Abusive Head Trauma Prevention

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The Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board and the Celebrate Children Foundation organize the CLICK for Babies: Period of PURPLE Crying Caps campaign in Wisconsin to help prevent shaken baby syndrome throughout the state. To learn more about this public awareness campaign or how to get involved, visit CLICK for Babies.

Abusive Head Trauma occurs when an infant or young child is violently shaken and/or slammed. The traumatic event may only last a few seconds, but it can cause severe brain damage and even death.

The neck muscles in a baby or young child are underdeveloped, weak and are unable to support the baby’s large head. When a child is violently shaken and/or slammed, the brain can be harmed as the brain cells and blood vessels stretch and are damaged, causing bleeding and brain injury. Impact: Most victims will either die from their injuries or suffer lifetime disabilities. Because shaking/slamming causes part of the brain to die, many vital brain functions may be lost.

Long-term consequences of shaking/slamming can include

  • Impaired motor and cognitive skills
  • Blindness
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Hearing loss
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Paralysis
  • Seizures

Prevention

Abusive head trauma prevention can be achieved through education and awareness. Not all parents and caregivers know that shaking or slamming a child can be dangerous. Parents and caregivers should also be aware of minor bruises or injuring (sentinel injuries) in their infants who are not mobile.  These type of small injuries, that are common in walking children, should not be present in infants who are not yet able to walk or even crawl.  Babies who are not cruising should not be bruising.  Sentinel injuries are actually early warning signs that must be recognized and responded to in order to prevent future, more severe injuries to an infant. Sentinel injuries deserve further medical evaluation. Doing so can lead to early detection of a medical problem and can prevent the escalation of abuse.

For parents and caregivers

Please remember all babies cry. Crying is a normal part of child development.

Parents and caregivers should

  • Have a plan to deal with your baby’s crying
  • Have a plan to keep your cool
  • Have a plan for anyone who cares for your baby
  • Have a plan to reduce your stress

The Prevent Violence Against Children Act passed in 2006, requires hospitals, birthing centers, home visiting programs, child care providers, schools and all providers of prenatal, postpartum and young child care coordination services to have educational materials about abusive head trauma available to parents. 

Abusive Head Trauma Prevention grantees map

Resources

  • The Period of PURPLE Crying is a program designed to help parents of new babies understand a developmental stage that is not widely understood. This program has multiple doses to provide parents with valuable information on the normal crying curve and the dangers of shaking a baby. To learn more about Period of Purple Crying, you can visit their website.
  • The Wisconsin Child Abuse Network has on-demand webinars to learn more about abusive head trauma. Wisconsin is one of only a handful of states that requires public schools to deliver instruction about Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS). The Shaken Baby Association, Inc. has a curriculum for high school & middle school students.
  • The Child Care Information Center has information on training for child care staff.
  • The Prevention Board publications and ordering instructions are found on the online Document Sales Catalog.
  • Strengthening FamiliesTM Protective Factors Framework has worked with the Period of PURPLE Crying to connect the protective factors. See their Making-the-Link document.
  • The National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome has a map of all of the hospitals, health departments, and home visiting programs implementing the Period of PURPLE Crying program in Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board is responsible for having abusive head trauma prevention materials available for hospitals, birthing centers, home visiting programs, child care providers, schools and all providers of prenatal, postpartum and young child care coordination services.

The Prevention Board produced materials after the Prevent Violence Against Children Act passed in 2006. List of available publications and ordering instructions are found on the online Document Sales catalog at http://docsales.wi.gov/.

In addition to the Prevention Board materials, the Prevention Board supports the implementation of evidence-informed programs through a competitive grant process. The Period of PURPLE Crying®, is an evidence-informed program designed to help parents of new babies understand a developmental stage that is not widely understood. This program has multiple doses to provide parents with valuable information on the normal crying curve and the dangers of shaking a baby. To learn more about Period of Purple Crying, you can visit their website at http://purplecrying.info/.

The Period of PURPLE Crying® has two aims:

  1. To support parents and caregivers in their understanding of early increased infant crying
  2. To reduce the incidence of shaken baby syndrome/abusive head trauma

Dose 1 is an educational intervention for parents and caregivers of newborns designed to be delivered before hospital discharge.

Dose 2 involves a reinforcement of the messages from Dose 1 in settings outside of the OB ward such as pediatrician’s offices, home visiting programs, child care, and/or public and state department of health programs like WIC.

Dose 3 is a public education campaign to reinforce positive norms for all community members.