Shaken Baby Syndrome
Suburban Turmoil (http://www.suburbanturmoil.blogspot.com/) is a Nashville mom with a newborn. In a post titled “Crybaby” (May 10th), she wrote about her son’s reflux and how hard it has been dealing with it, and then posted a link to a recent article about a woman who killed one of her newborn triplets by putting him down violently in a moment of frustration because he wouldn’t stop crying. You could listen to the 911 call on that article page, and it was chilling. What Suburban Turmoil discussed in her post, and what many commenters said in their responses, is how easily it could have just been any mom making that call. She talked about how those first few months can be very frustrating and exhausting and emotional, especially when you have a baby screaming constantly. Many of the moms who responded did share that there had been times they just wanted to shake or scream at their baby to get him or her to shut up so they could get some sleep. I thought it was very interesting to read mothers sharing such intimate details about their experiences. The article and 911 call can be found here:
The reason I write about this is because of observation experiences I’ve had as well as blog entries I’ve read elsewhere (like at neonataldoc.blogspot.com). Basically, a lot of teenagers have babies. And these babies are frequently born premature due to the risk factors associated with lower socioeconomic status, maternal age, STDs, you name it. Premature babies are at risk for so many problems and are frequently very fussy and often inconsolable. It can be hard for any mother to not get frustrated and emotional when dealing with a crying baby. Now think of a teenage mother with poor social skills and a typical adolescent low frustration tolerance, and think of her trying to deal with her fussy baby who just won’t stop crying. This poor mom is dealing with resentment and inexperience and frustration and anger. I can just imagine how easy it would be to give that baby a little shake or two.
As occupational therapists, if we are working in a neonatal ICU or similar area, I think it’s really important to remember to address problems of frustration with the caregiver. During one of my observations, I remember watching a teenage mother dressing her young baby and getting ready to finally take the baby home. She seemed, at least to my inexperienced eyes, just the slightest bit hostile and agressive in the way she was moving the baby. I saw a huge potential in her to get tired of the baby crying and just try to shut it up in a reckless manner. It scared me a little bit. I was observing a great OT at the time and I was really impressed with how she handled that mother. She explained that babies with a lot of problems might cry a lot, and sometimes it would seem like nothing would make them stop. She advised the mom, in those cases when she was getting really really frustrated, to make sure everything was okay (hunger, diaper change, etc) and that the baby was safe, and then if the baby still wouldn’t stop crying, just walk away for a few minutes and calm down. I thought that was really good advice.
I know I’m only an OT student with VERY limited experience, so I don’t mean to sound like I am preaching. I’m just sharing what was going through my head today about my future role as an OT as it related to Shaken Baby Syndrome, based on that newspaper article I read and Suburban Turmoil’s column!
Have any of you experienced issues with this in your practice?
Have a great weekend! I’m going to try and figure out how to add OT blog links to the sidebar of my blog this weekend, using my very nonexistant html skills. I’ve been thrilled by what I perceive as a recent upsurge in OT-related blogs.