Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) is a group of symptoms resulting from a baby or young child being violently shaken. When a baby is shaken, its neck muscles cannot support its head. The child’s brain is fragile so it can be easily compressed and distorted within the skull during a shaking episode, which can then cause the brain to rotate or move around. The whiplash movements create stress on the brain and also tears blood vessels leading to brain bleeds or hemorrhages. Even violently shaking a baby for a few seconds can cause severe injuries.
Babies have weak neck muscles and large, heavy heads, so SBS usually occurs in children who are two years old or younger, however, can still occur in children up to five years old. Shaken Baby Syndrome is the leading cause of physical child abuse in the United States and approximately 25% of SBS victims die.
SBS signs and symptoms may include: lethargy, extreme irritability, decreased appetite, poor sucking or swallowing, vomiting for no reason, rigidity, seizures, difficulty breathing, decreased level of consciousness, grab type bruises on arms or chest, no smiling or vocalization, inability of eyes to focus or track movement, unequal size of eye pupils and pale or bluish skin. In many cases, there are no noticeable external signs of internal injury.
Injuries that result from shaking a baby or child are brain swelling or bruising, external head or body bruises, neck or spinal cord damage, skull fractures, and rib fractures. These injuries can result in long-term consequences of physical, visual, hearing, learning or speech disabilities; cerebral palsy; seizures; behavior disorders; cognitive impairment and even death.
The most common reason given for shaking a baby is due to being frustrated because the baby is crying. If you are starting to become upset enough to possibly harm a baby, put the baby in a safe place, such as a crib, and leave the room to allow yourself to calm down. Taking a few minutes to relax or having someone else help can prevent irreparable harm to the child. When playing with babies or toddlers, it is important to play gently. If you are seeking child care givers, it is imperative that you choose carefully and educate them about SBS.
If you or someone else shakes a baby either accidentally or on purpose, call 911 immediately, so proper medical attention can be administered. Timely medical care may prevent future complications and could even save the child’s life.
For more information about SBS, please click HERE.