Can Shaken Baby Syndrome Cause Cerebral Palsy?

Causes of Cerebral Palsy

Crying baby overlaying text that reads 'do not shake'

If your child receives a cerebral palsy diagnosis, it’s natural to have questions about what could have caused it. If you suspect your child has experienced abuse, you may wonder if shaken baby syndrome can cause cerebral palsy. To better understand the link between the two, you need to learn about shaken baby syndrome and how it’s caused.

What Is Shaken Baby Syndrome?

Also known as shaken impact syndrome, shaken baby syndrome refers to a serious form of child abuse that occurs when a child’s parent or caregiver shakes a crying baby, infant, or toddler out of anger or frustration. When severe shaking occurs, the baby’s head moves violently back and forth inside their skull. This occurs because their weak neck muscles can’t fully support their heads.

Violent shaking leads to swelling, bruising, and bleeding. In some cases, shaking a baby can lead to permanent or fatal brain injury. Essentially, shaken baby syndrome destroys a child’s brain cells and deprives their brain of getting the oxygen it needs. When the baby’s head hits a surface, the injury becomes even more serious. Shaking a baby can lead to several injuries, including:

  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage
  • Subdural hematoma
  • Brain cell damage
  • Breakage or shearing off of nerve cell branches known as axons
  • Direct and irreversible brain damage
  • Retinal hemorrhages
  • Skull fractures when the baby hits a hard or soft surface
  • Bone fractures

Can Shaken Baby Syndrome Cause Cerebral Palsy?

Surviving babies with shaken baby syndrome may develop a variety of disabilities and medical problems that can diminish their quality of life, including cerebral palsy. Though there are treatments and therapies to help with cerebral palsy symptoms, a diagnosis can significantly impact the sufferer and their families.

Apart from cerebral palsy, here are some additional disabilities and medical issues your child may encounter after developing shaken baby syndrome:

  • Paralysis
  • Blindness
  • Developmental delays
  • Intellectual disability
  • Epilepsy and seizures
  • Brain damage
  • Hearing loss
  • Speech disorders
  • Learning disorders
  • Neck damage
  • Spinal cord damage
  • Death

If they suffer neck or spinal cord damage, it can lead to clumsiness or paralysis.

What Are Some Shaken Baby Syndrome Risk Factors?

There are several reasons as to why a parent or caregiver would violently shake a baby. Here are some examples of situations or emotions involving a parent or caregiver that could put children at risk:

  • Anger or frustration
  • Stress
  • Alcohol or substance abuse
  • Depression
  • Single parenthood
  • Young parenthood
  • Unstable families
  • Mistreatment as a child
  • Domestic violence

What Are Some Symptoms of Shaken Baby Syndrome?

If your baby was violently shaken, be on the lookout for several symptoms that could indicate shaken baby syndrome, including the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Seizures, tremors, or shakes
  • Paralysis
  • Extreme irritability
  • Drowsiness
  • Poor or less interest in eating
  • Breathing issues
  • Coma
  • Trouble sucking
  • No more smiling or talking
  • Pale or blue-colored skin
  • Inability to focus
  • Inability to follow movement with their eyes

There are also several physical symptoms that could indicate shaken baby syndrome, including:

  • Bruises on the arms or chest where they might have been grabbed
  • Abnormally large forehead or head
  • Favoring one arm or leg over the other
  • Different-sized or dilated pupils
  • Bulging soft spot on the top of the head
  • Inability to lift their head

Symptoms you can’t see include brain bleeding, broken bones, and a spinal cord or neck injury. As the baby grows, you may notice behavior, learning, or health issues.

How to Prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome

As a parent or caregiver, it’s important to understand the importance of taking care of a baby and the various ways to prevent shaken baby syndrome. While caring for a child for the first time can present challenges, shaking a baby is not acceptable. Here are some tips that can help your child avoid shaken baby syndrome and prevent them from resulting in cerebral palsy:

  • Call someone for emotional support.
  • Contact a pediatrician to determine if there’s a medical reason as to why the baby is crying.
  • Contact a doctor and receive a referral to a counselor or mental health provider to help manage your emotions.
  • If you or your children are experiencing abuse, reach out to a child abuse hotline.
  • Only leave the child with a trusted caregiver, friend, or family member.
  • Make sure all of your child’s caregivers understand the dangers of shaken baby syndrome.
  • Review a caregiver or daycare center’s references prior to them taking care of your child.
  • Attend new parent education classes to help you better understand shaken baby syndrome and the dangers of violently shaking a baby. These classes may also give you tips and coping mechanisms to help with your crying baby.

Shaken baby syndrome is only one cause of cerebral palsy. CP can also be linked to medical malpractice from attending physicians and medical professionals. If you believe your child is a victim of medical negligence, contact the Cerebral Palsy Family Lawyers at Janet, Janet & Suggs. We’ve provided legal assistance to over 30,000 families nationwide. With our medical and legal expertise, we’re prepared to seek out the truth and protect your legal rights.

Was Your Child's CP Preventable?