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Shaken Baby Syndrome

What is shaken baby syndrome?

Shaken baby syndrome is a serious type of head injury that happens when an infant or toddler is severely shaken. Babies are not able to fully support their heavy heads. As a result, violent and forceful shaking causes a baby’s brain to be injured. Too often, this leads to the death of a baby. It also can lead to:

  • Bleeding around the brain
  • Blindness
  • Hearing loss
  • Speech or learning disabilities
  • Chronic seizure disorder
  • Brain damage
  • Mental retardation
  • Cerebral palsy

Shaken baby syndrome is a serious form of child abuse. Remember, it is never okay to shake a baby.

What are the signs and symptoms of shaken baby syndrome?

When a baby is violently shaken, brain cells are destroyed and the brain cannot get enough oxygen. As a result, a victim of shaken baby syndrome may show one or all of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Irritability
  • Lethargy (difficulty staying awake)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tremors (shakiness)
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

What do I do if my baby is shaken?

If you think your baby might have been injured from violent shaking, the most important step is to get medical care right away. Call your pediatrician or take your baby to the nearest emergency department. Getting medical care right away may save your baby’s life and prevent serious health problems from developing. Do not let embarrassment, guilt, or fear get in the way of your baby’s health of life. Mild symptoms of shaken baby syndrome are very similar to colic, feeding problems, and fussiness. Your baby may not get the right treatment if the doctor does not have all the facts.

When babies cry

The following are a few ideas to try when your baby does not stop crying:

  • Check to see if your baby’s diaper needs changing.
  • Hold your baby against bare skin, like on your chest, or cheek-to-cheek.
  • Wrap your baby in a warm, soft blanket.
  • Rock your baby using slow, rhythmic movements.
  • Feed your baby slowly, stopping to burp often.
  • Sing to your baby or play soft, soothing music.
  • Offer your baby a pacifier.
  • Take your baby for a walk in a stroller.
  • Go for a ride with your baby in the car (remember to use a car seat).

If you have tried all of these and your baby continues to cry, go back and try them again. Most babies get tired after crying for a long time and eventually will fall asleep.

When your baby cries, take a break – don’t shake!

If you have tried to calm your crying baby but nothing seems to work, it is important to stay in control of your temper. If you feel like you are getting angry and might lose control, try the following:

  • Take a deep breath and count to 10.
  • Place your baby in a safe place, leave the room, and let your baby cry alone.
  • Call someone close to you for emotional support.
  • Call your pediatrician. There may be a medical reason why your baby is crying.

Be patient. Colicky and fussy babies eventually grow out of their crying phase. Keeping your baby safe is the most important thing you can do. Even if you feel frustrated, stay in control and never shake your baby.

Information on this site is intended for Angel Kids Pediatrics patients only. Always consult your doctor before beginning, modifying, or discontinuing any treatment plan.

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