the baby is hungry, sick, tired or wet,” Lauren says. “But sometimes babies just need to cry.”
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