What Is Shaken Baby Syndrome?

What Is Shaken Baby Syndrome?

10 Nov 2022 | 4 min Read

Manisha Pradhan

Author | 1053 Articles

Shaken Baby Syndrome is a term used by physicians to describe abusive head trauma inflicted on infants and toddlers. It is a brain injury caused by forcefully shaking a baby or toddler. It’s also referred to as shaken impact syndrome, whiplash shaken infant syndrome, abusive head trauma or inflicted head injury.

It can cause permanent brain damage and even death, however, the shaken baby syndrome is preventable. Here’s all that you need to know.

Causes Of Shaken Baby Syndrome

Since babies cannot support the weight of their heads because of weak neck muscles, when a baby is forcefully shaken, their soft brain moves back and forth inside the skull, causing it to swell, bleed or bruise. If a baby is shaken severely then there are chances of the baby suffering from shaken baby syndrome.

It is never caused by tossing the baby up in the air or bouncing the baby on the knees but it occurs when a baby is shaken out of anger or frustration. The syndrome is common in infants and toddlers under the age of two when they tend to cry continuously. 

Babies, especially in the initial few weeks tend to cry a lot and this can sometimes frustrate or anger the mother or the caregivers. It is advisable to stay calm and find out the reason why the baby may be crying. Most infants cry either because of colic, hunger or uncomfortable soiled diapers. You can soothe a colic baby by using a simple remedy like the tummy relief roll-on, make a note of babies feeding time to make sure the baby is not hungry and keep a check on diapers and diaper rashes to avoid the baby from crying constantly.

Shaken Baby Syndrome Symptoms

Some of the symptoms of the shaken baby syndrome include:

  • Breathing problems
  • Extreme fussiness 
  • Irritability 
  • Drowsiness
  • Vomiting 
  • Bluish or pale skin
  • Refusing to breastfeed or eat
  • Seizures
  • Body Tremors
  • Paralysis
  • Coma 

Sometimes a baby may appear to be normal but may develop problems like behavioural problems besides health problems later. While some injuries like spinal cord damage, fractures of the skull, ribs, legs etc. and bleeding in the brain may not be seen immediately.

Shaken Baby Syndrome Diagnosis

There are three main conditions that the doctor is likely to look at for signs of the shaken baby syndrome:

  1. Bleeding in the eye(retina)
  2. Bleeding in the brain
  3. Swelling in the brain

The doctor may also ask for tests like a CT scan, MRI scan and a Skeletal X-ray to be done, besides a blood test.

shaken baby syndrome
In the initial few weeks, babies tend to cry a lot and this can sometimes frustrate or anger the mother or the caregivers/ Image source: Freepik

Shaken Baby Syndrome Treatment At Home

It’s advisable to rush the baby to the hospital in case of the shaken baby syndrome but there are certain things you can do till you get to the hospital:

  • In case of a spinal injury make sure you move the baby gently. Don’t let the mouth close. Don’t tilt the head but pull the jaw forward. 
  • For a child less than a year old, put two fingers on the middle breastbone of the baby and if the baby is over a year old, place one hand on the middle of the breastbone and your other hand on the forehead to tilt the head back. 
  • If the baby has stopped breathing perform an emergency CPR to keep the baby breathing till medical help arrives. Chest compressions by pressing firmly down on the breastbone without pausing can also help. 
  • Some babies may vomit after being shaken, to make sure they do not choke, roll the baby gently onto his/her side.

The most important thing for you to remember as a parent or caregiver is to remain calm. It’s also important to find ways to de-stress when a baby cries. We understand that it can get frustrating but always ask a family member or friend for help if you are feeling exhausted or stressed. 

Cover image source: freepik



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