Shaken baby syndrome

Several children die every year as a result of violent shaking by their parent or carer.

This usually occurs in babies under one year old. Boys are usually the victims.

The shaken baby syndrome often happens to a first child: the parents, if it is they, are inexperienced or exhausted and panic. They lose control when their baby cries constantly.

Young babies, less than 6 months, have certain anatomical characteristics which make them more fragile.

Anatomical reasons why babies are prone to this type of accident

  • The brain, is small and does not fill the skull, therefore is likely to touch its walls during a violent shaking of the head with back and forth movement. The brain floats and is crushed against the walls and causes a rupture of the blood vessels.

The weight of the head is proportionally too heavy compared to the weight of the body.

The neck muscles are not developed and strong enough to allow the baby to keep its head straight enough, therefore the head can be projected ahead or behind at the time of a shake.


Violent shakes affect the baby's brain and can cause a brain haemorrhage or swelling of the brain.
  • Tiredness or sudden sleepiness may present themselves and can easily or be mistaken for symptoms caused by a virus
  • Vomiting
  • Faintness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Epileptic attack
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Heart attack
  • Paralysis
  • Loss of vision....

Behaviour to be avoided

  • Keep in mind never to shake an infant violently
  • Be patient with your baby. When they cry they are trying to communicate with you. Talk to them, hold them and reassure them - learn techniques to help you cope and avoid you being irritated with them, therefore restrain from shaking them when they cry.
  • Avoid any sudden movements when playing with your baby i.e. throwing up in to the air or sweeping through the air like an aeroplane.
  • If a baby is crying, is agitated, irritated and inconsolable , do not shake them in an attempt to stimulate it.
  • Do not lose control when a child cries: put the baby in a cot or go to see friends, family or neighbours - get help.

Behaviour to avoid when your baby cries

A baby crying is one of the most prominent reasons why people shake their baby. Parents or carers find it difficult to cope with excessive crying, lose patience and shake them to calm them down..

Non-accidental injury

In the case of non accidental injury shaken baby syndrome presents itself along with other signs of harm such as fractured ribs, bruises on the body and signs of neglect.

Shaken baby syndrome can unfortunately, happen as a result of carelessness rather than non-accidental injury and harm.

Consult your doctor immediately if your baby is drowsy, vomits or faints after being shaken. Damage can be serious therefore must receive urgent medical attention.

For more information and help with a crying baby see below

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