Shaken Baby Syndrome

Abusive Head Trauma (AHT), also known as Shaken baby syndrome (SBS), is a type of traumatic brain injury that is inflicted when someone intentionally and violently shakes a baby. Shaken baby injuries usually occur in children younger than 2 years old, but may be seen in children up to the age of 5. A baby has weak neck muscles and a large, heavy head. Shaking makes the baby’s fragile brain bounce back and forth inside the skull, causing bruising, swelling, and bleeding; this can lead to permanent, severe brain damage or death. The typical injuries resulting from shaken baby syndrome are bleeding in the brain, bleeding in the retina of the eye, damage to the spinal cord and neck, and fractures of the ribs and bones. These injuries may not be immediately noticeable.


Symptoms of abusive head trauma include:

  • Breathing problems
  • Convulsions
  • Extreme irritability
  • Pale or bluish skin
  • Poor feeding
  • Sluggishness or weakness
  • Vomiting

Emergency Treatment

Emergency treatment for a baby who has been severely shaken usually includes life-sustaining measures such as breathing support and surgery to stop internal bleeding and/or bleeding in the brain. Doctors may use brain scans to make a more definite diagnosis.

After Effects of AHT

In comparison with accidental traumatic brain injury in babies, infants suffering from abusive head trauma have a much worse chance of recovery. Damage to the retina of the eye can cause blindness. The majority of infants who survive severe shaking will have some form of neurological or mental disability, such as cerebral palsy or mental retardation, which may not become fully apparent prior to the child reaching the age of 6. Children with abusive head trauma may require lifelong medical care. This information is from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).

Purple Crying

“The Period of PURPLE Crying” describes the time in a baby’s life when they cry more than any other time, and provides a new way of understanding a baby’s crying. The Period of PURPLE Crying begins at about 2 weeks of age and continues until about 3 to 4 months of age. Some babies cry a lot and some cry far less, but all babies go through this period. Learn more about PURPLE Crying from "The Period of PURPLE Crying" website. There are common characteristics of this phase, which are described by the acronym PURPLE:

  • P = Peak of Crying
  • U = Unexpected
  • R = Resists Soothing
  • P = Pain-Like Face
  • L = Long Lasting
  • E = Evening


Some additional sources for information regarding abusive head trauma are:


Anyone may report suspected child maltreatment. Infants or children who are being hurt by their parents or caretakers rely on the intervention of others to protect them.

Law enforcement departments and Mille Lacs County Community and Veterans Services are the agencies charged with receiving reports of child abuse occurring in Mille Lacs County:

  • You may report suspicions of child abuse by calling Mille Lacs County Community and Veterans Services at 320-983-8208 or 888-270-8208 during regular business hours (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.).
  • During regular business hours (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.), contact the Mille Lacs County Sheriff’s Office at 320-983-8250 or 888-860-8250; after regular business hours, call 911.
  • If you believe a child is in imminent danger, has injuries that need medical attention, or is not safe remaining at home, call 911.