It doesn’t take a genius to know that shaking an infant is a terrible idea. But for those who are unconvinced, doctors are finally speaking out against it. In other words, shaking an infant will result in shaken baby syndrome.
In fact, they believe that shaking a baby can cause a subdural hematoma, retinal hemorrhage, coma, or even death.
The shaken baby syndrome is a fatal brain injury caused by the forceful and violent shaking of the baby. Experts may call it abusive head trauma, shaken impact syndrome, or whiplash shake syndrome.
Also, it is a form of child abuse that may result in severe brain damage. It may happen from as little as 5 seconds of shaking.
Our team has reviewed different subtopics regarding this syndrome to better guide you on the causes, symptoms, and prevention.
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Symptoms and signs of the shaken baby syndrome
Usually, there is no obvious physical evidence of injury or external signs of violence. This results in the underdiagnosis of this syndrome.
Caregivers and even physicians without knowing that an incident of shaking happened might not detect internal injuries. They often attributed the baby’s fussiness to an underlying cause such as a virus.
Symptoms of the shaken baby syndrome might include:
- difficulty staying awake
- body tremors
- trouble breathing
- poor eating
- fussiness and irritability
- discoloration of skin
Symptoms vary and are caused by brain swelling, secondary to trauma. Signs may present right away, but others may not appear until later.
They may appear immediately after shaking and often reach a peak within 4-6 hours. Some children will have attention and behavioral problems later in life after the shaking incident when they were infants.
Some signs, which can’t be associated obviously with the shaken baby syndrome, may show up immediately. You may notice that your baby has this syndrome when:
- over fussiness or irritability
- dilated pupils that do not respond to light
- they are in seizures
- posture in the head is bent back and the back arched
- cardiac arrest
- abnormally slow and shallow respiration
If you are attentive and noticed these signs, seek a doctor’s help immediately.
Shaken baby syndrome happens when someone violently shakes an infant or toddler. Sometimes, anyone may shake an infant out of frustration or anger, often because the baby won’t stop crying.
Although, shaking the baby will eventually make them stop from crying because their brain is damaged.
Babies have weak neck muscles and often, they can’t support their heads. When someone shakes a baby, the baby’s head moves uncontrollably.
This violent shaking repeatedly bumps the baby’s brain against the inside of the skull. Therefore, it will result in bruising, swelling, and bleeding.
Image from | freepik.com
Shaking, with or without the sudden deceleration of the head when it impacts a surface, can cause the following:
- Subdural hematoma, or blood collection between the surface of the brain and the dura
- Subarachnoid hemorrhage, or bleeding between the arachnoid and the brain
- Direct trauma to the brain surface itself
- Shearing off of nerve cell branches
- Further irreversible brain damage and lack of oxygen
- Further damage to the brain cells
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Can shaken baby syndrome be cured?
Honestly, yes and no is the answer to the question “Can shaken baby syndrome be cured?”. The shaken baby syndrome is curable but with immediate medical attention. Parents or caregivers need to take the baby for emergency medical attention as soon as they are aware of the shaking incident.
Also, the adults need to tell doctors the truth about shaking the baby. Sometimes, caregivers may lie about shaking the baby and will cover it up by saying that the baby fell.
Depending on how severe the symptoms are, the baby might need respiratory support or surgery to stop the brain from bleeding.
Image from | freepik.com
Shaken baby syndrome treatment
Some babies will stop breathing after the shaking event. If this happens, CPR can keep your baby breathing while waiting for medical personnel to arrive as the first step of treatment for the shaken baby syndrome.
The American Red Cross recommends the following steps to perform CPR:
- Carefully put the baby on their back. If you are suspecting a spinal injury, it’s best if two people gently move the baby so the head and neck may not twist.
- Set up your position. If your baby is below 1 year old, put two fingers on the middle of the breastbone. If your child is above 1 year old, place one hand on the middle of the breastbone. Put your other hand on the baby’s forehead to maintain the head tilting back.
- Perform chest compressions. Press down on the breastbone and push about midway into the chest. Give at least 30 compressions without pausing while counting (out loud). The compressions are needed to be firm and fast.
- Continue CPR. Repeat and continue the 30 compression count with two rescue breaths until the ambulance arrives. Always make sure to check for breathing.
Additionally, breathing support and surgery as treatment helps stop the brain from bleeding. Some children may require medications to reduce brain swelling and prevent seizures.
However, there is no treatment for the shaken baby syndrome. In severe cases, the doctors will only treat the brain from bleeding with surgery, to relieve pressure or drain excess blood. Other babies might need eye surgery to remove any blood before it permanently affects their vision.
How not to shake the baby: Preventing the SBS
SBS is preventable. You can avoid harming your baby by simply not shaking them in any situation. It is easy to become frustrated when you can’t stop the baby from crying. However, crying is a normal behavior in babies. As adults, shaking is never the right response.
It is important to find approaches to relieve and deal with stress which are harmless to your baby. You can call a family support or friends with a long parenting experience that may share tips on attending to your baby.
You can also discuss different ways of giving care for yourself and your baby in this online community.
Research about the shaken baby syndrome
Image from Shutterstock
In a new study published in The Journal of Pediatrics, researchers surveyed 628 doctors who evaluate injured children at the United States’ top 10 children’s hospitals.
“Our study is the first to provide the much-needed empiric confirmation that multidisciplinary physicians throughout the country overwhelmingly accept the validity of these diagnoses, and refutes the recent contention that there is this emerging ‘groundswell’ of physician opinion against the diagnoses,” said Sandeep Narang, MD, JD, in a EurekAlert report.
Sandeep Narang is the lead author and Division Head of Child Abuse Pediatrics at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.
According to a PsychCentral report, 88% of the surveyed doctors “shaken baby syndrome” is a legitimate diagnosis. Additionally, saying that “shaking with or without impact was likely or highly likely to produce subdural hematoma.”
90% of them believed that shaking a baby could also lead to severe retinal hemorrhage.
Meanwhile, 78% of them believe that shaking a baby can result in a coma or death.
Sandeep Narang added that medical professionals consider it a dangerous form of abuse.
Shaken baby syndrome and court proceedings
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This new study is a “decisive blow to courts around the world, many of which still question the concept,” says a Mail Online story.
The story also added that courts depend on a medical expert’s testimony to find out what brought about a child’s injuries when dealing with child maltreatment cases.
“Claims of substantial controversy within the medical community about shaken baby syndrome and abusive head trauma have created a chilling effect on child protection hearings and criminal prosecutions,” Narang reports.
Additional information by Nathanielle Torre
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