Every month should be National Child Abuse Prevention Month. As a parent educator, mother of four children and former preschool teacher, I am appalled by the growing rate of child abuse, neglect, maltreatment and murders in our country and even in our own state. According to state statistics, abuse against children has increased almost each year, by as much as 40 percent or more. Nationally it is even higher. Why is it that in a country such as ours, where we are always trying to do better by our children, where people are required to obtain a license to drive a car or get married, that anyone can have a child with no proper education on how to care for infants and young children?
We have seen some disturbing instances, such as a mother kidnapping her children and taking them out of the country, mothers and fathers leaving their children in cars reaching over 100 degrees so they can go gamble or to the mall and newborns being beaten because they are crying too much. Most of us think that being a parentcomes instinctually and that as soon as our baby is born we will know what to do. But once we get that little bundle home and we see how much he or she depends on us and puts trust in us to be a proper caregiver, many parents become overwhelmed and many are pushed beyond lines they swore they would never cross. Parental frustration leads to child abuse. The most common form of infant abuse is Shaken Baby Syndrome. The violent movement pitches the infant’s brain back and forth within the skull, rupturing blood vessels and nerves throughout the brain and tearing the brain tissue. The brain strikes the inside of the skull, causing bruising and bleeding to the brain.
Of these tiny victims, 20-25 (or more) percent die as a result of their injuries. Most of the rest suffer permanent damage. Shaking of babies respects no boundaries. It occurs in rich and poor families and in families of all colors. In the United States there are over 1,500 cases of Shaken Baby Syndrome per year. It is likely that many more babies suffer from the effects of SBS yet no one knows because SBS victims rarely have any external evidence of trauma. A University of North Carolina study estimates that we may only be diagnosing 1 percent of all babies who are shaken. Reducing just these incidents, by educating more parents on how to calm a crying and colicky baby and how to take a break and ask for help, would save almost $2 million in medical and legal costs. That prevention just may be possible with a new approach to baby calming. There are some cultures around the world where babies rarely ever cry.
One should wonder how, in a sophisticated society such as ours, we do not have the proper education and training to take care of a fussy baby, yet others in underdeveloped countries have the knowledge to keep their babies safe and calm for nearly 23 of 24 hours in the day. In the nationally certified program The Happiest Baby on the Block, developed by renowned pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp, hundreds of certified educators all over the United States have been trained to help parents before and after the birth of their babies. In this program, parents are taught age-old techniques that have been long abandoned and replaced by wives’ tales, which tell us we will spoil our young infants if we love them too much. The core of this program is to teach parents five calming techniques that when put together correctly trigger an inborn calming reflex in their babies.
Parents learn that in the first six months after birth babies still need that comfort they had for nine months in the womb. When given this extra comfort, babies are less likely to be colicky, there will be less crying and fewer incidences of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Shaken Baby Syndrome, marital stress and breastfeeding failure as well as increases in father involvement. This is something Dr. Karp calls the “missing fourth trimester,” and it has been proven to work with thousands of babies across the country.
In order to stop these innocent babies from dying, being abandoned, neglected or other forms of abuse, parents need to be trained on how to care for their precious newborns. It is time we petitioned to have mandatory parent-education classes implemented in our hospitals, birthing centers and child-care facilities in order to prevent the deaths of any more babies. Asking for help will not make anyone think less of you, in fact, you will be thanked by your baby in the future!