Brenner Children’s Hospital Implements Program to Prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome

September 1, 2009

Brenner Children’s Hospital is partnering with other health agencies throughout the state to provide a Shaken Baby syndrome prevention program to parents and caregivers, called Keeping Babies Safe in North Carolina.

The evidence-based program is a collaboration between the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, the University of North Carolina Injury Prevention Research Center, and the Center for Child and Family Health.

The goal of Keeping Babies Safe in North Carolina is to reduce Shaken Baby Syndrome in the state by 50 percent over five years and represents the largest and most comprehensive intervention for Shaken Baby Syndrome in the country.

Starting today, nurses and staff at Brenner Children’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive and Intermediate Care Nurseries began sharing the program materials and message with parents of all babies before discharge. Training and supplies were made available by Keeping Babies Safe in North Carolina.

“The first step in this process is for all 89 hospitals in the state that handle deliveries to share the materials and message with all parents and caregivers of infants,” said Trish Harold, R.N., and program coordinator at Brenner Children’s Hospital. “This way, the program will reach every parent of the approximately 131,000 babies born in the state annually.”

Nationally, an estimated 1,200 to 1,400 children a year receive medical treatment after being shaken. An estimated 25 percent of these children die and 80 percent of survivors are left with some form of life-long brain injury. 

“A lot more children are shaken who are not hospitalized but may have mental retardation or learning disabilities later,” said Cherrie Welch, M.D., a neonatologist at Brenner Children’s Hospital. “This shows the need for, and potential benefits of, preventing shaking.”

The materials are based on a curriculum called The Period of PURPLE Crying®, which was developed by Ron Barr, M.D., a professor of community child health research and a developmental pediatrician at the University of British Columbia, and Marilyn Barr, founder and executive director of the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome. They are both collaborating with the North Carolina project. 

Barr created the concept of The Period of PURPLE Crying® to help describe the characteristics of crying in healthy infants. “PURPLE” describes normal infant crying – it Peaks at 2 months of age and ends at 4 or 5 months, and often earlier; is Unexpected; Resists soothing; the child appears to be in Pain; it is Long lasting (two to five hours); and occurs more in the Evening. The word “Period” lets parents know that this experience of increased, frustrating crying is temporary and eventually does come to an end.

The program includes hospital and health care provider-based parent education, a 10-minute video and an 11-page booklet that parents can share with other caregivers of their baby, such as family members and babysitters. The program educates parents and caregivers about the hazards of shaking and gives them alternatives to use when they believe they need a break from a crying baby, such as handing off the baby to another caregiver or going to another room while leaving the baby in its crib with the rails up for no longer than 15 minutes.

Keeping Babies Safe in North Carolina has received approximately $7 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Duke Endowment. The program is led by a broad coalition of stakeholders from the National Center for Shaken Baby Syndrome, University of British Columbia and state and county agencies, service providers and non-profit organizations.



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