To raise awareness of Shaken Baby Syndrome, BIAN has collaborated on a joint project with a local agent from USC, a major supplier of children's Registered Educational Savings Plans, to produce and distribute 1,500 baby bibs annually.
The bibs feature the caption "Handle me with Care. Please don't shake me."
The Shaken Baby Syndrome bib will be distributed, along with language appropriate literature, to every new mother who has given birth in North Bay through inclusion in the Welcome Wagon package or who has self-identified as a new mother.
We are hopeful that this type of "target" marketing will make an impact on the attitudes of new mothers towards the risks involved when someone shakes their baby.
As early as 1946, John Caffey began publishing articles that distinguished between children who had been shaken and children who had been battered. In the 1970s, further articles by Caffey and others in conjunction with a well-publicized legal case, brought attention to the Shaken Baby Syndrome, SBS.
Since that time, researchers and physicians have debated the syndrome. Some reports conclude that severe brain injuries commonly diagnosed as shaking injuries require impact to occur and that shaking alone in an otherwise normal baby is unlikely to cause the shaken baby syndrome. Studies have tried to determine if shaken baby syndrome is distinct from serial abuse or a symptom of serial abuse.
The absence of external signs of trauma after shaking allows people to think such behaviour is not child abuse and, in the past, has made accurate diagnosis difficult for medical professionals. In the 1980's, studies were exploring more reliable methods of diagnosis: "Serial CT scans may confirm the diagnosis, suggest time of injury, discover complications, and suggest prognosis." Lumbar puncture was advocated by some physicians. Increasingly, studies were indicating that the examination of retinal hemorrhages by an ophthalmologist as the most reliable method of diagnosis.
With the recent introduction of advanced diagnostic scanning equipment, the MRI, Magnetic Resonance lmager, helps early detection of SBS.
Virtually every study since the 1940's has recommended more information and education for parents, educators, health care workers, social workers and medical professionals. Case studies indicate that often there has been no intention to harm on the part of the caregiver. There are far too many individuals who are not aware of the danger of violently shaking a child. Although thorough documentation is limited, research by Jacy Showers suggests some patterns:
- Male children are more often the victim of shaking than female children.
- More shaking is done by males than by females.
- The repetitive nature of the act suggests a lack of self-control or rage indicating the real possibility of previous or future abuse.
- Often a caregiver doing the shaking is not the parent, but a baby-sitter, boyfriend or even the baby's sibling.
- Shaking is CHILD ABUSE.
Child-care professionals are in a unique situation to intervene with education. Parents need to be assured that it is okay to feel frustrated, particularly with a small child that is crying incessantly. Through support and education, parents can be taught alternate methods of dealing with anger and frustration. Parents can be provided with useful and practical methods of dealing with the baby's crying and their own frustration.
Health care professionals need to be better educated about the symptoms and diagnostic methods for Shaken Baby Syndrome. The symptoms of SBS mimic other childhood diseases such as meningitis and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Diagnosis is further complicated by the child's inability to communicate either what has happened to him or where he hurts. Parents are often either reticent to admit to having shaken the child or are unaware that violent shaking has occurred. Shaking of children is usually not an isolated event as it frequently has been preceded or followed by other types of abuse or neglect.
Showers' research on the effects of educational material points to a dangerous assumption on the part of medical professionals that people know that you should not shake a baby Showers research indicates that this assumption is flawed and that many individuals are not aware of the potential risks involved.
The Handle with Care campaign produced by the Childhood Acquired Brain Injury Program and the Ontario Brain Injury Association is designed to raise awareness of Shaken baby Syndrome in order to reduce the risk of brain injury. The pamphlet for parents focuses on what to do, rather than what not to do. The message is positive but clear.
- Your baby is fragile
- Nurture your baby
- Kiss your baby
- Love your baby
- Handle with care at all times
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