Shaken Baby Syndrome
Shaken Baby Syndrome

Until you experience it, you can never know just how crazy uncontrollable crying can make you. When you have a distressed newborn on your sleep-deprived hands, and nothing you do seems to make any difference, it’s hard to imagine a worse place to be.

However, no matter how frustrated and exhausted you might be, never shake your baby. Babies heads are large and heavy and forcible shaking can cause irrevocable neurological damage.

Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) is a severe form of head injury that occurs when a baby is shaken forcibly enough to cause his brain to reverberate (bounce) against his skull. It may cause bruising, swelling and bleeding of the brain, which may lead to permanent, severe brain damage or death.

Symptoms of SBS may include:

  • changes in behaviour 
  • irritability 
  • lethargy 
  • vomiting 
  • convulsions 
  • loss of consciousness 
  • pale or blue-ish skin

There may be no outward physical signs of trauma, but bones may be broken, injured or dislocated, and there may be injuries to the neck and spine.

Immediate emergency treatment is necessary - 

If you or someone you know has shaken your baby, call 111 immediately. Don’t be ashamed or scared to take responsibility – your child’s life may be on the line. 

If you feel overwhelmed by your crying baby:

  • Put your baby safely in his cot and walk away. 
  • Take a deep breath and count to 10, scream into a pillow, have a cup of tea – whatever it takes to help you calm down x Ask someone else to come and take over if that’s possible, or call someone who will help you through your feelings (see list of contacts below)
  • Do not pick up the baby again until you’ve calmed down 
  • If you are finding yourself feeling like this regularly, get some help.  Have a chat to your doctor, child health nurse or counselor about how you’re feeling.

Always ask for help, contact your Dr or your nearest Plunket branch.


Related articles:

Post Natal Depression
You and your baby after birth
Signs of infant illness


This article was written for Kidspot, New Zealands leading pregnancy and parenting resource from sources including
The Ministerial Advisory Council on Child Protection, The University of New South Wales .

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