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Shaken Baby Syndrome: Resources from UPMC in Central Pa.

Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) occurs when a baby is forcefully shaken. Because a baby’s neck muscles are not strong enough to support his or her head, vigorous shaking can cause the head to jerk back and forth. This “whiplash” motion leads to internal bleeding and increased pressure on the baby’s fragile brain.

Many babies die each year from SBS, which is one of the leading forms of child abuse. If a baby survives being shaken, he or she is likely to experience other problems, including:

  • Brain damage
  • Blindness
  • Mental retardation
  • Paralysis
  • Seizure disorders
  • Learning and speech difficulties
  • Neck or back damage

Get Help When You Need It

As a new parent, there may be times when you feel frustrated and even angry when your baby cries. Sometimes, no matter what you do to meet your baby’s basic needs, nothing will make your baby feel better. If this happens to you, it is important that you reach out for help.

Do not shake your baby.

If you become frustrated, you should put your baby in a safe place, leave the room for a few minutes and try a calming strategy such as:

  • Taking a deep breath
  • Closing your eyes and counting to 10
  • Asking a friend, neighbor or family member to take over for a while
  • Giving yourself a “timeout”
  • Remember, never throw or shake your baby – no matter what. Do not pick up your baby again until you feel calm. If you believe that your baby may be ill, call your physician or take your baby to the hospital.

Signs and Symptoms of SBS

If you think that your baby has been shaken, you should go to the emergency room immediately.

Common signs of SBS include:

  • Irregular, difficult or stopped breathing
  • Extreme crankiness
  • Seizures and vomiting
  • Tremors or shakiness
  • Difficulty staying awake
  • Acting lifeless
  • No reaction to sound

If you or a caregiver has violently shaken your baby due to frustration or anger, the most important step you can take is to seek medical attention immediately.

Do not let fear, shame or embarrassment keep you from doing the right thing. Getting immediate medical treatment could save your baby’s life.

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