Child safety awareness campaign urges parents to ‘Never, Ever Shake a Baby’
A new video campaign has been launched in response to concerns surrounding shaken baby cases in Birmingham.
Recent statistics have shown that shaken babies and Abusive Head Trauma (AHT) feature year on year in West Midlands’ infant hospital admissions and Serious Incident Notifications (SINs), which are triggered when a child is seriously harmed or killed where abuse or neglect is known or suspected.
The campaign, delivered by the Birmingham Safeguarding Children Partnership alongside Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group, will launch on Thursday 9th June 2022, during Child Safety Week. The campaign urges parents and carers to never, ever shake a baby, regardless of how overwhelmed or stressed they might feel, and has been endorsed by the Birmingham Children’s Trust, West Midlands Police, Birmingham City Council and HM Prison and Probation Service.
It informs parents, and others with caring responsibilities, to be aware of the dangerous consequences of shaking babies and provides them with advice on how to cope in challenging situations when looking after an infant.
Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group have produced a set of two short films designed to raise awareness of the issue.
The 90 second videos depict how stress can build when looking after a crying baby, a significant trigger in shaken baby cases. These powerful new videos are primarily aimed at male caregivers, as they are more likely to miss out on the vital support and guidance offered at appointments such as health visits or parent support groups. Previous research has shown that men are responsible for 70% of Abusive Head Trauma (AHT) or cases of shaken baby.
Birmingham and Solihull CCG commissioned ICON, a national programme which helps parents and carers to cope when a baby is crying. The films effectively demonstrate how following the campaign’s advice can help to avoid tragic outcomes and enable parents and carers to cope better in those situations.
Dr Suzanne Smith, ICON’s Founder and Programme Advisor, said of the campaign:
“These powerful videos really drive home the ICON message that if a baby’s crying is getting too much, it’s OK to walk away, for a few minutes if the baby is safe. It underlines the vital message to never ever shake or hurt a baby. Reaching men via social media is a vital part of the ICON campaign and shown to be effective with a demonstrable increase in engagement. These videos will make a difference, helping to support male caregivers and protect babies!”
In 2019, analysis of NSPCC figures found that more than 220 infants in the UK were killed or injured as a result of being shaken in the past decade.
The NSPCC have argued that due to social isolation, a lack of access to services and financial uncertainty during the Covid-19 pandemic, babies have since become increasingly vulnerable to non-accidental head injuries (NAHI). The condition may arise from shaking, impact injuries, or a combination of both.
The government’s 2020-21 data on serious incident notifications showed that from April to September 2020, there was a 31% rise in incidents of death or serious harm to babies under one when compared with the same period in 2019.
Given the recent rise in infant injuries and deaths, Birmingham child safeguarding leads have called for more awareness of the risks of shaking a baby, as well as increased support for parents and carers on how to cope with persistent crying.
Dr Joanna Garstang is the Designated Doctor for Child Death in Birmingham and Solihull and visiting senior lecturer in Child Protection at the University of Birmingham, she led the development of these films.
“Men often can’t attend health appointments with their partners and children. They can’t hear the important messages about never shaking a baby, and how to manage if they become stressed from their baby’s crying. Hopefully these videos will help share this important information so all fathers and young men caring for children will know what to do and how to get help”
Jo Early lost her son when he was 12 weeks old to Abusive Head Trauma. Joanne is now the CEO of SAMM National (Support after Murder and Manslaughter) and has offered her support to this campaign.
Jo said: “These videos show the horrific reality of what could happen when parents or carers act on thoughts of shaking a baby. They are so impactful they should be used to help prevent abusive head trauma in babies. Having lost my own son to Abusive Head Trauma 13 years ago, I wish these videos had been available at the time as I have no doubt they will make parents think twice about their actions and save lives.”
Penny Thompson CBE, Independent Chair of Birmingham Safeguarding Children Partnership said:
“Whilst looking after a baby can be highly rewarding and enjoyable, it is not without its stressful moments – often leaving parents and careers exhausted and at their wits end. So having ensured the baby is safe where it lies, walking away briefly is the best thing to do. Babies will cry.
With research showing crying is a major trigger for shaking a baby, our campaign’s aim is to reduce the numbers of children at risk across Birmingham. It reminds parents and carers ‘all babies cry’ and urges them to ‘stay in control’ in those challenging situations. Although this is a Birmingham-based campaign, given the national importance of keeping babies safe, we hope our message will be shared across the country.”
Birmingham Safeguarding Children Partnership
Co-ordinates how agencies work together to safeguard and promote the wellbeing of children and young people in Birmingham.
Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
Provides community and specialist services within Birmingham and the West Midlands.
Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group
Delivers health outcomes for local people across the whole of Birmingham and Solihull, by commissioning services for local people, based on their needs.
Advice and guidance on helping people who care for babies to cope with crying, their website also contains information and resources for professionals.
‘Handle with Care’ guide explains why parents should never shake their baby and suggests ways they can soothe them when they cry. There are tips on how to cope when the crying doesn’t stop or seems too much to handle.