To better prevent shaken baby syndrome (SBS), does hope come from North America? In any case, this is what the specialists of the University Hospital of Lille think, where a Canadian program has been set up to respond to this public health problem. The Secretary of State for Children and Families, Adrien Taquet, chose this place to launch a new awareness campaign this Monday, January 17.
SBS, or shaking-inflicted head trauma (TCIS), occurs following the violent gesture of an infant by an adult: 7 times out of 10, it is a man and in two thirds of the cases, the victims have less than 6 months: “It’s a period that corresponds to the peaks of infant crying, emphasizes Professor Laurent Storme, director of the Lille project “1,000 days for health”, which includes shaken baby syndrome. Around 6 and then 9 weeks, a baby’s crying can reach one to three hours a day. »
The difficult quantification of the number of cases
A real public health problem, possibly accentuated during periods of confinement, SBS affects all socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, unlike other child abuse. Each year, several hundred children under the age of 1 are victims of this syndrome. According to the High Authority for Health, 20% of shaken babies die, and three quarters will have irreversible neurological sequelae – paraplegia, hemiplegia, epilepsy, blindness, autism, cognitive delays… But SBS remains difficult to diagnose: the clinical signs are not not specific, the circumstances rarely described, the confessions even less often made to doctors.
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“According to a study in French-speaking Canada, 5% of parents questioned declared having shaken their baby and 1.9% having done so two or three times”, reports Thameur Rakza, head of the pediatrics department at the Jeanne-de-Flandre maternity hospital (Lille University Hospital) and head of the Shaken Baby Syndrome Prevention project. By relating this percentage to the number of births per year in France (750,000), we could count, according to the pediatrician, 37,500 shaken babies each year. Who, fortunately, will not all be hospitalized. “We are talking about around 500 cases a year, but the figures are loaded, agrees Professor Storme. We only see the tip of the iceberg, namely children who have a traumatic brain injury to the point of being hospitalized, the others go unnoticed. »
Ineffective campaigns so far
How to prevent this mistreatment, so complicated to assess? Previous campaigns – including one featuring Le Chat by Philippe Geluck – did not yield convincing results. “Saying ‘Don’t shake your baby’ doesn’t work, emphasizes Professor Laurent Storme. However, there is effective prevention based on the mechanisms of loss of control and anger in the face of the crying baby. This new program, tested and validated in Canada, has been set up at the Lille University Hospital (1). It is now intended to be distributed in other maternity wards. »
→ MAINTENANCE. Shaken babies: “Getting adults to question themselves”
“The specificity of Canadians is to have linked shaken baby syndrome to infant crying and anger, completes Doctor Thameur Rakza. When the crying of the child stops around 6-8 months, the syndrome decreases. The Canadians highlighted the superposition of these two curves and they proposed a program so as not to go from anger against his baby to an irreversible gesture. » It is this prevention tool, “accessible to all and which only takes twenty minutes”, according to Professor Laurent Storme, who will be detailed this Monday in Lille.
The association “Les mals, les mots pour le dire”, which has been organizing training and awareness days for parents and professionals since 2015, expects a lot from this new campaign. “more impactful, meaningful and effective”, according to its president Danielle Gobert. And in fact, the results at the Lille CHRU are already encouraging, assures Thameur Rakza: “While we have counted between 20 and 30 children hospitalized for this syndrome per year for twenty years, in recent years we have had annual figures below 10.”