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What is shaken baby syndrome?

View profile for Nicola Clayton
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Headway to raise awareness of brain injury related fatigue during Action for Brain Injury Week

At Stephensons we have extensive experience in our family law department of dealing with cases where the local authority have become involved due to allegations of physical abuse to children. One key area that can be complex is that commonly known as “shaken baby syndrome” and often referred to as a non-accidental head injury.

In the simplest terms, shaken baby syndrome is a brain injury that has been inflicted. This type of injury is commonly believed by many to be caused by shaking a child causing movement and forces, with or without impact against a hard or soft surface. This action causes the brain to move within the skull resulting in the following symptoms:

  1. Bleeding within the eye
  2. Bleeding beneath the dura in the brain
  3. Damage affecting brain function

A child who has suffered such an injury can present as lethargic, floppy, unconscious, vomiting or may have stopped breathing.

If a child is seen by a medical professional with symptoms as identified above (known as the triad) then this is indicative of a non-accidental injury because of shaking. This will result in a referral being made to Children’s Services who will investigate further as is their legal duty. It is highly likely that care proceedings will be issued urgently to enable the court to put in place safety measures under an emergency protection order or interim care order pending further investigation.

Shaken baby syndrome is a serious form of abuse inflicted upon a child. It can cause permanent brain damage or even death. Cases usually happen to babies and toddlers younger than two years old. It usually occurs because of the caregiver feeling angry, tired, upset, or frustrated, most commonly because a child will not settle or will not stop crying.

This sort of abuse is preventable, and caregivers should tell anybody caring for their child to never shake them. It is important to explore safe ways to calm your child and understand that it is okay to put your child in a safe place, walk away and take a break if you are feeling overwhelmed or struggling with your child’s behaviour.

If you are the parent of a child and there are allegations that they are suffering from shaken baby syndrome then please do not hesitate to contact our specialist family law team on 0161 696 6193 who will be able to help.