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Shaken baby syndrome is a serious brain injury that occurs as a result of forcefully shaking a baby or infant. It is also known as abusive head trauma or shaken impact syndrome. This is a type of child abuse that typically happens when an angry adult is trying to stop a baby from crying. It can also happen when an adult is angry with a toddler about things such as potty training or tantrums. Shaken baby syndrome can result in permanent brain damage or even death. It is more common in babies between 3 and 8 months, although these injuries can be seen in children up to 5 years old. You should not shake a baby in any circumstance.



When a baby or toddler’s head is shaken back and forth, his brain hits his skull rupturing blood vessels  and nerves throughout the brain. This is because babies have weak head muscles which provides little support to the head.Shaking a baby can cause bruising  swelling and bleeding in the brain. The impact can also cause bleeding at the retina of the eye. It should be  noted that normal interactions with a baby like bouncing a baby on the knees will not cause shaken baby syndrome.



Shaken baby syndrome can present  the following signs and symptoms :

  • irritability
  • vomiting
  • poor sucking or swallowing
  • loss of appetite
  • pale or bluish skin
  • paralysis
  • difficulty staying awake
  • seizures
  • unequal pupil
  • rigidity
  • inability to life head
  • inability to focus eye
  • breathing problems
  • tremors
  • coma



Factors that may influence a person to inflict shaken baby syndrome includes the following

  • single parenthood
  • stress
  • domestic violence
  • alcohol and drug abuse
  • depression
  • history of child abuse
  • stress for baby
  • young parent

Men are more likely to cause shaken baby syndrome than women.



Babies with shaken baby syndrome may not even see a doctor if symptoms are less severe and when they do parents and caregivers fail to tell the doctor what really happened . Babies may therefore endure complications that could have been prevented. To diagnose this disease,  doctors use a series of test which includes :

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) : This is used to provide detailed images of a child’s brain to check for areas of damage.

Computerized tomography (CT) scan : It provides a cross-section of the child’s brain. It is used to detect injuries that need immediate care or attention.

Eye exam : This is done to check for bleeding of the retina and other eye injuries.

Blood test : This is done to rule out certain diseases and disorders that mimic shaken baby syndrome.

X-ray: This is done to check for skeletal fractures.



Treatment of a child with shaken baby syndrome involves life saving measures such as breathing support and surgery to stop bleeding.



This disease can present complications that may require life long medical care. These include :

  • partial or full blindness
  • cerebral palsy
  • mental retardation
  • seizures
  • developmental and learning disabilities
  • hearing loss
  • mental retardation
  • problems with memory

In less severe cases a baby may look normal but may develop any of these complications later in life.



Shaken baby syndrome is 100% preventable. It is important to treat a baby gently. If you are  having problems or feel stressed or depressed, seek help form a counselor. Get help from family and friends if you are too stress or tired to take care of a baby .

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