NEW parents across Scotland are to be shown a film aimed at reducing the number of devastating injuries caused by babies being shaken.
NSPCC Scotland has been piloting showings of the film in two areas as part of its campaign to tackle the tragedy of so-called non-accidental head injuries. The charity said parents had reacted positively to the scheme.
Such injuries affect an estimated 15 babies a year in Scotland and can lead to devastating brain damage, disability and death.
After assessing reaction to the film, the NSPCC is now planning to roll it out across Scotland and mirror the success seen in the United States where a similar programme saw such injuries drop by almost 50 per cent.
Matt Forde, head of NSPCC Scotland, said the project was aimed at preventing cruelty and neglect, rather than dealing with the consequences.
“It is a shocking fact that children who are under one are more likely to be killed or suffer serious injury than children of any other age,” he said.
“In the UK they are eight times more likely to die than older children. Babies are incredibly vulnerable and are totally dependent on the parent and adults to care for them.”
Forde said a “particularly distressing” phenomenon was children experiencing nonaccidental head injuries. “This could be where the parent has just lost it and shaken the baby violently” he said. “It is a problem right across the social spectrum. So if we could find a way of actually reducing the chance of that happening it would be a really important thing for us to do.
“What the film encourages parents to do is take a breath, take five minutes to think about it, and think back to what they were told when they left the hospital with the baby.”
The film is shown just as parents are about to leave hospital – where research has shown they are at their most receptive to information about caring for their baby.
The project in Buffalo in the US led to a 47 per cent drop in non-accidental head injuries in babies. Forde said they hoped to mirror this effect in Scotland.
Amanda Kennett, a practice development midwife at NHS Lanarkshire, said the film had been well-received by parents shown it in their hospitals but nobody was forced to watch it.
She said that while some people may believe they already know the harm caused by shaking a baby and declined the offer of seeing the film, most were very open to receiving new information.
“We want mums and dads to remember it, as there is so much going on during that point in their lives, so it has got to make an impact,” Kennett said. “It is quite a tough subject to broach with some people which is why the DVD does the job it does.”
Belinda Phipps, chief executive of the National Childbirth Trust, said they believed parents wanted to do the right thing for their baby, but circumstances sometimes meant some acted inappropriately.
“Everybody knows you shouldn’t shake your baby. If you shake your baby you usually do it in utter desperation,” she said.
“We would like to make sure that we don’t have women in that stage of desperation, so if you feel at the end of your tether there needs to be a phone to pick up to talk to somebody or a friend you can turn to for help.”