April is Month of the Military Child and Child Abuse Prevention Month

  • Published
  • By Col. Kerry Dexter
  • 22nd Medical Group commander
As the father of three children, now grown, and the grandfather of two little boys and a little girl, I have taken a special interest in April being the Month of the Military Child and Child Abuse Prevention Month. As part of this month's observances, the Department of Defense has implemented a shaken baby prevention initiative. The purpose of this initiative is to educate military families about and prevent inflicted traumatic brain injury or shaken baby syndrome, which causes death or severe disability in 1,200-1,400 children in the US each year, including approximately 30 military dependents.

Shaken baby syndrome is generally caused by a frustrated parent or caregiver who shakes a baby who is crying or colicky. Such shaking causes whiplash and can easily result in blindness, loss of hearing, internal bleeding, paralysis, brain damage or death. Shaking a baby is dangerous because a baby's head makes up one fourth to one half of his entire body weight, his neck is weak, his skull is thin; and his brain is growing.

The key to preventing shaken baby syndrome is to understand why a baby cries, learn how to calm a crying child and to keep frustration in check. The Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services offers the following advice about preventing shaken baby syndrome:

- Remember all babies cry. Crying is a baby's form of communication. Never shake a baby to make him stop crying.
- Learn ways to soothe your baby if he won't stop crying.
- If you are feeling frustrated or angry don't pick your baby up until you feel calm.
- Never shake a baby or child for any reason.
- Always provide support for your baby's head and neck.
- Never throw a baby around, even in a playful manner.
- Educate all family members and any others who may care for your baby about the dangers of shaking a baby or small child.

The family advocacy office at the base clinic offers parenting classes and has literature available about preventing shaken baby syndrome. Please contact them at 759-5768 for more information.