Preventing shaken baby syndrome - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Preventing shaken baby syndrome

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

Bond is set for a former Waterloo man accused of killing his baby daughter by fatally injuring her in a way that officials say is all too common.

Police have arrested Trevor Smith, 27, and charged him with first-degree murder and child endangerment in the death of his daughter, Aubriana Jo Christian.

Officials say the two-month-old died on Sept. 26 from a brain bleed caused by shaken baby syndrome.

Last year alone, an estimated 1500 babies nationwide were injured from being shaken. Fifty of those happened in Black Hawk County alone.

"Sometimes people just don't know their own strength, and they can just shake and shake," said Patty Nierling with the Family and Children's Council of Black Hawk County.

Smith told police he was feeding his baby a bottle when she went stiff and had trouble breathing. Doctors determined the brain bleed was not accidental.

Smith later admitted to shaking the baby on two separate occasions because she wouldn't stop crying. He's now being held on a $600,000 bond, and a preliminary hearing has been set for Jan. 25.

When a child gets shaken for just a few seconds, inconsolable crying will stop. But as the lights on a shaken baby simulator show, that's because the brain's emotion center and sight are gone.

"They come up with developmental problems later in life," Nierling said. "They could be blind because of it. They could have paralysis because of it."

The child could also die. It's a scenario unfolds all too often, when a parent reaches the breaking point and unleashes frustration onto a helpless child.

Experts say when you feel like you're being pushed to the limit, it might be best to simply walk away.

"We always say a baby has never died from crying too much," said Nierling. "So just put the baby down in a safe place, walk away for a little while, call a friend. Just kind of count to 10 before you go back in and actually deal with the child again."

The Family and Children's Council of Black Hawk County says education is its best tool to prevent shaken baby syndrome. That's why the shaken baby simulator is taken to middle and high schools, colleges and community groups several times a year.

The council also offers a number of parenting classes, offering families insight into coping and anger management skills that can prevent frustrations from boiling over and becoming child abuse.

"You know, if it's going to prevent one child from being injured, that would mean so much," Nierling said.

While shaken baby syndrome is most common in young children under age two, it can cause serious injury and death in kids up to age five.

The Family and Children's Council believes the best step is to ask for help early on -- learning the skills to be the best parent you can just might help prevent doing permanent harm to your child.

About 80 percent of shaken baby injuries and deaths are caused by male caretakers, often the biological father, of a child, according to reports.

If you'd like to learn more about parenting classes through the Family and Children's Council, call (319) 234-7600. Referrals can also be made to services in other counties.

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