Coping with Crying

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 16, 2008

RALEIGH – Protecting children from being victims of Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) is the aim of a new project launched here Tuesday.

North Carolina State Senator Dr. William Purcell joined officials from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Injury Prevention Research Center and School of Medicine and Duke University Medical Center along with local SBS prevention advocate Jennipher Dickens in making an announcement about the project.

The project, which will be the largest and most comprehensive SBS prevention initiative in the nation, will seek to prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome through education of parents and child care providers throughout North Carolina.

Senator Purcell, who serves as a pediatrician and is a long-standing member of the North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force, said he felt the SBS prevention project would help many children in the state.

“We wouldn’t be here today but because parents and child care providers get frustrated and shake babies,” the senator said. “I know how devastating shaking a baby can be n to the infant and to the family.

“This project will share very important information that all parents can use about normal infant crying and how to manage that crying safely,” he added.

According to information released by Dr. Desmond Runyan, a professor of social medicine and pediatrics at UNC and the principal instigator for the project, a baseline anonymous survey of parents of children younger than two years old in North Carolina showed more than 2,000 children had been shaken to a greater or lesser extent by a caregiver each year and that serious injuries result from some.

“However, only about 40 of these children are admitted to a hospital intensive care unit,” Dr. Runyan said. “Of those, 10 die and another 27 suffer serious long-term health problems such as mental retardation, blindness or cerebral palsy as a result. A lot more children are shaken who are not hospitalized, but may have mental retardation or learning disabilities later. This shows the need for, and potential benefits of, preventing shaking.”

Dickens, a Bertie County native, is the founder of Stop Shaken Baby Syndrome Inc. which is an SBS prevention education and child advocacy organization.

She was asked to speak as the parent of Christopher Daughtrey, who was shaken when he was just seven weeks old. During the press conference, she gave her son’s story and stressed the need for education.

“I can’t stand the thought of more innocent babies going through what my son did, yet I see it in the news every day,” Dickens said. “It continues to happen and until we do something about it, it always will.

“Unlike other forms of child abuse, though, SBS is preventable through simple education and can be mostly stopped through community awareness and teaching people healthy ways of coping with crying.”

The five-year education project will reach all 86 hospitals in North Carolina in which children are delivered. It will include hospital and health care provider-based parent education, a 10-minute video and an 11-page booklet that parents can share with other caregivers of their children such as family members and babysitters.

The program will educate parents and caregivers about the hazards of shaking and give them alternatives to use when they feel they need a respite from a crying baby.

“We had new babies here this week,” Dr. Runyan said Tuesday. “This isn’t going away.

Dr. Runyan said babies who are fussy have been called “colicky” but that there was evidence that all children go through periods of being fussy. He said evidence strongly supports crying is the main link to Shaken Baby Syndrome.

“One mother said, ‘I’d never hit my child, but he had to be quiet so I shook him,’” Dr. Runyan reported.

It will focus on “The Period of PURPLE Crying,” an acronym to help describe the characteristics of crying in healthy infants. “PURPLE” stands for n it Peaks at two months of age and ends at four or five months; is Unexpected; Resists soothing; the child appears to be in Pain; it is Long lasting (two to five hours); and occurs more in the Evening.

The project is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Duke Endowment and is led by a broad coalition of stakeholders from the National Center for Shaken Baby Syndrome, University of British Columbia and state and county agencies, service providers and non-profit organizations.