SHAKEN baby syndrome is a serious form of child abuse, that can be extremely fatal to infants.
One in six inflicted infant deaths is now being recorded as a result of shaking – with one case every week in the UK.
What is shaken baby syndrome?
Babies have weak neck muscles and often struggle to support their heavy heads. If a baby is forcefully shaken, his or her fragile brain moves back and forth inside the skull.
This causes bruising, swelling and bleeding, and can be fatal.
Shaken baby syndrome usually occurs when a parent or caregiver severely shakes a baby or toddler due to frustration or anger — often because the child won't stop crying.
It isn't usually caused by simple, day-to-day movements such as bouncing a child on your knee, minor falls or even rough play.
Dr. Harvey Karp, CEO of Happiest Baby inc, explains: “Shaken baby syndrome is arguably the deadliest form of child abuse.
“It usually occurs before 12 months of age when a parent finally loses patience with their inability to soothe the babies crying and grabs the baby by the shoulders rapidly shaking the baby’s body out of frustration.
“The babies heavy head may be hit against a surface or snapped back-and-forth on the infant’s thin neck causing the soft brain inside to bang against the hard inside of the skull causing brain swelling and tearing tiny veins causing life-threatening bleeding.
“Clearly, the serious cases are the tip of the iceberg.
"Many children may have minimal brain damage that is not diagnosed but perhaps goes on to cause neurological problems such as attention deficit and learning problems.”
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John McMullan, the consultant paediatric neurosurgeon at Sheffield Children's Hospital, told the BBC that shaking a baby caused brain injuries similar to those in boxing.
But he said: "In boxing, the incidences of the head blows are relatively infrequent and so that damage is taking place over, typically, years.
"Whereas with an infant shaking, the damage is occurring in seconds."
What are symptoms and signs of shaken baby syndrome?
According to Mayo Clinic shaken baby syndrome symptoms and signs include:
- Extreme fussiness or irritability
- Difficulty staying awake
- Breathing problems
- Poor eating
- Pale or bluish skin
New parent classes can help parents better understand the dangers of violent shaking and could provide lifesaving tips to soothe a crying baby and manage stress.
It's important to always treat your child gently, so if you're having trouble managing your emotions or the stress of parenthood, you should speak to your doctor.
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