Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) is a form of head trauma that occurs when an infant or small child is shaken so badly that it causes brain damage. Infants are especially susceptible due to the fact that they have weaker necks, large heads in proportion to their bodies, and their brains are softer. As little as four or five seconds of shaking can result in severe trauma or even the death of an infant.
Infants cry a lot, particularly during the initial 5 months of their lives. A typical, healthy infant may cry as much as five hours per day during their first couple of months. After this, they cry less every month. Still, crying is the most frequent reason why infants are shaken and injured by their caregivers, who can get frustrated with their inability to console the child. SBS is not a result of gently playing with an infant in an age appropriate way, for example, when you bounce a toddler on your knee or rock an infant in your arms. Nor is it a result of an infant tumbling and falling down as it learns how to stand or walk. SBS often happens when a parent or caregiver gets so frustrated with a baby’s persistent crying that he or she loses control. All it takes is a few seconds of violent shaking for the baby to be critically injured or killed.
Symptoms of SBS can vary from mild to severe. In some instances, there may not be any physical signs of injury such as bruising, bleeding or swelling. However, there are several common symptoms of SBS that can be identified including:
Often, an infant might have to undergo a variety of medical tests and be evaluated by child abuse experts before being diagnosed with SBS. But, if you are a parent or caregiver, it is important for you to be aware of the symptoms listed above and to seek medical attention immediately if you suspect SBS.
SBS can cause long-term disabilities. If your child survives the initial shaking incident, his or her symptoms may vary over the course of several years. As he or she grows and develops to the age where certain higher functioning skills are expected, the true measure of the damage caused by the incident may become evident. It’s common for babies who are suffering SBS to experience physical impairments such as blindness or paralysis, and to have long-term learning disabilities and behavior problems. Rehabilitative treatment is likely to be necessary long after the injuring incident occurs.
Your first priority as a parent should be the health and well-being of your child. If you feel that your child is suffering from SBS as a result of negligence or abuse by a parent, caregiver, friend or relative, first have your child examined by a medical professional who specializes in testing for SBS, then consult with an SBS attorney right away to explore your options.