Child abuse of any kind is despicable, and abusing infants is particularly heinous. Newborn babies are extremely fragile and require loving, attentive, and gentle parenting. Some babies are born with colic or other conditions that can cause fussiness, crying, and many sleepless nights for parents. When parents, babysitters, or other caregivers attempt to silence a crying baby by grabbing the baby’s arms and shaking him or her, they can do irreparable harm and even jeopardize the baby’s life.
Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) refers to the intense harm that befalls shaken infants. SBS is often fatal, and, in most cases, perpetrators simply snapped and could not handle the frustration any longer. A parent or caregiver who causes SBS injuries to an infant will likely lose custody and face criminal charges.
Understanding Shaken Baby Syndrome
Because of their soft skull, babies’ heads are vulnerable and any rough physical attention can bring serious harm. A child who doesn’t understand this frailty or an adult who has lost patience because of an infant’s crying may unintentionally shake a baby, which can cause severe brain trauma. One of the worst aspects of this act is that a shaken baby will likely only keep crying, possibly spurring the perpetrator to shake the baby again.
When adults suffer traumatic brain injuries like concussions, the force of the injury causes the brain to strike the inside of the skull. Due to babies’ small size, shaking a baby causes his or her brain to violently shake back and forth inside the skull. This can damage the baby’s retinas or cause the veins that attach the brain to the skull to break. Within seconds, these broken veins and the resulting internal damage will cause blood to pool inside the skull and brain tissue to die. Brain cells swell as they die, crowding out the surviving cells and killing them as well.
A baby who suffers these injuries will likely experience oxygen deprivation and stop breathing. The lack of oxygen causes further brain damage, and all this can happen in mere seconds. Babies who experience these injuries rarely survive. If they do, they face lifelong complications and disabilities.
It’s important to note that babies do not always display the typical symptoms of SBS. Children who suffer slight shaking injuries on a consistent basis often develop lethargy, vomiting, and other symptoms that mimic other medical conditions. Research indicates that doctors only positively identify SBS without physical symptoms in one out of every five cases.
New diagnostic tools are still in development, and some shaken babies can survive their injuries better than an adult would. A baby’s brain has more elasticity than an adult’s. This makes it easier to injure, but it also makes it easier for the baby brain to repair itself. Shaken babies may recover from SBS, but it is a long and difficult road that often entails psychological or developmental disorders.
Parents who are suffering from a colicky baby or one who they can’t seem to sooth should take breaks from caregiving and calling on family and friends for help. They should also carefully vet whoever they hire to watch their children. If your child is displaying symptoms of SBS and you think your caregiver might be at fault, contact our child injury attorneys for advice.