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Shaken Baby Syndrome

Never shake a baby under any circumstances!

Shaken baby syndrome is a severe form of child abuse caused by violently shaking an infant or child. When the infant or toddler is shaken, the brain bounces back and forth against the skull, causing bruising of the brain, swelling, pressure and bleeding in the brain. This can cause permanent brain damage or death.

Shaking an infant or small child may also cause other injuries, such as damage to the neck, spine and eyes. Shaken baby injuries usually occur in children younger than 2 years old but may be seen in children up to the age of 5.

Symptoms

The symptoms can vary from mild to severe and may include:

  • Convulsions (seizures)
  • Decreased alertness
  • Extreme irritability or other changes in behavior
  • Lethargy, sleepiness, not smiling
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Loss of vision
  • Not breathing
  • Pale or bluish skin
  • Poor feeding, lack of appetite
  • Vomiting

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your doctor or healthcare provider if a child has any of the above signs or symptoms, or anytime you think a child has shaken baby syndrome.

If you think a child is in immediate danger because of abuse or neglect, call 911.

If you suspect that a child is being abused or neglected, the law requires that you report it immediately at 877-237-0004 or you can click here. You may also use Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline (800-4-A-CHILD).

First Aid

Call 911 or your local emergency number if immediate emergency treatment is necessary. If the child stops breathing before emergency help arrives, begin CPR.

Steps to Take If the Child Is Vomiting:

If you don't think there is a spinal injury, turn the child's head to one side to prevent the baby from choking and breathing in vomit to the lungs, a situation known as aspiration.

If you do think there is a spinal injury, CAREFULLY roll the child's whole body to one side at the same time (as if rolling a log) while protecting the neck to prevent choking and aspiration.

If the child is vomiting, do not pick up or shake the child to wake him or her up. And do not attempt to give the child anything by mouth.

Prevention

  • NEVER shake a baby or child in play or in anger. Even gentle shaking can become violent shaking when you are angry.
  • Do not hold your baby during an argument.
  • If you find yourself becoming annoyed or angry with your baby, put him in the crib and leave the room. Try to calm down. Call someone for support.
  • Call a friend or relative to come and stay with the child if you feel out of control.
  • Contact a local crisis hotline or child abuse hotline for help and guidance.
  • Seek the help of a counselor and attend parenting classes.
  • Do not ignore the signs if you suspect child abuse in your home or in the home of someone you know.

Every parent has access to the 24-hour Parent Helpline (800-CHILDREN) for support.

Watch this video with tips for how to safely care for a fussy baby.

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