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Shaken Baby Syndrome – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Verified By Apollo Neurologist December 4, 2021 2693 0
Shaken Baby Syndrome
Shaken Baby Syndrome


The shaken baby syndrome is a severe brain injury caused by forceful shaking of a toddler or infant that damages the infant’s brain cells preventing the child’s brain from receiving adequate oxygen. The shaken baby syndrome is medical negligence or abuse that may result in permanent damage to the brain or even lead to death.

About Shaken Baby Syndrome

The shaken baby syndrome is also referred to as shaken impact syndrome, whiplash shake syndrome, inflicted head injury, or abusive head trauma. It is usually caused due to reckless handling of a baby by either the parents or the medical practitioners that lead to severe brain damage. However, it is preventable by educating parents and caregivers about the dangers of handling toddlers forcefully or carelessly.

What are the symptoms of shaken baby syndrome?

Since shaken baby syndrome damages the brain, outer injuries do not get seen. However, you can identify the condition through these symptoms:

  • Constant irritability or extreme fussiness. 
  • Sleeping for prolonged periods than usual and facing difficulty and irritation in staying awake.
  • Respiratory problems and decreased appetite. 
  • Nausea or skin turns blue or pale. 
  • Paralysis, convulsions, or seizures.
  • Coma.

Sometimes, brain damage may show its repercussions on the outer body, too, such as:

  • Bleeding in eyes or ears. 
  • Unexplained bruises on the face. 
  • Damage of spinal cord or ribs.
  • Fracture of ribs, skull, legs, or other bones.

What are the causes of shaken baby syndrome?

Newborn babies have underdeveloped neck bones and muscles. That’s why they often feel the burden of their heavy heads on their necks and can’t support them properly for 6-8months.

In this case, if the baby is handled recklessly or shaken forcefully, their weak brain inside moves to and fro repeatedly that may cause swelling, bruising, or even bleeding since the organs are already fragile, tender, and underdeveloped. Gentle bouncing of the baby on parents’ knees is considered okay, but anything more should get strictly avoided.

Also Read About: Blood Clot in The Brain

Risk factors

The following things may make either parents or caregivers to more posibbly shake a baby forcefully and cause shaken baby syndrome:

  • Unrealistic expectations from the babies
  • Single or young parenthood
  • Domestic violence 
  • Stress
  • Unstable family situations
  • Alcohol or substance abuse
  • Depression
  • A history of mistreatment as a child

When to see a doctor?

  • If the baby doesn’t respond or bleeds in the eyes or ears. 
  • If the baby’s behavior suddenly changes and stays dizzy or fussy all day. 
  • If you observe any bruises 
  • If the baby cries continuously.

Request an appointment at Apollo Hospitals.

Complications of the shaken baby syndrome

Most of the time, babies affected by shaken baby syndrome do not survive. Even if they survive, they undergo the following complications and have to receive the treatment for same for the rest of their lives:

Is there any treatment for shaken baby syndrome?

No. Treatments are not  available, but a few immediate interventions mentioned below can mitigate the severe repercussions.

  • If neck or spinal injury is suspected, immediate medical intervention is required. Tender handling of the baby is essential to avoid further harming or twisting the baby’s neck or back. 
  • Chest compressions: firm and fast chest compressions may be  tried by doctors to bring the baby back to consciousness if the baby is either fainted or doesn’t respond. 
  • Rescue breaths: In case the baby loses consciousness or finds difficulty in breathing, doctors try expired air resuscitation to blow life into the baby.


Prevention is better than cure, since there is no treatment for brain damage in babies. Careful handling, avoiding repeated and forceful shaking of the baby can prevent the shaken baby syndrome. If you suspect any child abuse or the baby is crying continuously, it is better to consult a doctor immediately.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are three immediate consequences to look for if the baby gets shaken forcefully?

Vomitings, convulsions, or seizures are the immediate consequences one should check. If you observe even any one of these, rush to the doctor immediately.

Can I playfully or slowly shake my baby?

Yes, you can slowly and gently shake, toss in the air, bounce the baby in the air. But, still, be careful while you do so. Don’t do it aggressively or frustratedly , as that hurts the baby.

Are there any health conditions that are mistaken for shaken baby syndrome?

Yes. The health conditions like Menkes disorders, metabolic disorders, or other genetic disorders commonly get mistaken for shaken baby syndrome.

Can heavy showers cause shaken baby syndrome?

Babies are fragile and should get handled with utmost care. Although bathing the baby with moderate water flow is considered unharmful, heavy shower flow directly on the head can cause injuries inside the head.

Is it okay to shake the baby to sleep?

Yes. Not every type of shaking causes shaken baby syndrome. Gentle and tender handling is considered unharmful.

Verified By Apollo Neurologist
The content is medically reviewed and verified by highly qualified Neurologists who bring extensive experience as well as their perspective from years of clinical practice, research and patient care

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