Every month should be Child Abuse Prevention Month. As a parent educator, mother of three children and former preschool teacher, I am appalled by the growing rate of child abuse, neglect, maltreatment and murders in our country.
Why is it that, in a country such as ours, where we are always trying to do better by our children, people are required to obtain a license to drive a car or get married, yet 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 go to the mall; and newborns being beat because they are crying too much.
Most of us think that being a parent comes instinctively, 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 put his or her trust in us to be a proper care giver, 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 percent to 25 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 just the United States alone, there are more than 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 this, 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.
In the nationally certified program, The Happiest Baby on the Block, developed by renowned pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp, MD. 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 old 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 when, put together correctly, trigger an inborn calming reflex in their babies. Parents learn that, in the first 6 months after birth, babies still need that comfort they had for 9 months in the womb.
When given this extra comfort, babies are less likely to be colicky. There will be less crying and less incidence of Shaken Baby Syndrome, marital stress and breast-feeding failure.
The techniques also increases father involvement and decreases the chance of post-partum depression. This is something Dr. Karp calls the "missing fourth trimester," and it has been proven to work with thousands of babies across the country.
The contents of this program are not found anywhere else, in any program in hospitals, birthing centers or other parent education facilities, where there is not a Happiest Baby Parent Educator.
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 into our hospitals, birthing centers, as well as child care facilities, in order to prevent the deaths of any more babies. Even more so, starting as young as high school age or at teen pregnancy centers, so that young teens will have more knowledge in what will happen if they have a child too soon.
If you or someone you know is expecting, or has a newborn baby at home or is a child care provider, you are urged to use any resources available, from hospitals, libraries or other reliable resources. Asking for help will not make anyone think less of you, in fact, you will be thanked by your baby in the future!
Becka has a Bachelors in Early Childhood Education and Development, and has 17 years experience in the field. She is a Certified Parent Educator and Licensed Baby, Toddler, and Preschool Sign Language Instructor. You can visit her site, at www.learnandgrowtogether.com