The Dangers of Shaken Baby Syndrome
Posted March 4, 2016 by Jaclyn Hill | Follow Jaclyn Hill on Google+
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Filed Under Baby Safety
The Dangers of Shaken Baby Syndrome

It's 4 a.m., and you've been up all night with a baby who just won't stop crying. You've tried everything: offering a bottle, given them a pacifier, checking the baby's diaper, rocking them, and swaddling them. Even the vibrating seat or swing you received as a baby gift isn't working, and you're exhausted and getting frazzled. You've tried shushing, singing, begging, and pleading with the baby to please, please be quiet and go to sleep. At your wits' end, bouncing the baby on your knee becomes holding the baby up in the air, jiggling them at first, then shaking, harder now, as your frustration boils over.
And then, the baby goes quiet.

This is shaken baby syndrome. You haven't just quieted the baby: You've severely injured this child, possibly even leading to their death. In fact, in around a quarter of shaken-baby cases, the child dies. In many others, the child is left with lifelong disabilities ranging from visual impairments to severe brain damage.

What is Shaken Baby Syndrome?

Shaken baby syndrome, also known as abusive head trauma, occurs when a child, usually an infant, is shaken, dropped, or thrown. The majority of these cases happen when the child is just 6 to 8 weeks old. The injuries often happen when a parent or other caregiver vigorously shakes the child or throws them out of frustration when they cannot get the child to stop crying. When this happens, the infant's brain is rattled around within the skull, which can cause broken blood vessels and nerves in the brain, tearing of the brain tissue, and bruising and bleeding of the brain as it strikes the inside of the skull.

What Are the Effects of Shaken Baby Syndrome?

Symptoms of being shaken can vary from one child to the next depending on the age of the child and the severity of the shaking. Less-severe signs of shaken baby syndrome can include fussiness, lethargy, vomiting, or difficulty swallowing or sucking. Among the symptoms for those children with more severe injuries are seizures, bleeding in the eyes, or trouble hearing, not to mention possible visible indications like bruising or broken bones. In the worst cases, victims who survive this type of abuse may be left with learning problems, cerebral palsy, or paralysis. And the ramifications of shaking a baby can also extend beyond the harm to the child: As a form of child abuse, shaking a baby can have severe legal repercussions that can shatter families.

How Can Shaken Baby Syndrome Be Prevented?

The best way to prevent shaken baby syndrome is to learn how to cope when a child cries. First of all, the most important thing is to never shake, hit, or throw a child. If you find yourself frustrated and feel tempted to shake the child, put them down in a safe place, such as on their back in their crib, and go into the next room for a few moments to calm yourself down. If the child is not in any immediate danger, it's alright to set down the baby to yourself a few moments of peace and quiet, and let them cry while you pull yourself together. Try listening to music or running the vacuum cleaner to drown out the noise. Then, once you have calmed down, ask yourself whether you can figure out a reason for the child's crying, such as hunger, discomfort, or a dirty diaper, and do what you can to address the problem and calm the child. Remember that crying is very common in infants and young children, and often, if a baby is crying, the child is trying to communicate something about its needs.