October 24th, 2011
12:01 AM ET

Educating new parents cuts shaken baby syndrome

Head trauma from shaken baby syndrome is the most common cause of traumatic death for infants under the age of 1.

Shaken baby syndrome  occurs when a child is shaken so hard that it causes major head trauma and bleeding in the brain and or retina. When not fatal, it can lead to a host of issues such as brain damage, mental retardation, epilepsy, sight issues and learning disabilities.

But a new study in the journal Pediatrics finds that when a simple education program was implemented, hospitals in New York State’s Hudson Valley were able to reduce shaken baby syndrome cases in their hospitals by 75%.

In the Hudson Valley program, nurses distributed parent education materials including an informational leaflet and an eight-minute video explaining what shaken baby syndrome is and how to calm a crying child. Parents were also required to share this material with anyone else who might care for their baby.

The leaflet included tips such as:

• Let him listen to a repeating sound, such as a clothes dryer.
• Walk outdoors with her.
• Gently rock him in your arms or walk with him against your shoulder.
• Hum or sing to her.
• Try a pacifier, or help him find his thumb to suck on.
• Put her in a car seat and take a car ride.
• Carry him in a “Snugli-type" carrier that cradles him close to you.

According to study author, Dr. Robin Altman, the most important message though, was telling parents “that crying is normal and it’s not something that you’ll always be able to stop in your baby, or that you need to stop in your baby.”

Ryan Steinbeigle of the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, said newborns tend to have a strong crying period beginning around 2 months, and waning around 3 to 4 months. Frequently, parents get very frustrated during this period, not understanding why their child is crying so much, and that can trigger a parent to shake their child.

Altman suggested that when the crying gets to be too much for a parent, to set the child down in a safe place and walk away. “It’s way more important to deal with the stress of your baby crying.”

When looking at the five years before the educational program was implemented, there were 14 cases of shaken baby syndrome in the region. In the three years after, there were only two cases reported. But, there is still room for improvement. The study found that while men were nearly five times as likely to shake a child as women, only 40% of fathers watched the video, compared to 85% of mothers.

Also, in the long term, educational programs can not only save lives, but save money. Head trauma that results from one case of shaken baby syndrome can result in a lifetime of costs that can total close to $10 million dollars in acute and chronic care. At the time of the study, the educational programs cost $4.50 per packet. However, since the program has now been adopted by the State of New York, the prices of the program packets will go down further. “What's in a dollar per baby born? It’s such an inexpensive program,” said Altman.

soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. Christina

    nice enough post and blog
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    October 24, 2011 at 11:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. ma & pa

    This information is so important for everyone to know and understand now. Over the years to long ago, in some households, infant and toddler mortality was high and the surviving children obeyed exactly and few people cared to know the reason was shaking . Now people can know better everywhere this program is provided.

    October 24, 2011 at 22:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Kim Thomas

    Terrific article! In addition to raising awareness to new parents about the dangers of shaken baby syndrome, one young girl in Broken Arrow, OK decided to bring awareness to highschool students in a rally. Over 200 students showed up and the event was covered by local news and newspaper.

    To see this inspiring story, go to this link or type this address in your web browser:


    October 28, 2011 at 23:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Fidel depaz

    I agree thats very important to educate every body about this isue but also keep on mind that is a very dificult to determine wen a child has been abused by shaking him or her i rader educate authorities also so they dont send so many inosent people to jail

    January 4, 2012 at 17:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Merlene Burtell

    Cool project :)That said if RadioShack wants me to go into their store fronts more than twice a year only to end up leaving disappointed because their stock is lacking while their prices are not. They might want to tackle those two points of contention as apposed to doing little other than trying to drill their existence into peoples psyches.


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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.