Court docs: Father struck son 5x for crying, sucking thumb

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LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. -- Punishing an infant for crying and sucking its thumb has a Lee's Summit man behind bars.

Twenty-year-old Nathaniel Bearden is charged with one count of felony child abuse. Documents released by the Jackson County Prosecutor say Bearden does not allow thumb sucking or much crying -- and that's why he repeatedly hit his baby.

The injuries sent the baby to the hospital.

"It's very important for parents to understand is crying is a normal part of child development and thumb sucking is a natural reflex that children have to self soothe themselves," said Monica Enloe, Development Manager for Kansas Children's Service League. "I mean, they start doing it when they are in the womb and it's a very normal part of childhood."

The baby boy, named in court documents by his initials "KB," was struck in the face at least five times by his father, Nathaniel Bearden, documents showed.

Bearden told police he hit the boy because he was sucking his thumb.

"It's a normal part of children growing up," Enloe said. "There is a lot of brain development happening when children are that young. Ninety percent of a child's brain is developed before the age of 5."

Police were called to the home by the child's mother who noticed blood in the baby's eyes and confronted Bearden, court documents say.

In a statement to police, Bearden admitted the abuse.

"We know that hitting or striking a baby can cause blood shot eyes," Enloe said. "Also shaking or choking can cause that as well."

Kansas Children's service League acknowledge the difficulties of parenting but say hitting, choking, shaking are never okay and have joined the purple hat campaign to remind parents that crying is part of a baby's growth.

"We give parents the purple hats to remind them that it is normal, they are not doing anything wrong," said Enloe. "And even though its incredibly frustrating it's important to continue to care for your child and recognize when you are frustrated and to put them in safe place and to walk away for a minute."

Bearden pleaded not guilty at his arraignment hearing on Tuesday. He remains in jail on a $75,000 cash-only bond.

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