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CAMP LESTER, Okinawa — It’s 3 a.m. and the baby’s ear-splitting wailing just won’t stop.

You’ve changed his diaper. You’ve tried feeding him. You’ve tried rocking him. You’ve tried singing to him. Nothing works — the baby won’t stop crying and your patience left you hours ago. Before you know it, you find yourself shaking the baby.

This situation — caregiver frustration with inconsolable crying — is the No. 1 cause for shaken baby syndrome, said Lt. Karly Gomez, division officer for obstetrics and gynecology at U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa.

To teach parents better coping methods, the hospital is launching classes both for expectant parents and for those who already have given birth — and probably know firsthand the frustration of an inconsolable baby.

At some point in a child’s first year of life, most parents will experience this frustration, but most won’t act on it, said Kelly Phillips, a registered nurse at the hospital.

It can hit in a flash, she said: “No one wakes up one morning and plans to shake their baby.”

Adds Gomez: “That’s the scary thing. It can happen to anyone.”

Even scarier? A third of Americans don’t even know that it’s dangerous to shake a baby, she said.

Even five seconds of shaking can cause irreparable neurological damage as a baby’s brain bounces against the inside of its skull, Gomez said.

But shaken baby syndrome is preventable. The best combat against it is education, Phillips said.

Phillips, the hospital’s perinatal educator, just became certified to teach “Happiest Baby on the Block,” a program designed by a nationally renowned pediatrician and child development specialist.

The hospital plans to offer two Happiest Baby on the Block classes a month: one for parents in their third trimester and a second for postpartum parents. For the second class, parents will bring their babies with them so Phillips can demonstrate soothing techniques, she said.

The first class is scheduled for Oct. 2. For more information, call DSN 643-7267.

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