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Baby Health: Shaken Baby Syndrome & Child Abuse

Over the years, there has been much publicity about Shaken Baby Syndrome. What is Shaken Baby Syndrome? How have parents and caregivers become susceptible to this? What can we do to prevent this from happening to our child? Read on.

What is Shaken Baby Syndrome?

Shaken Baby Syndrome is caused by the vigorous shaking of an infant or young child by the arms, legs, chest, or shoulders. Forceful shaking can lead to brain damage, mental retardation, speech and learning disabilities, paralysis, seizures, hearing loss, and even death. The adults that are shaking the child are stressed, angry, and are experiencing a loss of impulse control. They are usually aware that this violent shaking will hurt the child.


Do you suspect your child’s caregiver of shaking your baby? Here are some symptoms of Shaken Baby Syndrome and/or child abuse that you should be aware of.

  • Constant falls
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Altered consciousness
  • Choking
  • Flu-like symptoms with no sign of fever
  • Irritability over a period of time
  • Lethargy
  • Increased head size due to swelling
  • Broken bones
  • Bleeding in the retina of the eyes
  • Seemingly unexplained pain
  • Lack of bonding with caregiver
  • Fear of caregiver

If your child shows any of these symptoms and you feel he may be in danger, remove him from the caregiver immediately. Report any instances of abuse to the police.

Who shakes their babies?

While no one group is responsible for shaking babies, the most likely perpetrator is adult males in their early 20s who are the baby’s father or the mother’s boyfriend. Females that shake babies are more likely to be a babysitter or caregiver than the mother.

That being said, when you leave your baby in the care of a sitter or even their father, remind that person of the dangers of Shaken Baby Syndrome. Explain the STOP, CALM DOWN, and TRY AGAIN system detailed below. You are your baby’s best advocate and first line of defense against child abuse.

Are you afraid you might shake your baby?

If you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and afraid of hurting your baby, or if you are having violent thoughts about hurting yourself or your baby, seek professional help immediately. You may have a severe case of postpartum depression. If you have shaken your baby or witnessed your baby being shaken, call an ambulance.

When you are confronted with a stressful situation in which your baby is crying or overwhelming you,

1. STOP – place the baby in a safe place, such as a crib or play pen.

2. CALM DOWN – sit down or walk out of the room. Listen to some music or close your eyes and take some breaths. It’s okay if your baby cries for a while. It won’t hurt her to cry for a few minutes. Run the vacuum cleaner to drown out the noise. This is known to soothe babies too. Remember that when your baby cries, it is her only way to communicate a need that she has, such as hunger, pain, wet diaper, or a need to be held and loved. If your child cries for prolonged periods of time, call your Pediatrician. She is probably having colic or gas pains.

3. TRY AGAIN – When you have calmed down, return to helping the baby.

If you feel that your baby or another child has possibly been abused and want to talk to a crisis counselor, call ChildHelpUSA at 1-800-4-A-Child or 1-800-422-4453.

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