Windsor Regional Hospital focuses on the issue of Shaken Baby Syndrome

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The National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome indicates that thousands of children are injured or killed each year as a result of child abuse. One of the most common causes for injury to an infant in the first two years of life is Shaken Baby Syndrome. Shaken Baby Syndrome is a term used to describe the constellation of signs and symptoms resulting from violent shaking or shaking and impacting of the head of an infant or small child. The degree of brain damage depends on the degree and duration of the shaking and the forces involved in impact of the head.

In North America, as many as 1,200 to 2,000 children are shaken. Of these tiny victims, 25 per cent die as a result of their injuries and over 80% are left with some form of brain injury. Over 60 per cent of all child abuse occurs in infants under one year of age.

Windsor Regional Hospital and its Family Birthing Centre experience over 4,000 births annually. It introduced The Period of Purple Crying program in March of this year, described as a new way to understand a newborn’s crying. Through resources provided by the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, an organization with 25 years of research experience, the program is now fully implemented where information is shared with new parents before they leave the hospital with their newborn.

As new parents will experience, it may seem that their baby cries more than other babies. However, at about two weeks of age, babies may start to cry more each week which is a normal, natural expression of life. During the second month, babies usually cry more than any other time and after two to three months, they begin to cry less; sometimes crying by the infant can last up to five months. It is a fact that babies can still be healthy and normal even if they cry five hours a day.

Dealing with constant crying from an infant can be very difficult and parents often do not realize just how frustrating it is until they are in a stressful situation. No one thinks they will shake their infant however research shows crying by an infant as the number one trigger leading parents or caregivers to violently shake or injure babies.

The American Academy of Paediatrics describes Shaken Baby Syndrome as “The act of shaking leading to shaken baby syndrome being so violent that the individuals observing it would recognize it as dangerous and likely to kill the child. Shaken baby syndrome injuries are the result of violent trauma. The constellation of these injuries does not occur with short falls, seizures or as a consequence of vaccination. Shaking by itself may cause serious or fatal injuries.”

The most common injuries of Shaken Baby Syndrome are subdural hematoma (bleeding on the brain), celebral edema (massive brain swelling) or retinal hemorrhages (bleeding inside the eye). Most shaken baby cases include one or more of these injuries. In some cases, victims may also suffer skull fractures from head impact, rib fractures from intense squeezing pressure and/or long bone fractures in the arms and legs due to violent shaking. It should be noted that activities involving an infant or child such as tossing in the air, bouncing on the knee, placement in a swing or jogging with them does not cause the brain or eye injuries characteristic of Shaken Baby Syndrome.

Staff at Windsor Regional Hospital, now trained about the program share their experience by teaching new parents/caregivers ways to comfort their crying newborn and important action steps when the crying is persistent and frustrating. The program also focuses on why shaking a baby is harmful through use of a simulated baby model along with sharing a video produced by the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome.

“Through funding, each family of a newborn is given a copy of the video and information package before they leave the hospital.” states Alissa Howe-Poisson, Clinical Practice Manager at Windsor Regional Hospital. “The program encourages parents to speak to other new parents about how important it is to understand consistent crying and why it is alright.”

The development of The Period of Purple Crying program at Windsor Regional Hospital was supported by community partners such as Hotel Dieu Grace Hospital; Leamington District Memorial Hospital; London Health Science Centre; Windsor Essex Health Unit, Victoria Order of Nurses; University of Windsor School of Nursing; Midwives of Windsor and the Windsor Essex Children’s Aid Society.

The letters PURPLE stand for:P – Peak of crying (Baby cries more each week, more at two months then, less after three to five months) U – Unexpected (Crying can come and go and you don’t know why) R – Resists soothing (Your baby may not stop crying no matter what you try) P – Pain-like face (A crying baby may look like they are in pain even if not) L – Long Lasting (Crying can last as much as five hours a day or more) E – Evening (Your baby may cry more

in the late afternoon or evening)

For more information on The Period of Purple Crying and Shaken Baby Syndrome, go to www.purplecrying.info or www.dontshake.org.