Babies are the lovely surprise in any parent’s life. They are a wonder that creates a strong bond of love and care. At the same time, it is a sensitive time to make sure that you keep their needs always in mind. Read on to know how something like a shaken baby syndrome might indirectly harm your newborn.
What is Shaken Baby Syndrome?
Shaken baby syndrome or SBS is a dangerous and life threatening neurological condition. Something simple like bouncing your infant on the knee might not cause SBS. It is an extreme form of shaking or slamming the infant when holding by some extremity like shoulders.
SBS commonly affects infants and children below 5 years of age causing a serious damage to the baby’s movement, brain and overall health. A result called a subdural hemorrhage - creates increased bleeding within the head and behind the eyes. This creates cell damage that prevents the brain from getting enough oxygen.
In addition, SBS creates a tendency for your baby to be vulnerable with other diseases or conditions like brain and vision problems, seizures, permanent muscle stiffness, intellectual disabilities, blindness, trouble seeing, physical or emotional growth delays.
Causes of Shaken Baby Syndrome
A condition like SBS can be caused due to three factors:
When parents are feeling a sense of fatigue, stress and anger when the baby is in need of something - SBS could be a direct reaction from an adult. Most of the times it is by accident or in a playful spirit - without the knowledge of any harm that might come to the infant.
Your little baby should not be in any events of extreme movement like shaking or being thrown around. Most conditions or environments where the baby’s head might move forward, backward and twisted have to be avoided. Sometimes even a late response of an emergency due to the presence of an outside caretaker like babysitter - creates a serious enough symptoms for SBS to occur.
- infant’s own behavior
If the baby automatically cries in an extreme manner, there is a possibility of SBS manifesting. Sometimes your baby might have some traits that might also increase the chances of SBS. This includes: weak brain tissue, blood vessels, torn nerves, heavy head, weak neck muscles, higher water content in brain matter and poor motor control. Such traits of your baby might make him/her more prone to injury from SBS.
Signs and symptoms
There are no such external signs to identify a case of SBS which can make diagnosis difficult. Thus, try to look out for signs like the ones below in your newborn:
- crying, irritation or discomfort suddenly stops without an explanation. Here the baby maybe unresponsive, lost consciousness or has no pulse
- change in sleeping pattern or inability to be awakened
- symptoms of convulsions or seizures
- muscle stiffness
- inability to be consoled, nursed or fed
- rare flu like symptoms without a direct reason of sickness. This includes vomiting, irritability, malaise, fever, nausea, swollen gums, uncontrolled crying, etc.
- breathing problems like irregularity or lack of breathing
When should you visit the doctor?
While in most cases SBS is accidental - you should be careful of the dangers of intentional occurrences of SBS. These cases have started to increase in the world and even in India.
Thus, it is important to not only keep trusted individuals with your little baby - but also to be in constant contact with a professional or doctor. This is especially important if you have any questions, doubts or a must if you have suspicions about any of the above symptoms in your baby.
Prevention and treatment
Even though SBS can be dangerous - there are safe and successful methods to treat this syndrome.
In serious cases, hospital monitoring will directly help manage to bring your baby’s system to the optimum level. As per the severity of the symptoms - doctors chose the way they will further treat SBS. This ranges from oxygen therapy, medications, cooling mattress, surgery, physical therapy to counseling.
2. Never shake a baby
Any extreme movement must be avoided - at least not for more than 20 seconds - as the baby’s bone as well as muscle development is still yet to finish strongly. With caution and care, make sure the baby's basic needs like hunger or a diaper change is taken care of.
Subtle and calm movements like rocking, walking, singing, talking, closely holding, offering a pacifier/noisy toy, riding on a stroller or in a safety seat of the car - all will provide the same feeling of calmness for your baby. With both of you now calm and happy - SBS symptoms will be hard to create any issues.
3. Self health
It is, thus, very important that you keep yourself healthy and happy. With good stress relief and other healthy coping strategies - you can provide a good environment for your little baby.
4. The five S’s
Another method that may help is what the Journal of Nursing and Health Science call the five S's which includes:
- shushing using "white noise" or rhythmic sounds like with hair dryers, clothes dryers, running tub, or white noise CDs. These will mimic the constant whir of noise in the womb
- side/stomach positioning i.e. placing the baby on the left side or on the belly while
holding him or her. This not only helps calming your baby but also helps with good digestion. Then you can put the sleeping baby in the crib or bassinet on his or her back
- sucking i.e. letting the baby breastfeed, bottle-feed, or giving the baby a pacifier to suck on
- swaddling i.e. wrapping the baby up snugly in a blanket to help him or her feel more secure
- swinging gently i.e. rocking in a chair, infant swing, or taking a car ride to help duplicate the
constant motion the baby felt in the womb
5. Always seek assistance
Don’t worry and stay calm mommies. There is plenty of help and assistance - something you should never be scared or shy to ask for. Call your doctor immediately if nothing seems to be helping your baby and the symptoms are getting much worse. Always consult and keep in contact with a professional or doctor with questions, doubts or suspicions.
If you want to take a break - there is no harm in going away for awhile and leaving your baby with a trusted individual. Sometimes returning after - say 10 minutes - makes things much better. In fact, taking tips for skills and abilities from someone you trust also helps you in dealing with SBS in a better way.
Having your baby maybe anxiety or struggles many a times - but it is also the best time of love you continue to feel even if when they grow older.