What to do if you suspect shaken baby syndrome
- Callor other emergency services immediately if a child is, is having, or is in immediate danger offurther abuse. The operator will guideyou through resuscitation procedures if they are needed.
- If yoususpect child abuse and the child is not in immediate danger, contact yourlocal child protective services or police. Do not confront the suspectedabuser. This may cause more harm to the child. Another resource is ChildHelp, anonprofit agency that can provide telephone numbers and information about howto report suspected or observed child abuse or neglect. The national ChildAbuse Hotline number is 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). The U.S.Administration of Children and Families, under the Department of Health andHuman Services, has established a Child Welfare Information Gateway. TheGateway helps states provide child welfare services that are designed toprotect children and strengthen families. For more information, see the OtherPlaces to Get Help section of this topic.
Keep in mind that the types of falls that occur during normal play, from an infant swing, from a low surface such as an adult bed or couch, or even down stairs, will not cause . It is the violent shaking, throwing, or slamming of a child that results in this type of injury. Although caregivers often first state that these types of scenarios have caused a child's injuries, most later confess to having shaken or slammed a baby against an object.
Help prevent shaken baby syndrome
- Never shake a baby.Also, do not slap or hit a child of any age on the face or head. A child'sbrain is very delicate. Shaking, slapping, or hitting a child can cause seriousharm, even though it may not leave any obvious sign of injury.
- Learn about normal child development and behavior so that yourexpectations of your children are realistic. For example, learn some safeways to calm a crying child. Many quality parentingcourses are available that can help you learn how to effectively manage thedemands and responsibilities of caring for children. All parents and caregiversneed to know how to react effectively to difficult behavior without resortingto violence orcorporal punishment. These classes are especiallyvaluable if you have a history of being abused. Talk to your doctor or callyour local hospital to find classes in your community.
- Learnstress-relief and otherhealthy coping strategies. Taking care of yourself-bystaying active,eating well, and getting rest-can help keep yourstress level down. Manyother strategies may also help depending on your background and interests. Forexample, you may find that self-help books,support groups, religious groups, or exercise classessuch as yoga are helpful. Anger management classes or professional may sometimes also help. For moreinformation, see the topicStress Management.
- Screen your potentialchild care providers to find out their child care skills and abilities.
- Get a police background check on a prospective child care provider.
- Choose a child care center that has a good reputation and that is licensed in your state.
- Visit your child's caregiver without warning to get an idea of what kind of care is given when an observation is not expected.
- Seek financial assistance and support for child care if needed.This is especially important for young or single mothers. Contact your doctoror local hospital for community groups that can help you.
- Take abreak when you are feeling overwhelmed. Ask a friend, relative, or neighbor ifthey would be willing to help. Also, find out if your community offers respitecare services, which provide occasional care for a family member. Have a listready with names and numbers that you can call. Try planning ahead, such asscheduling this care on a weekly basis.
- Be an advocate forinexperienced and overwhelmed parents. Child abuse becomes less likely ifparents or caregivers feel supported. Little things can help, such as offeringto bring dinner for overtired parents when you see a need. On a larger scale,you may encourage community leaders to offer parenting classes. Also, supportindividuals or groups that help parents who are at risk of abusing theirchildren.