Shaken baby prevention program encouraged for all new parents



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Posted on October 9, 2010 at 11:26 AM

Updated Saturday, Oct 9 at 11:26 AM

When new parents Janelle Hinkle and Dustin Umemoto left Valley Medical Center in Renton with their new daughter Layton, they had gone through a brief program on preventing shaken baby syndrome.

Valley Medical's Birth Center, and the University of Washington Medical Center are the only two hospitals statewide that offer the DVD and written materials to every new family. Nurses go over with parents the many reasons babies cry, and techniques for soothing them. "In the video they talk about, it's OK to walk away, and that all babies cry," said RN Andriette Timblin.

The stakes are high. Shaking can be devastating for a baby's brain. It can cause blindness, physical and intellectual disability, and in rare cases, death.

Tara Mitchell spoke at the conference. She advocates for other babies now, after her own son was nearly killed.

"When he was six months old he was shaken and thrown by his biological father. That day our life changed." she said.

Mitchell describes her son, now 11, as a high functioning survivor.

"He looks like an average 11-year-old. He deals with some behavioral, social challenges," she said.

Mitchell hopes the educational materials can go out to all families with newborns, so more babies will grow up healthy.

That's something new mother Janelle Hinkle echoed. She said parents should be reassured that they can take some moments to themselves if they need them.

"I was very thankful for the information, because I know that it's ok to walk away," she said.

Seattle Children's is currently gathering funds so that training and education materials can go out to all birthing hospitals in Washington State.

The DVD is called "the Period of Purple Crying."  Its main message is that crying, even a lot, is normal for infants. It's not a result of bad parenting, and frustrated parents may need a time out.

To prevent a crying infant from being shaken, the DVD advises caregivers who are stressed to "Set the baby down in a safe place. Make sure the baby is safe, and walk away."

Dustin Umemoto, a first-time father, said he has experience caring for children and infants. Still, he welcomed the parenting tips.

"I would not call myself a professional by far. Not quite yet at least," he said.

The materials are based on pioneering research by Dr. Ron Barr, Professor of Pediatrics at the University of British Columbia. He is the Canada Research Chair in Community Child Health.

He was in town at a recent summit at Seattle Children's to prevent shaken baby syndrome. He said even though 30 out of 100,000 babies born in the U.S. end up in intensive care with shaken baby syndrome, the abuse can go unrecognized.

"What we don't know is all the babies that are shaken but not quite hard enough to get them into an intensive care unit. And we use the metaphor, as many people do, the tip of the iceberg," he said.


Parent Trust for Washington Children

Seattle Children's Protection Program

National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome

Never Shake Foundation