Shaken Baby Syndrome

When an infant or toddler is shaken, the brain bounces back and forth against the skull. This can cause bruising of the brain, swelling, and bleeding in the brain. The large veins along the outside of the brain may tear, leading to further bleeding, swelling, and increased pressure. Shaken baby syndrome may destroy a child’s brain cells and prevent his or her brain from getting enough oxygen. This can cause permanent brain damage or death.

Shaking a baby can cause other injuries too, such as damage to the neck, spine and eyes.

It is said that shaken baby syndrome consists of a ‘triad’ of neurological symptoms which include:

1. Subdural haemorrhage (bleeding beneath the outer layer of membranes surrounding the brain)
2. Retinal bleeding
3. Hypoxaemic encephalopathy (brain swelling)

Theses classic symptoms have however been challenged recently when diagnosing paediatric head trauma.

What causes Shaken Baby Syndrome?

In many cases, an angry person is found to have shaken the baby in frustration and loss of self control. Such shaking often takes place when the baby is crying inconsolably. The person caring for the baby may shake him or her in final attempt to stop the crying. The caregiver may be under a considerable amount of stress or may be suffering from a medical condition such as post-natal depression.

Shaken baby syndrome is unlikely to result from playful swinging or tossing the baby in the air or from jogging with a baby. It is also unlikely to occur through accidents such as dropping a baby or the baby falling from furniture. A considerable amount of force must be implemented in the shaking of the baby to result in the severe outcome of shaken baby syndrome.

NSPCC figures show that more than 220 infants in the UK were killed or injured as a result of being shaken in the past decade.

A BBC analysis found out of 1,253 serious case reviews published on the NSPCC’s website from 2008 to 2018, 229 of those cases involved a child being shaken – and often it was referred to as shaken baby syndrome.

How do you identify the symptoms?

A baby suffering from shaken baby syndrome may be seen to have any of the following symptoms:

• Extreme irritability
• Vomiting
• Extreme fussiness or irritability
• Difficulty staying awake
• Breathing problems
• Poor appetite or feeding problems
• Convulsions (seizures)
• Lethargy (extreme tiredness, lack of movement, inability to stay awake)
• Pale- or blue-colored skin
• Bruises on the arms or chest
• Paralysis
• A large head or forehead
• A soft spot on top of the head that is bulging
• Inability to lift his or her head
• Dilated (widened) pupils
• Tremors (the shakes)
• Inability to focus or follow movement with his or her eyes
• Coma (unconsciousness)

Look out for the next blog in this series: Shaken Baby Syndrome – The Triad

If you are the parent of a child and there are allegations that he/she is suffering from shaken baby syndrome and you need legal representation to deal with the upcoming proceedings, then do not hesitate to make contact with our experienced family law department on 0845 287 0939 or submit your enquiry online