Guide to Shaken Baby Syndrome

Guide to Shaken Baby Syndrome

Shaken Baby Syndrome is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that can occur as a result of child abuse and/or the forceful shaking of an infant. 

What is Shaken Baby Syndrome?

Shaken Baby Syndrome, sometimes referred to as Shaken Impact Syndrome, occurs as a result of forceful shaking of an infant. Due to developing neck muscles that support the spine and head, shaking a baby can result in serious, lifelong damage to the body and mind. Shaken Baby Syndrome occurs when an individual forcefully shakes a baby, and it most often occurs as a result of frustration with an infant who is crying for an extended period of time.

Signs of Shaken Baby Syndrome

What are the signs and symptoms of Shaken Baby Syndrome? Symptoms can range from severe to life-threatening, and an infant suffering from Shaken Baby Syndrome may exhibit the following signs:

  • Seizures
  • Lethargy
  • Dilated pupils
  • Blindness
  • Concussions
  • Swelling of the brain
  • Retinal hemorrhaging
  • Subdural hematoma
  • Subarachnoid hemorrhaging
  • Brain damage
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Damaged nerve cells
  • Skull fractures
  • Rib fractures
  • Collarbone fractures
  • Broken or fractured bones in the face, head, or chest

How is Shaken Baby Syndrome diagnosed?

Shaken Baby Syndrome can only be diagnosed by a healthcare provider. CT scans, X-rays, and other tests can determine whether or not an infant has brain damage, bleeding of the brain, or broken or fractured bones. 

Effects of Shaken Baby Syndrome

Shaken Baby Syndrome can be fatal, and it can also have lasting effects for children who survive. A lack of oxygen and damage to nerves, tearing or bleeding of the brain, hemorrhaging of the eyes, and damage to other areas of the body can lead to: 

  • Epilepsy
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Impaired cognitive function
  • Blindness
  • Hearing loss
  • Paralysis

How to Make Sure Your Baby is Protected

Shaken Baby Syndrome is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that can be prevented with the right care and precautions. Because Shaken Baby Syndrome occurs as the result of forceful shaking, it’s important to ensure that your child’s caregiver is a trustworthy and reliable provider. Never leave your child in the care of someone you do not trust, and if you are experiencing stress as a result of crying, take these steps to calm down.

  1. Take deep breaths and count to 10.
  2. Make an appointment with your child’s pediatrician to rule out illness or injury if he or she is crying more excessively than normal.
  3. Call a friend or family member for emotional support.
  4. Ask a spouse or trusted friend or family member to provide you with a break.

What should I do if I think my child has Shaken Baby Syndrome?

If you suspect your child has Shaken Baby Syndrome, you should take steps to ensure he or she is not suffering life-threatening injuries. If your child is lethargic or not acting like him or herself, schedule an appointment with your pediatrician. 


If you notice more severe symptoms such as bruising of the head or chest, bleeding in or around the eyes, seizures, or other concerning signs, seek emergency medical attention as soon as possible. 

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