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Shaken Baby Syndrome


Kathie Chittenden, RN, is at Cardon Children's Medical Center.

Question: I recently saw some information on Shaken Baby Syndrome. What are the symptoms I should look for in my child?

Answer: Shaken Baby Syndrome is the collection of symptoms that result from the violent shaking of an infant or small child. There have been cases where an older child shows symptoms of Shaken Baby Syndrome but the most serious cases appear in children age two or younger.
Shaken Baby Syndrome occurs because a baby’s body and neck muscles are unable to support the baby’s head properly. Shaking the baby causes the head to whiplash back and forth, tearing tissues and nerves.

While babies rarely have any external evidence of trauma, Shaken Baby Syndrome can lead to blindness, brain damage, even death and accounts for the majority of severe head injuries in children under the age of one year.

To avoid Shaken Baby Syndrome, recognize that babies cry as their main way to communicate. It is part of normal child development. Some babies can cry for more than three hours a day, for over three months. If parents expect crying, it helps reduce frustration.

If you are stressed because of your baby’s crying, ask for help!

Asking for help is a sign of strength and good parenting. Make a plan to help you handle the crying. Having a plan helps parents deal with crying infants more calmly. A plan includes:

  • Checking a baby’s basic needs, such as hunger, dirty diapers or pain.
  • Checking for illness. Is the baby pulling his/her ears or does he/she have a fever or swollen gums?
  • Try pediatrician and author Harvey Karp’s five “S” program: swaddling, side position, shushing, swinging and sucking.
  • Reduce your stress by changing environments for you and the baby. Take a walk or drive, run the vacuum or sit outside.

If your baby is still crying, put the baby in a crib, infant seat or other safe place. Take a break, then go back and check on the baby.

Also, don’t forget to share your plan with your baby’s other caregivers. Tell them it is okay to let the baby cry if they need a break, that crying is a normal part of a child’s development. It is never okay to shake a baby. 

For more information on Shaken Baby Syndrome visit these sites:

Page Last Modified: 08/05/2013
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