Shaken Baby Syndrome

What is Shaken Baby Syndrome/Abusive Head Trauma?

SBS/AHT (shaken baby syndrome/abusive head trauma) is a term used to describe the constellation of signs and symptoms resulting from violent shaking or shaking and impacting of the head of an infant or small child.

What happens when you shake a baby?

The brain rotates within the skull cavity, injuring or destroying brain tissue. When shaking occurs, blood vessels feeding the brain can be torn, leading to bleeding around the brain. Blood pools within the skull, sometimes creating more pressure within the skull and possibly causing additional brain damage. Retinal (back of the eye) bleeding is very common.

Why is shaking a baby so dangerous?

Babies’ heads are relatively large and heavy, making up about 25% of their total body weight. Their neck muscles are too weak to support such a disproportionately large head. Babies’ brains are immature and more easily injured by shaking. Babies’ blood vessels around the brain are more susceptible to tearing than older children or adults.

What are the signs and symptoms of shaken baby syndrome?

There are various signs and symptoms of shaken baby syndrome. The consequences of less severe cases may not be brought to the attention of medical professionals and may never be diagnosed. In most severe cases, which usually result in death or severe neurological consequences, the child usually becomes immediately unconscious and suffers rapidly escalating, life-threatening central nervous system dysfunction.

Any of these injuries can lead to severe disability or death. If you suspect a child has been shaken, seek medical attention immediately. This could be the difference between life and death.

Common Symptoms of Shaken Baby Syndrome:

  • Head or forehead appears larger than usual or soft-spot on head appears to be bulging
  • Inability of eyes to focus or track movement or unequal size of pupils
  • Decreased appetite, poor feeding or vomiting for no apparent reason
  • Grab-type bruises on arms or chest are rare
  • Lethargy / decreased muscle tone
  • Poor sucking or swallowing
  • No smiling or vocalization
  • Rigidity or posturing
  • Inability to lift head
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Extreme irritability
  • Seizures


What are the Physical Consequences of Shaking a Baby?

  • Death
  • Seizures
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Speech disabilities
  • Behavior disorders
  • Physical disabilities
  • Learning disabilities
  • Hearing impairment
  • Cognitive impairment
  • The statistics on SBS/AHT
  • Visual disabilities or blindness

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5 S’s System’ May Help Colic Symptoms

When your baby cries for hours, and you feel like joining in, colic may be to blame. For years, parents and physicians have struggled to discover a cause and cure. Finally, one doctor has developed a system he says can help distressed parents cure their crying baby. Dr. Harvey Karp, a Santa Monica pediatrician, has developed the “5 S’s System.”

Karp’s system initiates and maximizes a baby’s natural calming reflex through swaddling, placing the baby on its side or stomach, using “shushing” sounds, swinging and sucking. Colic occurs in approximately one out of ten babies. It usually begins a few weeks after birth and is defined as crying on and off for more than three hours a day, three or more days a week. The crying is characterized as screaming, complete with a purple face and flailing arms. The fits typically happen in the late afternoon or evening. Colic generally peaks at about six weeks and improves around three to five months.

Colic is not considered a disease or physical condition. While many people use the term “colicky” to describe a fussy baby, a truly colic baby is an otherwise healthy infant with specific symptoms. The Mayo Clinic defines these symptoms as:

Predictable, recurring crying episodes: A colicky baby cries around the same time each day, usually in the late afternoon or evening. Colic episodes may last from just a few minutes to three hours or more on any given day, although babies with colic are likely to cry as long as two to three hours several days a week. The crying usually begins suddenly and for no clear reason. Your baby may have a bowel movement or pass gas near the end of the colic episode.

Activity: Colicky babies tend to draw their legs onto their abdomens, clench their fists, tense their stomachs, or thrash around and appear to be in pain during crying episodes. Intense or inconsolable crying: Colic crying is intense, not weak or sickly. Your baby’s face will likely be flushed, and he or she will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to comfort.
Experts are unclear on what causes colic. A number of explanations and possibilities exist including:

  • Milk allergies or milk intolerance
  • An immature digestive system causing unusually strong intestinal contractions
  • Food backing up into the esophagus – the passage connecting your baby’s mouth and stomach
  • Increased intestinal gas
  • Hormone changes in your baby
  • Your baby’s temperament
  • Maternal anxiety
  • Postpartum depression
  • Differences in the way your baby is fed or comforted

What parents need to know

Are some babies more susceptible to colic? A number of theories exist, but none have been proven conclusively. Infants of both sexes, bottle-fed and breast feed, all experience colic in the same numbers. According to the Mayo Clinic, increased risk of colic is not linked to:

  1. First-time parents: First-time parent are no more likely to have a colicky baby than experienced parents, although colic may be especially stressful for new parents.
  2. Breast-feeding: If you are breast-feeding, your baby’s colic probably is not the result of something you are eating.
  3. Formula feeding: Formula is usually not the cause of colic, although special formulas can help some babies.
  4. Lactose intolerance: Most babies have some degree of lactose intolerance, but the connection to colic is not clear-cut.
  5. Colicky babies are extremely hard to comfort. There are no medical remedies, but several traditional techniques may help. The Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital recommends:
  • Try rocking, cradling or cuddling your baby close to you.
  • Use a close fitting infant carrier or gently swaddle your infant in a baby blanket.
  • Rock or swing your baby rhythmically in an infant swing.
  • Take the baby for a car ride with the child securely fastened in a car seat.
  • Play soft music or sing to them in a soft, soothing voice.
  • Hold your baby and bottle upright so that as little air goes into your baby as possible.
  • Switching from breastfeeding to formula, or vice versa, rarely helps; but if you think changing the formula might help, discuss it with your doctor.

If you have tried these techniques with little success, you may want to consider Dr. Karp’s “5 S’s System.” According to Dr. Karp, to sooth a crying infant, recreating the womb environment helps the baby feel more secure and calm. Dr. Karp recommends:

Swaddling: Tight swaddling provides the continuous touching and support your baby is used to experiencing within the womb.

Side/stomach position: The infant is placed on their left side to assist in digestion, or on their stomach to provide reassuring support. “But never use the stomach position for putting your baby to sleep,” cautions Karp. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is linked to stomach-down sleep positions. When a baby is in a stomach down position do not leave them even for a moment.

Shushing sounds: These imitate the continual whooshing sound made by the blood flowing through arteries near the womb.

Swinging: Newborns are used to the swinging motions within their mother’s womb, so entering the gravity driven world of the outside is like a sailor adapting to land after nine months at sea. “It’s disorienting and unnatural,” says Karp. Rocking, car rides, and other swinging movements all can help.

Sucking: “Sucking has its effects deep within the nervous system,” notes Karp, “and triggers the calming reflex and releases natural chemicals within the brain.”
Written by Mandy Rider, CWK Network, Inc

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