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Shaken Baby Syndrome


Shaken baby syndrome

is brain injury caused by violent shaking. It is also called abusive head trauma. Intense shaking causes your baby's brain to bleed, bruise, and swell. This leads to decreased oxygen to your baby's brain. It may result in permanent, severe brain damage and can be life-threatening.

Common signs of shaken baby syndrome:

  • Fussiness or uncontrolled crying
  • Cool, pale, or blue skin
  • Poor feeding or vomiting
  • Weakness, sleepiness, or difficulty waking your baby
  • Blood or blood spots in the eyes
  • Bulging soft spot on your baby's head
  • Seizures or coma
  • Trouble breathing or slow breathing

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You think you might shake your baby or hurt him in some other way.
  • Your baby is having trouble breathing or stops breathing completely.
  • Your baby is very sleepy, is difficult to wake up, or will not wake up at all.
  • Your baby has a seizure.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your baby has no energy or is limp like a rag doll.
  • You think your baby has been shaken by another person.
  • Your baby does not want to eat or is vomiting.
  • Your baby is very cranky and crying more than normal.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child is crying hard and you cannot console him.
  • You have questions or concerns about your baby's condition or care.

Keep emergency phone numbers handy:

Keep a list of phone numbers where you can find them quickly in an emergency. The Childhelp National Abuse Helpline number is 1-800-422-4453 . Also include phone numbers of people you trust and local police or emergency phone numbers.

If your baby will not stop crying:

  • Stop. Put the baby in a safe place and leave the room. Do not touch the baby if you are very upset or angry.
  • Calm down. Call hotline numbers or a friend or family member for advice and support. Slowly count to 10 and take some deep breaths.
  • Go back to your baby. When you have calmed down, try again to help him stop crying. Try putting him in a carrier, or taking him for a walk in a stroller. You may also try to comfort him with his favorite blanket or stuffed animal.

Prevent shaken baby syndrome:

  • Choose caregivers carefully. Make sure everyone who cares for your baby, including babysitters, understands the dangers of shaking a baby. Do not leave your baby alone with anyone you have concerns about.
  • Stay patient and focused. Crying is normal for a baby. A baby cries for many reasons. He may be hungry, need his diaper changed, or may be too cold or hot. Sometimes he cries just because he wants to be held. Crying may also be a way for your baby to release stress or tension. Crying may also tell you that your baby is hurt or sick. You may need to try several things to find out what your baby needs or wants. Stay calm and focus on helping or comforting your baby.
  • Manage your feelings. It is normal to feel upset and angry when your baby cries and cannot be consoled. Learn how to handle these feelings. Plan ahead to prevent hurting your baby. Call a friend or family member when you feel upset with your baby. Post hotline numbers where you can see them and use them.

Follow up with your baby's healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Shaken Baby Syndrome (Ambulatory Care)

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