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Health and care organisations across South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw have come together to champion a national programme supporting parents and carers of young babies with coping strategies when feeling overwhelmed, frustrated or distressed.

The national programme – ICON – aims to reduce the numbers of babies being admitted to hospital with and suffering from head trauma as a result of being shaken. ICON is based on four simple messages before birth and in the first few months of a baby’s life:

I – Infant crying is normal  
C –Comforting methods can help  
O – It’s OK to walk away  
N – Never, ever shake a baby  

The programme aims to support parents, particularly fathers, around how to care for young infants when they are crying. 

National research suggests that some people may lose control when a baby’s crying becomes too much to handle with Abusive Head Trauma or Shaken Baby Syndrome causing catastrophic injuries such as brain injuries, bleeding behind the eyes and bone injuries. It is thought that one in 14 cases are fatal before hospital discharge, and half of severely injured survivors will die before they reach 21 years of age.

Lois Mellor, Head of Midwifery at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “We know that the younger a baby is, the more they cry. Consistent crying can be stressful for parents and carers as they try their best to soothe or calm their baby, especially at a time when emotions are running high and we are all learning to live with the new ‘normal’ of the ongoing pandemic.

“We want to better support all parents and carers by helping to provide some simple coping mechanisms to help manage feelings of frustration. It is easy to feel overwhelmed when caring for a newborn but support is out there and we’re delighted to be involved in such an important programme.”

Hospitals across the South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw health and care system will deliver on a number of recommendations from the ICON programme including public awareness raising activities, staff training and working closely with Local Maternity teams in Barnsley, Bassetlaw, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield to share advice directly with service users.

Professor Des Breen, Medical Director for the South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Integrated Care System said: “The South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Local Maternity System is delighted to be involved in the ICON programme. It’s vital that during these unprecedented times where we are all learning to live with the additional stresses as a result of COVID-19 that we continue to support new parents, particularly men and male carers, to understand how to manage feelings of frustration when looking after a crying infant.  I would like to thank all of the NHS Trusts across South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw for working with local health teams, especially our Maternity Voice Partnership.”

Dr Suzanne Smith PhD created the programme following a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Travel Fellowship to USA and Canada in 2016 which included the study of effective interventions and research into the prevention of Abusive Head Trauma (AHT).  

Suzanne found that the most effective evidence based programmes studied provide a simple message that supports parents/care givers to cope with infant crying which is the key aim of ICON.  

You can find out more information on the national ICON website which can be visited here - https://iconcope.org