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Know the Facts

Here are some very brief facts regarding shaken baby syndrome. It is a serious traumatic brain injury caused when a frustrated adult violently "shakes" a child, a form of child abuse which can lead to prosecution. The time of shaking can vary from 5 seconds to 15 or 20 seconds. It has been estimated that the number of shakes ranges from 2 to 4 per second. Shaking is usually directed to children under the age of two, but there have been documented cases in children as old as 5. There are more male than female victims. There are an estimated 1200 to 1500 cases of SBS reported each year. This statistic does not take into account the number of shaking incidents that is not reported.  One-fourth of children who are shaken die, making it the leading cause of death due to child abuse. 95% of cases were preceded by crying. Other triggers revolved around toilet training, feeding problems, and oppositional behaviors like temper tantrums or refusals. When a child is shaken, delicate veins between the brain and the skull are ruptured and begin to bleed. As blood pools, subdural hematomas are formed producing pressure and swelling in the brain and damage to brain cells. Shaken babies may suffer internal injuries that can result in lifelong disabilities, such as:

  • mental retardation
  • cerebral palsy
  • learning disabilities
  • inability to walk
  • inability to eat
  • blindness
  • hearing loss
  • seizures
  • paralysis
  • in the most severe cases, death

Some 20 to 50% of adult caregivers and parents said they did not know that shaking a child could have such terrible effects. It is time they learned. Shaken baby syndrome is 100% preventable.

Period of PURPLE Crying

Children will often cry uncontrollably from the age of 2 weeks to about 6 months.  Infant crying can be explained and/or described with the acronym PURPLEP stands for peak of crying; U for unexpected; R for resists soothing; P for pain-like face; L for long-lasting; E for evening. 

Caregivers, parents, grandparents, siblings, babysitters, and paramours must understand that children who have not developed spoken language skills often cry to communicate. 

Dr. Harvey Karp and the 5 S's

Author of The Happiest Baby on the Block and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at USC School of Medicine, Dr. Karp believes infant crying is the main trigger for Shaken Baby Syndrome.  He has developed what some call a "miraculous" calming reflex that is a virtual off switch for crying.  His method, dubbed the 5 S's, includes:  swaddling, side/stomach positioning in the parent's arms, shushing, swinging, and, if necessary, sucking.  These techniques resemble the experience of the baby in the mother's womb.  Karp contends that infants are evicted from the womb too early and that the first three months of life constitute a "fourth trimester."  Dr. Karp is also the author of The Happiest Toddler on the Block.  Both works are among the more popular parenting books available today.  Check out our Links page for more information.

Handling Crying

Most children are shaken after they have been crying for a period of time.  For babies and toddlers who have not yet developed verbal skills, crying is a chief means of communicating.  Unfortunately, crying can cause a caregiver to become stressed, and stress, in turn, can lead to violence.  Here are some things you can try when your child is crying:

1.  Feed the baby slowly, burping often.
2.  Offer the baby a pacifier.
3.  Check the baby's diaper; change it if needed.
4.  Check the baby for any injury (a pin, a string wrapped around a toe or finger)
5.  If your child has a fever or you think your child is ill, call a doctor or nurse.
6.  Hold the baby safely against your chest.  Walk or rock the baby.
7.  Take the baby for a ride in a stroller or a car.
8.  Sing or play soft music to soothe the baby.
9.  Call a friend, neighbor, or parenting network.  ASK FOR HELP.
10.  Place the baby in a safe, quiet place and leave the room for a few minutes.  Take a brief walk.  Do some calisthentics.  Don't return until you have gained your composure.  Remember, a baby can't die from crying.  A baby can die from being shaken.

Some suggestions taken from the Shaken Baby Association, Inc. website. article 8/15/08

USA TODAY article 7/22/08

Reagan's Rescue Featured in One Life Magazine

The partnership between Reagan's Rescue and Provena United Samaritans Medical Center was recently highlighted in the Winter/Spring 08 issue of One Life magazine.  The article contained information about Shaken Baby Syndrome and a medical perspective from Dr. Syed A. Naqvi, Director of Emergency Medicine in Danville, Illinois.  Reagan's Rescue co-founder Greg Williams was also interviewed for the piece. 

Additional Information

For more information regarding SBS, check out our Links page.  For information about our personal journey, go to the archive section of the Danville, Illinois, Commercial-News and type the name Reagan Williams in the Search Our Site box.