Shaken baby syndrome or SBS is the major cause of early infant deaths and is a criminal offense. Here is a detailed article to help identify an SBS case and prevent it immediately.
As alert citizens, we come across several cases of early infant deaths. The cause is most often stated as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). On a closer look, we realize that there could be more to this unusual death than SIDS. Shaken baby syndrome is a critical form of child abuse where the child suffers because of parental frustrations. Often children cry endlessly and without any control. A parent, a nanny or a caregiver may become extremely angry and frustrated during such situations and may end up shaking the baby really violently so as to bring the child under control. This results into SBS, which has a high mortality rate if the problem is neglected.
How Serious is Shaken Baby Syndrome Problem?
The approximate number of SBS is still unknown. Cases of SBS often go unnoticed, however it accounts for approximately 10% of early child death cases. Children with an age as less as 3 months have been victims of this problem. In some rare cases, the problem may persist till early adolescence. There are some cases of SBS reported in newborn babies as well. As stated earlier, SBS involves violent shaking of the child. Some common effects of this could be spinal cord injuries, retinal hemorrhages, permanent brain injury and early death. Approximately 25% of SBS cases end up in child death, due to lack of proper medication.
Understanding and Preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome
It is important to first understand what triggers shaken baby syndrome to help prevent it. Shaken baby syndrome is commonly seen in children who have physical deformities, learning disabilities, in adopted or foster care children, etc. If the parental frustration is not on account of any of these problems, then the problem might be triggered on account of factors such as insufficient parental education, parents with psychic problems, single parenting, early pregnancy or parents with substance abuse problems. It is often seen that, parents have themselves been abused in some way in their early childhood. If not intentionally, then the problem can be out of accidental brain injury on account of neglecting the child. Some other known factors include incorrect way of carrying babies viz. in back packs or kangaroo bags.
As alert citizens, it is our moral duty to inform a child abuse hot-line service immediately if we happen to know about a case of shaken baby syndrome and child abuse in our neighborhood. The abusive parents are likely to face legal action as it has been quoted as a criminal offense under Shaken Baby Syndrome Prevention Act.
If you as a parent are prone to lose control on your anger, then follow the following steps:
- It is best to avoid disciplining your child whenever you are angry. Similarly, avoid being close to your child when you are angry or when you are arguing with an adult.
- Never shake your child violently.
- If you happen to experience bouts of anger and frustration, then take help in child caring from a responsible caregiver from your family till you control your anger.
- Visit a counselor and opt to join an anger management program.
What Happens When a Child is Shaken?
It is fact that an infant’s brain is much smaller than the actual size of the skull. This is because the brain is still developing in the infancy age and grows larger as time moves on. A sudden and violent shaking can often result in shifting of the brain within the skull compartment causing tearing of blood vessels and severe damage to nervous tissues. This may cause internal bleeding in the brain and the eyes. As the problem advances, more complicated problems on account of damaged nervous system crop up. Often the damage to the brain becomes permanent viz cerebral palsy or blindness. At the same time, an infant’s muscle and bone tissues require time to develop. If the child is neglected or physically abused, there are cases of weakening of muscles, rib fractures and greenstick fractures.
At times, there may be some bruising on skin surface. Some of the telltale signs and symptoms to identify an SBS case may include, breathing problems, general lethargy, vomiting and nausea, irritability, brain selling, seizures, poor appetite, pale skin, unconsciousness, unpredictable behavior patterns, gloomy mood of the child, cerebral contusions, shearing of blood vessels, subdural and subarachnoid hemorrhages, neck and spinal injury, rib fractures and greenstick fractures, non accidental bruises and injuries, retinal hemorrhages, blood-shot eyes and swelling under eyes.
One of the first aids to treat shaken baby syndrome include surgery and giving respiratory support. Surgery might include drainage of blood from brain to reduce internal swelling. An expert neurologist and ophthalmologist may have to be consulted for the matter. All necessary precautions to handle seizures should be followed. The child may need to be admitted in a hospital for treatment before he is fit enough to be sent back home. Remember, children look up to adults for support and protection. You might need to be alert and watch out for babies with weak neck muscles and an extra large head, which are some of the signs of shaken baby syndrome. It is our moral duty to provide them with protection.