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Campaign Urges Military Parents to ‘Never Shake a Baby’

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 17, 2007 – The Defense Department is launching a new military family initiative aimed at stopping or reducing the incidence of “Shaken Baby Syndrome,” a senior DoD official said here last week.

Frustrated parents, especially fathers, can negatively react to their baby’s cries by shaking it, an act that can seriously harm or even kill the infant, explained David W. Lloyd, director for the Defense Department’s Family Advocacy Program.

“Never shake a baby. The injuries can range from death to serious head trauma – meaning skull fractures, blindness, learning disabilities and stunted growth,” Lloyd said.

This year, DoD is partnering with the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome headquartered in Ogden, Utah, to prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome, Lloyd said. About 400 information kits containing CDs, posters, pamphlets and other material were mailed out in early March to military installation family advocacy programs, medical treatment facilities and National Guard state family programs, he said.

“We just wanted to be part of a larger (Shaken Baby Syndrome prevention) movement that’s occurring in the civilian community, as well,” Lloyd said. This week, DoD is highlighting Shaken Baby Syndrome prevention in conjunction with National Child Abuse Prevention Month, which is observed each April.

Each year, between 10 to 20 infant deaths occurring across the military community are attributed to Shaken Baby Syndrome, according to DoD documents.

“Military parents are like all parents -- they need information and support about how to cope with the stress of living with an infant, especially a baby that won't stop crying,” said Leslye A. Arsht, deputy undersecretary of defense for military community and family policy.

DoD’s Shaken Baby Syndrome prevention initiative provides parents with training and education they can employ when coping with crying infants, Arsht noted.

“Shaken Baby Syndrome is preventable,” Arsht said.

Fathers and other males are responsible for 70 percent of shaken-baby cases, Lloyd said, noting the ages of infants involved range from newborns to one-and-a-half years old.

Fathers seem more susceptible to shake their babies out of frustration, likely because they don’t bond with infants in the same way as mothers do, Lloyd said. A mother, he explained, quickly forms a bond with her baby by birthing and nursing it.

“We know that young men who are fathers are often nervous about how to pick up their baby or laying their baby down because holding that baby isn’t something that they did when they were a young child,” Lloyd said. “Girls when they’re very young play with dolls and get used to the kinds of holding and other kinds of nurturing behaviors,”

It’s perfectly normal for fathers to become irritated during an infant’s crying fits, Lloyd said. But, that’s an ideal time, he emphasized, for fathers to step away and examine their thoughts and emotions. Babies cry, he said, because that’s how they communicate things like being hungry or having full diapers that need to be changed.

Parenting classes available through installation family advocacy programs can assist military fathers in bonding with their newborns and infants, Lloyd noted.

Studies have shown that frequency of military deployments have little bearing on the occurrence of Shaken Baby Syndrome within military families, Lloyd said.

“Actually, we haven’t seen any correlation between the increased rate of deployment and any increase in our child abuse, generally, or in our fatalities,” Lloyd said.

However, even one case of Shaken Baby Syndrome is too much, Lloyd pointed out.

“It’s normal to be irritated when your baby is crying,” Lloyd pointed out. “You’re not a bad dad. It’s just that you’re stressed out from your baby’s crying. Put the baby down in a safe place (and) take time out for yourself.”

Military parents can access a 24-hour counseling line at 1-800-342-9647 to surface their questions about Shaken Baby Syndrome and other issues.

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Related Sites:
The National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome
Military OneSource

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