“Babies Cry, You Can Cope – never, ever shake or hurt a baby” is the message from ‘ICON’ – a national programme of interventions and awareness that aims to help parents and carers to cope with a crying baby. 

Yesterday, midwives, health visitors, GPs and other professionals who work with families, such as the police, were brought together by host organisation Warrington & Halton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (WHH), at Safety Central in Lymm, for the Pan-Cheshire launch of ICON.

ICON focuses on highlighting to all parents and carer-givers how they can cope with a crying baby. Everyone knows how stressful a crying baby can be.  For some people this can result in them losing control and shake their baby. ICON aims to help parents cope and avoid that loss of control which can result in Abusive Head Trauma (AHT) – formerly referred to as ‘shaken baby syndrome’. ICON gets its name from four key statements:

I Infant crying is normal and it will stop.

C Comforting can sometimes soothe the baby and the crying will stop.

O It’s Ok to walk away if you have checked the baby is safe and the crying is getting to you.

N Never shake or harm a baby.

Chief Nurse at Warrington & Halton Hospitals Kimberley Salmon-Jamieson said:

‘I am delighted that we are hosting this vital programme on behalf of our partners across Cheshire. I am passionate about safeguarding and ICON is a simple and effective way to get the message out’’

Kimberley stresses that ICON is about offering reassurance not judgement:

“If it’s really getting to you, if the baby is safe, just walk away – take a break. The dreadful thing is it only takes one episode of shaking to cause injury. Babies’ brains are delicate things. We know this has happened in Cheshire and we want to prevent this from ever happening again.”

ICON founder, Dr Suzanne Smith PhD spoke at today’s launch about how the idea behind ICON came about after studying the topic of preventing AHT for many years: “Babies start to cry more frequently from about 2 weeks of age” Dr Smith explained “and it can become more frequent and last for longer until about 6 – 8 weeks when it usually starts to gradually decrease”.

‘’A baby’s cry is designed to get your attention and it might feel like it’s driving your crazy but actually you can cope.  If you think your baby is poorly, of course see a health professional. If you’ve done all the normal checks, baby is not ill and If you feel yourself reaching that point of exasperation – take a break! It’s OK to walk away if the baby is safe and the crying is getting to you and remember this will pass – the crying will stop”.

Parents of children affected by AHT also attended today’s launch. Mae Brigden Pleydell-Pearce spoke of how her son had been left with her then partner who shook him, causing life changing and life limiting injuries, leading to his death at the age of 14.
Mae said: “If by telling Ellis’ story I can help professionals embrace the need for the ICON programme, it turns the tragedy of the 14 years he suffered into a positive force for change”.

Joanne Peacock and her husband Alan also supported today’s event. Joanne’s then partner shook her son Charlie, now 12, leaving him severely disabled. Alan and Joanne now work together to raise awareness of AHT. Local experts hope that Joanne and Mae’s stories will bring home the suffering caused by shaking a baby and how important it is to spread knowledge about coping techniques and the help available.

WHH is carrying out training to professionals and inviting partners such as nursery nurses to engagement events to make sure the message is spread far and wide across Cheshire.

Please visit www.iconcope.org for further information, resources and to watch and share animated short films aimed at helping care-givers cope with a crying baby.

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