Eight years after the trial of a Boston area au pair helped draw nationwide attention to the problem of shaken baby syndrome, legislators, pediatricians, and parents are preparing a major effort to deal with the problem, says the Boston Globe. Proposals being reviewed today by Massachusetts legislators would teach every parent of a newborn how to soothe a crying, fussy baby without resorting to shaking, which can cause serious brain damage, retinal bleeding or, in one quarter of cases, death.
The bills have drawn support from key legislators, Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly, prosecutors, social services officials, and Deborah Eappen, whose 8-month-old son Matthew died in 1997 after being shaken by his au pair, Louise Woodward. The proposals being aired today grew out of six suspected cases of shaken babies in Massachusetts in 2001. Under a pilot program begun at one hospital in 2003, nurses advise parents to put their babies in a crib or bassinet and take a breather, rather than trying over and again to stop a baby’s tears. The new bill would replicate the program in hospitals statewide. It also calls for the state Department of Public Health to track the number of shaken baby cases and to develop training to help doctors spot the signs of a shaken baby.