SHAKEN BABY SYNDROME
Babies cry, they cry loudly, and often. Fussy babies can cry for extended periods of time. On occasion, a parent or caregiver can become very frustrated or even angry when the baby will not stop crying. When a person severely shakes the baby or toddler it can cause Shaken Baby Syndrome. (SBS)
SBS is caused when the baby is forcefully shaken. As a parent, you cradle your baby’s head and support it when handling the baby. That is because babies are born with very weak head and neck muscles and often cannot support their heads. When a baby is shaken with force, his or her brain moves back and forth inside the skull, causing bruising, swelling and bleeding. This impact often keeps oxygen from the brain cells, and kills the brain cells. SBS is not usually caused by gently bouncing baby on your knee, or even from a fall off furniture.
Here are symptoms you should be aware of:
• Extreme fussiness or irritability
• Difficulty staying awake
• Breathing problems
• Poor eating
• Pale or bluish skin
• Seizures or tremors
• Trouble sucking
• No smiling or talking
• A larger than usual head or forehead
• Different size pupil
• Not being able to focus
• Favoring one arm or leg over another
• Bruises on arms or legs where they baby may have been grabbed
Occasionally there may be symptoms that are not apparent like bleeding of the brain. In mild cases of SBS, a child may appear normal after being shaken, but over time he or she may develop health or behavioral problems.
Survivors of shaken baby syndrome may require lifelong medical care for conditions such as:
• Partial or total blindness
• Developmental delays, learning problems or behavior issues
• Intellectual disability
• Seizure disorders
• Cerebral palsy
As a parent you need to be aware of any of the above symptoms. Ask yourself: are you or anyone involved with your baby’s care experiencing any of the following?:
• Alcohol or substance abuse by you or anyone in the family.
• Unstable family situation.
• Depression- it is not uncommon for a new mother to become depressed
• Unrealistic expectations of babies
• Young or single parenthood
• Domestic violence
• A history of mistreatment as a child
Also, men are more likely to cause shaken baby syndrome than are women.
SBS can cause death. Even brief shaking of an infant can cause irreversible brain damage. That’s why it is very important that if you or a member of your family is not coping well, you may be able to prevent SBS by examining the following:
• Understand the severe and possible life-threatening effect that shaking a baby can cause. Share this information with others in your home.
• Understand that it is normal for babies to cry. Some babies will cry for hours, some have especially fussy times like in the evening, when they will cry for seemingly no reason.
• It is not your fault. You are not doing anything wrong
• Be aware of any household member who is dealing with substance abuse or other emotional problem. Make sure they protect the child from being left alone with that person.
• Ask your doctor, neighbor, friend, childcare provider or family member for some suggestions you can use to calm or comfort the baby.
• Openly talk to a trusted friend or relative about your feelings and how you are dealing with stress.
• Identify someone you can bring the baby to for a little while, when you are overwhelmed and stressed
If you are really struggling, don’t struggle alone, here some helpful things you can do:
• New parent education classes can help you better understand the dangers of violent shaking and may provide tips to soothe a crying baby and manage stress.
• When your crying baby can't be calmed, you may be tempted to try anything to get the tears to stop — but it's important to always treat your child gently. Nothing justifies shaking a child.
• If you're having trouble managing your emotions or the stress of parenthood, seek help. Your child's doctor may offer a referral to a counselor or other mental health provider.
• If other people help take care of your child — whether a hired caregiver, sibling or grandparent — make sure they know the dangers of shaken baby syndrome.
Seek immediate help if you suspect your child has been injured by violent shaking. Contact your child's doctor or take your child to the nearest emergency room. Getting medical care right away may save your child's life or prevent serious health problems.
Mayo clinic, (mayoclinic.org)