Health Resources

Shaken Baby Syndrome

Signs & Symptoms

Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) often presents with non-specific initial symptoms including:

  • Poor feeding or eating
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Cardiopulmonary arrest

Additional signs observed by medical professionals may include:

  • Decreased or increased muscle tone
  • Pallor
  • Retinal haemorrhages (blood pooling in eyes)
  • Bulging or spongy anterior fontanelle
  • Increased head circumference
  • Multiple bruises on the body
  • Poor weight gain or failure to thrive
About the condition

SBS is a form of traumatic brain injury caused by forcefully shaking a baby. Due to underdeveloped neck muscles and a disproportionately heavy head, violent shaking causes the baby's head to rotate uncontrollably. This results in the brain moving within the skull, leading to ruptured blood vessels, nerve damage, brain tissue tearing and brain swelling. These injuries can cause permanent brain damage or death.

SBS is more common than often realised. In the United States alone, an estimated 1,200 to 1,400 cases occur annually.
Diagnosis and Treatment Options

Seek immediate medical attention if:

  • A child exhibits any of the symptoms mentioned above
  • You suspect a child may be a victim of SBS

Early medical intervention is crucial. However, many survivors tend face lifelong significant neurodisability.

Care Tips

SBS is entirely preventable and often occurs when caregivers, frustrated by a baby's inconsolable crying, momentarily lose control. 

Prevention strategies include:

  • Raising caregiver awareness about the dangers of shaking a baby.
  • Educating caregivers on soothing techniques for a crying baby and stress alleviation strategies.
Soothing tips:
  • Hold the crying baby against your chest and gently massage
  • Rock, walk or dance with the baby
  • Stay patient; take deep breaths and count to ten
  • Reduce surrounding noise and lights
  • Offer a pacifier or a noisy toy

If you feel annoyed or angry, place the baby safely in a crib and leave the room to calm down. Consider calling a trusted relative or friend for support and take a break.

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