Shaken Baby Syndrome
Approximately 60 percent of shaking victims are boys. Males are also overwhelmingly the perpetrators of SBS - approximately 65 to 90 percent are men, often in their early 20s, and many times the baby's father or mother's boyfriend. Infants born to families who live at or below the poverty level are also more likely to fall victim to SBS (as well as any form of child abuse).
It is estimated that 25 to 50 percent of parents and caretakers are not aware of the harmful effects of shaking a baby. Many babies are shaken out of frustration when the caregiver cannot get the infant to stop crying. Crying peaks in babies between 6 weeks and 4 months old, which coincides with the age when most babies are shaken. Ironically, the abusive shaking behavior may be self-reinforcing since an infant who is shaken may cease to cry because of the resulting brain injury. The adult may then conclude that shaking is an effective and appropriate way to quiet a cranky baby, and repeat the abuse when the baby begins fussing or crying again. The adult may think the quiet, drowsy baby is displaying the desired behavior, but he or she may actually be displaying symptoms of irreversible brain damage.
Shaken baby syndrome is completely preventable. Parents and caregivers need to be aware of the dangers of shaking and learn ways to reduce stress. If you cannot get your baby to stop crying and feel as if you might hurt your baby, remove yourself from the situation. Call a friend or relative to watch your baby for a few minutes while you calm down. If you cannot call anyone, put your baby in a safe place, such as his or her crib, and go into another room or outside until you are composed. Remember that it is okay to ask for help when you need it, but it is never okay to shake a baby.
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