Shaken Baby Syndrome

4 min read
Shaken Baby Syndrome

The combination of a crying baby and a frustrated parent or carer can be deadly. Shaking a baby in a moment of frustration can cause serious harm or death.

Because babies have weak neck muscles and heavy heads, even a few seconds of forceful shaking can cause serious damage to babies and small children. Children under one year of age are most at risk.

Shaken baby syndrome (SBS) is a serious brain injury that happens when an adult violently shakes a baby or young child. Typically this type of child abuse happens when the adult is angry and is trying to get a baby to stop crying. It can also happen when the adult is frustrated with a toddler or preschooler over something like toilet training or a tantrum.

Crying is an annoying sound; it is supposed to be. If it was a pleasant sound, crying would be easy to ignore and the baby’s needs would never be met. When a baby cries a lot and is not easily consoled, the parent or caregiver may start to doubt their own abilities to care for the baby. Lack of sleep and other stresses can increase the feelings of helplessness and frustration.

What happens to shaken babies?Shaken Baby Syndrome

It depends on how long and hard the baby has been shaken. Some of the most common effects include:

  • eye damage or blindness
  • hearing impairment
  • speech disabilities
  • damage to the neck and spine
  • learning disorders
  • behavioral problems
  • permanent vegetative state
  • developmental problems or mental retardation
  • seizures
  • paralysis
  • death

How much shaking is dangerous?

Children with Shaken Baby Syndrome have been violently shaken. Their injuries are at least as severe as if an infant had been dropped from a high building. Although it is unlikely that severe injuries would occur from tossing an infant in the air playfully or bouncing a small child on a knee, parents and carers should always consider the fragility of an infant’s brain and the need to support the head and neck.

How would I know if someone shook my baby?

The symptoms depend on the extent of the damage. Less obvious symptoms include vomiting, lethargy, and irritability. A baby with SBS may have less of an appetite or difficulty feeding. They may appear rigid or glassy-eyed or be unable to lift their head or focus their eyes on an object.

In severe cases, the baby may have difficulty breathing or suffer from seizures or heart failure. They may lose consciousness.

If you ever suspect that your baby is suffering from SBS, call 000 immediately. Minutes can make a big difference in the extent of the damage your baby suffers.

How can I prevent this from happening to my baby?

Make sure that everyone who takes care of your child knows that it’s never okay to shake a baby. Learn and teach others how to comfort your crying baby as best as you can.

If you find yourself getting angry or frustrated with your baby, take a deep breath, gently lay them in a safe place like a cot or bassinet, leave the room, and try to calm down.

Remind yourself how young, helpless, and vulnerable your child is, that it’s normal for babies to cry, and before you know it this stage will be over.

If you feel that you can’t control your anger, call a friend or relative to come and stay with your baby for a bit. Take a walk or a shower if you think that might help you. Seek help even if the feelings don’t lead to child abuse, as they can undermine your relationship with your baby and your own self confidence in caring for your baby.

If you become concerned about your or your child’s health or would like more information,  please seek medical attention or go to our health hotlines and website post for further resources 

SAHM takes no responsibility for any illness, injury or death caused by misuse of this information.  All information provided is correct at time of publication. 

Krissy Hacker a SAHM of 3 kids under 3 and a half, surviving on minimum sleep, maximum humour and compliments from her lovely husband. She loves reviving old school ways of doing things and would do anything to get out of housework!


About Author

Jody Allen

Jody is the founder and essence of Stay at Home Mum. An insatiable appetite for reading from a very young age had Jody harbouring dreams of being a pu...Read Moreblished author since primary school. That deep-seeded need to write found its way to the public eye in 2011 with the launch of SAHM. Fast forward 4 years and a few thousand articles Jody has fulfilled her dream of being published in print. With the 2014 launch of Once a Month Cooking and 2015's Live Well on Less, thanks to Penguin Random House, Jody shows no signs of slowing down. The master of true native content, Jody lives and experiences first hand every word of advertorial she pens. Mum to two magnificent boys and wife to her beloved Brendan; Jody's voice is a sure fire winner when you need to talk to Mums. Read Less

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