OBLIVIOUS: Shaken baby syndrome can cause physical disabilities and even death babies
KUALA LUMPUR 15/11/2012: SHAKING infants in a desperate bid to stop them from whining or crying may not come across some as being a morbid effort.
But, what lurks beneath all those vigorous shaking are in fact, potent enough to cause physical disabilities such as blindness, impaired brain development and even spinal-cord injuries, and may even lead to death.
Many young parents are still oblivious to the risks of what is known as shaken baby syndrome (SBS).
Universiti Sains Malaysia Hospital (HUSM) Paediatrics Department head Prof Dr Hans Van Rostenberghe said that in most cases, the perpetrators of SBS are men.
"Many cases of shaken baby syndrome or abusive head trauma are related to crying of the infants. Crying tends to provoke response of compassion in caregivers, benefiting the babies.
"However, excessive and inconsolable crying can also often leave the caregivers, males mostly, frustrated and sometimes angry, stung by the feeling of being inadequate caregivers to the infants," he said.
He said that about 80 per cent of SBS cases occur in babies aged below 1.
"Generally, the public is not well-informed about the dangers of shaking babies and surveys done worldwide have shown that quite a number of parents (three per cent in Canada, five per cent in Holland and even much higher percentages -- more than 20 per cent in nine out of 16 communities tested elsewhere) perceive shaking as a good way to stop children from crying," said Dr Van Rostenberghe.
He said in certain cases, even mild shaking or 'jostling' could also lead to severe consequences.
"A study reported in a 1995 journal, Pediatrics by Starling SP, Holden JR and Jenny C on abusive head trauma, discussing the relationship of perpetrators to their victims revealed a startling result.
"The study revealed that male victims accounted for 60.3 per cent of the cases, in which 23 per cent of the children died, although death rates for boys and girls did not vary significantly."
Dr Van Rostenberghe said that as revealed in the journal, male perpetrators outnumbered females by a 2.2:1 ratio, with fathers, stepfathers, and mothers' boyfriends committing over 60 per cent of the crime.
He explained that fathers had accounted for about 37 per cent of the abusers, followed by boyfriends at 20.5 per cent.
Female babysitters stood at 17.3 per cent of the perpetrators while mothers were responsible for 12.6 per cent of the cases.
Dr Van Rostenberghe said that locally, where the awareness was alarmingly low, quite a number of cases had been diagnosed as SBS.
"In (HUSM) itself, there has been one to two cases reported per year, over the last five years.
"This may not cover all cases in Kelantan as reported incidences elsewhere varied from 14 to 40 per 100 000 children below 1."
Dr Van Rostenberghe said that for the state of Kelantan, this would mean that there are somewhere between three to 12 cases per year. However, he said that there has not been any noted increase over the years.
"The outcome of babies with shaken baby syndrome that need hospitalisation is not good. Up to more than 20 per cent of them are reported to have died."
Dr Van Rostenberghe said that one in three cases of babies who survive SBS are usually diagnosed with severe disability ranging from very severe intellectual disability to severe movement problems or even to permanent vegetative state.
"This issue is not something that should be viewed lightly. Shaking a baby is simply not in any way an approved practice to silence the baby and young parents as well as caregivers must be wary of proper ways in handling infants to avoid nasty consequences," he said.
By YISWAREE PALANSAMY