Shaken Baby Syndrome: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment


What is Shaken Baby Syndrome?

A serious brain injury can be caused to the little one when he/she is forcefully or violently shaken. This is referred to as Shaken Baby Syndrome, abusive head trauma, shaken impact syndrome or whiplash shake syndrome. Playful activities with the infant like tossing or bouncing the baby on the lap will not lead to this condition but this will take place when you shake the baby out of frustration or anger. This can be a result of as little as five seconds of shaking and can lead to serious brain damage.

When the little one is shaken, their brain continuously hits the inside of the skull, which can lead to a number of consequences, including bleeding in the brain, bruising in the brain or even brain swelling. This may also lead to broken bones and damage to the baby’s spine, eyes and neck. The syndrome can affect the children up to the age of five, however more common in children under age two.

What can cause shaken baby syndrome?

Shaken Baby Syndrome is a result of violently or forcefully shaking the baby. We often notice parents shaking their babies in anger, probably when the baby wouldn’t stop crying or due to some other reasons. But, shaking the baby will cause a damage to their brain to a large extent. Babies often have difficulty supporting their heads and thereby, when you violently shake the baby, the movement throws the his/her brain against the inside of the skull. This further causes bruising, swelling or even bleeding to the brain.

Shaken Baby Syndrome

Shaken Baby Symptoms

Given below are a few symptoms of shaken baby syndrome:

  • Vomiting
  • Paralysis
  • Poor eating
  • Discoloured skin
  • Body tremors
  • Difficulty staying awake
  • Coma
  • Trouble breathing
  • Seizures

This is a life-threatening injury and can cause permanent damage to the brain. Thereby, if you believe that your baby or another baby is a victim of shaken baby syndrome, you should call 911 right away and seek immediate medical treatment.


How is Shaken Baby Syndrome Diagnosed?

The doctor may look for the following three conditions that will help in the indication of shaken baby syndrome, in order to make the diagnosis. These are as given below:

Encephalopathy: or brain swelling

Retinal haemorrhage: bleeding in the part of the eye called retina

Subdural haemorrhage: bleeding in the brain

Your child may also be recommended a number of tests that will help in the confirmation of the diagnosis. Given below is a list of these tests:

MRI scan: this uses powerful magnets and radio waves that help to produce the detailed images of the brain


CT Scan: this creates cross sectional images of the brain

Ophthalmic exam: this helps to determine the eye injuries and bleeding in the eyes.

Skeletal X-ray: this helps to reveal the spine, rib and skull fractures.

A number of symptoms of shaken baby syndrome are similar to those of other conditions as well. So, in order to determine the other potential causes, your doctor will order you to have a blood test as well before confirming shaken baby syndrome.

Treatments for Shaken Baby Syndrome

Some babies may face problem in breathing after being shaken, if this situation occurs, CPR can keep your baby breathing till the time you wait for your doctor to arrive. In order to perform CPR, follow the given steps:


Put the baby on their back: In case a spinal injury is suspected, you have to make sure that the head and neck of the bay don’t twist. So, it is better if two people gently move the baby.

Set up your position: put two fingers on the middle of the breastbone, if the infant is under age 1. If he is over age 1, [place a hand on the breastbone and the other hand on the baby’s forehead so as to keep the head titled back. In case of spinal injury, do not tilt the head, instead pull the jaw forward and do not let the baby close his/her mouth.

Chest compressions: give 30 chest compressions that should be firm and fast.

Rescue breaths: if there is no sign of breathing even after the compressions, cover the baby’s mouth and nose with your mouth tightly. You have to make sure that the airway kis open and then give two breaths. Remember, the breath should be for about one second each.

Continue: till the time any help arrives, continue the CPR.

Children with Shaken Baby Syndrome

The brain damage is a result of just a matter of seconds. Some of the complications that are experienced by the babies include:

  • Hearing loss
  • Development delays
  • Permanent vision loss
  • Seizure disorders
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Cerebral palsy: this disorder affects muscle coordination and speech.

How Can It Be Prevented

Shaken baby syndrome can be prevented.  All you have to do is not to harm your baby by shaking him in any circumstances. You may get irritated and stressed at times, but there are a lot of ways to relive your stress rather than harming your baby in frustration. After all the information provided above, you know how harmful and life threatening this may prove to be for your child. Instead of causing harm to your baby, try to seek help either of your family members or your friend.

In case, you believe a child is a victim of shaken baby syndrome, immediately make a call at 911 and seek immediate medical help.

Hope this article was of help for all our parents!! Please share your comments/queries/tips with us and help us create a world full of Happy and Healthy Babies!!