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How to Avoid Shaken Baby Syndrome: Here's What You Need to Know

Medically reviewed by Ruben Macapinlac, MD, DPPS · Pediatrics · Philippine Pediatric Society

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Jun 02, 2021

    How to Avoid Shaken Baby Syndrome: Here's What You Need to Know

    Shaken baby syndrome is a condition that occurs when a person shakes a baby or a child violently. It is a form of abuse, and knowing how to prevent and avoid shaken baby syndrome is important for parents to know.

    What is shaken baby syndrome?

    how to avoid shaken baby syndrome

    Shaken baby syndrome happens when an adult picks up a baby and shakes them vigorously.

    The injuries that babies suffer are potentially more serious because their necks are not strong enough to support the weight of their head.

    As a result, the head starts to move violently, causing injury.

    As the child is being shaken, the brain hits the inside of the skull.

    When this happens, the brain gets damaged and can cause the following problems:

    • Hemorrhage or bleeding in the brain. A subdural hematoma might develop, wherein blood deposits in between the brain and the dura, or the outer membrane of the brain.
    • Swelling of the brain due to direct trauma, which occurs where the brain hits the skull
    • Babies can suddenly stop breathing
    • Nerve cell branches in the brain can break off because of the shaking.

    Injuries to the child’s neck, ribs, and collarbone are possible as well.

    All of these things can result in severe injury, long-term disability, or even death to a child.

    Knowing how to avoid shaken baby syndrome is crucial information that parents and caregivers need to know.

    What are the long-term effects of shaken baby syndrome?

    Children who suffered from shaken baby syndrome usually suffer from its long-term effects.

    Here are some of the possible problems that they might have:


    Because of the damage caused by shaking to the brain, some children develop seizures as a long-term problem. They might suffer from uncontrollable muscle movement, and could find it hard to see, or speak normally.

    Cerebral palsy

    Cerebral palsy can be defined as a group of nonprogressive dysfunction of motor movement, posture, and limitation of functional movement. This happens if the child’s brain has been injured, and they are unable to move their muscles normally.

    This can also cause muscle weakness due to the lack of movement and exercise in some muscles.


    Shaken baby syndrome can cause injury in the nerves connected to the eyes, or the part of the brain responsible for sight. As a result, this can cause difficulty seeing, or even blindness.

    Learning disabilities

    Shaken baby syndrome can also cause learning disabilities in children. Parents usually don’t discover these problems until their child has already started school.

    Intellectual disabilities

    Intellectual disabilities are also common because of extensive damage to the brain. This can cause problems like delayed development, or below average intelligence.

    In some cases, the child might need special care even as an adult, because they are unable to properly take care of themselves.

    Learning Disability vs Intellectual Disability – How Are They Different?


    Damage to the spine or brain stem can also result in partial or full paralysis in some children.

    Behavioral problems

    It is also possible for shaken baby syndrome to cause behavioral problems in children. This can make it difficult for parents to handle their child, and can cause children to act out, or even behave in a violent manner.

    What are the symptoms of shaken baby syndrome?

    Here are some of the symptoms of shaken baby syndrome to watch out for:

    • The baby is having a seizure
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Drowsiness and irritability
    • Coma
    • Convulsions
    • Cardiac arrest
    • Abnormal breathing, or shallow breathing
    • Vomiting
    • Dilated pupils that do not respond to light
    • If the baby’s head is bent back, and their back is arched

    Any combination of these symptoms could mean that the baby was shaken and has suffered serious injury as a result.

    If you notice any of these symptoms in your baby, immediately take them to the hospital. It is important for doctors to treat the baby immediately in order to prevent more serious complications.

    How to avoid shaken baby syndrome

    Knowing how to avoid shaken baby syndrome is an important thing that parents should know. And more often than not, shaken baby syndrome results from anger or frustration from a parent or caregiver.

    Here are some things that parents can do in order to help avoid this from happening:

    • Extend your patience. Some babies are more fussy than others, and might require a lot more care. It is important for parents and caregivers to be patient, and to stay as calm as possible.
    • If you feel angry or frustrated, leave the baby alone for a bit and go to another room. This can help you cool your head and think clearly.
    • When hiring a nanny or entrusting your baby to a caregiver, make sure that you can trust them, and that they will not hurt your baby.
    • If you suffer from anger issues, it might be a good idea to see a therapist about it so that you can process your anger in a healthy manner.
    • Postpartum depression can sometimes lead to shaken baby syndrome. It is important for mothers suffering from this condition to seek help.
    • Talking to a trusted friend about your frustrations can also help.
    • If you have a spouse, do not hesitate to ask them for help, or talk to them about your feelings.
    • Taking some new parent classes can help parents understand their children better, and prevent these situations from happening

    By following the tips above, you can help ensure that your little one will always be safe and healthy.

    Learn more about Parenting and Child Health here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Ruben Macapinlac, MD, DPPS

    Pediatrics · Philippine Pediatric Society

    Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Jun 02, 2021

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