SIDS tends to get the attention of media outlets and parenting blogs everywhere, with moms and dads of all stripes chiming in about the big co-sleeping debate. But despite everyone working themselves into a tizzy over controversial advertisements and confessions of co-sleeping, more children are abused every year than die of SIDs-related deaths. And these kids are being abused by their exhausted, frustrated parents.
TIME reports that a new study reveals child abuse at the hands of parents, primarily because they’re just at the end of their tether. Dr. John M. Leventhal tells the publication that head injuries for infants tend to spike in the first few months of life when crying is also at its height:
”These kids are physically vulnerable because they’re small,” says Dr. John M. Leventhal, lead author of the study and a professor of pediatrics at Yale Medical School. ”They are challenging for some parents to take care of because they cry, it’s hard to understand what they want and parents can get frustrated, exhausted and angry.”
Child abuse has gone down quite a bit in the last decade, about 55% between 1990 and 2010. Children from poor families are six times more likely to be abused and spend twice as much time in the hospital than children who suffer non-abuse related injuries. But TIME also reveals that two smaller studies have found that abusive head trauma have double since the recession.
Dr. Leventhal says that more parents need a better understanding of infant developmental and what to expect in those early, trying years aside from glossy movie posters.
Even though some prevention programs advise parents at the end of their patience to place the child in safe place and walk away, the message doesn’t seem to be loud enough against all the cultural saturation of what a mother “should” be. The very idea of a frustrated mother not able to handle her kids for a few moments is too taboo for many advertisements or publications to address without shaming the mother in some way. And yet when a mother does leave her two kids on a street corner, we tend to not ask ourselves what else she may have done before simply walking away.
While mothers and parents clearly need more education and information about coping with their toddlers, more should also be done to combat this cultural perception that only a “bad mother” would ever lose it and need to diffuse away from her children. Contrary to most romantic media depictions and the ever-prevailing attitudes of the new momism, mothers are just as flawed as anyone else. And even though there is nothing harmful in a mother laying her claim to superwoman status for managing a home of small children, the notion that women don’t need any help in these arenas is both damaging to them and to their children.