by Tammy Fiordaliso, RN
We’ve all read or heard about them in the news, tragic stories of babies or toddlers who were victims of Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS). According to The National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, Shaken Baby Syndrome is the leading cause of death in abusive head trauma cases. Approximately 1,200 to 1,400 children are injured or killed by shaking every year in the United States. The most recent database of The National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome shows that one of the main perpetrators is the child care provider. When nurses are teaching parents about SBS, it is crucial to stress the importance of educating their caregivers about the dangers of shaking a baby.
Caregiver education should include:
• Asking if caregiver knows about SBS.
• Tell caregiver it is never OK to shake a baby.
• Although it may happen out of frustration, shaking a baby vigorously is a serious form of child abuse.
• The relation between infant crying, caregiver frustration or anger, and SBS.
• A single shaking episode can result in death or other severe injuries such as mental retardation, speech and learning disabilities, cerebral palsy, seizure disorder, hearing loss, partial or total blindness, behavior disorders, cognitive impairment, spinal cord injury, paralysis, broken bones and dislocations.
• Caring for a baby can be difficult and frustrating. Babies cry for many reasons such as need to be fed, burped or diaper change, temperature too hot or too cold, have fever or experiencing pain from earache, teething, rash or insect bite, need to be held or soothed, being overtired or over-stimulated. If all needs are met then babies sometimes just need to cry.
• Give guidance on how to cope with feelings of frustration. Tell them to place the baby in the crib, and go to another room for a few minutes until they calm down. Take several deep breaths, count to 100 until calm. Listen to soft music, exercise, do household chores, take baby outside or go for a walk. Provide them with an alternate caregiver number who can help. Also available is the Child Help USA Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD. Caregivers can speak to a counselor during stressful times through this free, confidential hotline.
• Reassure your caregiver and make them feel comfortable that it is OK to call you at work if baby is inconsolable.
Parents rely on nurses to keep them informed and updated on various baby topics. Because a single shaking episode can result in death or other severe injuries, educating parents to teach their caregivers about shaken baby syndrome is a must.
--Tammy Fiordaliso, RN
References: National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome