17 years ago, the term Shaken-Baby Syndrome didn't exist. Today, it's on posters, hanging on the walls of Kim Camacho's office. "The main focus throughout all the education we do is prevention," she says.
Camacho is the Shaken-Baby Syndrome educator at the Family Outreach Center of Lubbock. She's seen first-hand the effects that violently shaking an infant can have. "She was blind, didn't have use of one side of her body, and of course, there was brain damage, but she was so young that the effects of brain damage may not show up for several years," she says of one victim.
It's estimated that each year up to 1,400 babies die from being shaken. Many times it occurs at the hands of people with no previous criminal history. So, what could drive a parent to shake their infant so hard as to cause death or brain damage?
"Crying is the number one reason that babies are shaken," says Camacho.
Experts say many new parents underestimate just how much a newborn baby can cry. At the National Center on Shaken-Baby Syndrome, their latest campaign is called the "period of purple crying," informing parents that most newborns cry a full two to three hours a day, with 30% crying even more. Prime crying ages? Six weeks to four months-old. So much crying that some people try to stop the noise with violence.
"This comes up and we have cases that involve shaken-baby syndrome," says Lt. Lance Slack with the Lubbock Police Department.
He says that parents need to recognize violent behavior, but not get paranoid about every day interactions. Doctors can tell the difference between horseplay accidents and a deliberate attacks. "We know that it's not a result of an accidental fall, of playing too hard, it's a result of that baby being violently shaken," he says.
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