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Shaken Baby Syndrome

Key points to remember

  • it is never ever okay to shake a baby. Make sure that all the people who care for your baby know this
  • never leave your baby alone with someone that you know has an anger problem or violent temper
  • have a plan of what YOU will do if your baby keeps crying and you become upset or frustrated. There are things you can do and people who can help you
  • remember, crying is normal behaviour for babies. It is one of the few ways they have to communicate. Crying does not mean that they are being naughty

What is SBS (shaken baby syndrome)?

SBS (shaken baby syndrome) is a combination of serious injuries that can occur when an infant or young toddler is violently shaken.

It is the single most preventable cause of serious head injury in babies under one year of age in New Zealand.

It may only take one or two hard shakes to seriously injure a small child. This is because babies and toddlers have relatively big, heavy heads and weak neck muscles. When they are shaken the brain slams back and forth inside the skull, resulting in bleeding around the brain and damage to the brain itself. Some babies may even stop breathing, which can cause further brain damage.

The shaking can also cause bleeding into the back of the eyes. Many babies who are shaken also have broken ribs because they are held forcibly around the chest and squeezed when they are shaken. They may also suffer other broken bones during the shaking.

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