Shaking a baby has long-term consequences

Sep 27, 2013

Within a week’s time, two young Haywood men, in separate cases, have been charged with shaking a baby.

In both cases, the child was found to have serious injuries and the men were arrested.

With two acts that likely lasted less than 30 seconds each, four lives have been inextricably altered.

Babies that are violently shaken can have varying degrees of impairment, including severe brain damage, blindness or cerebral palsy. These conditions require lifelong medical care and can result in a child never having the chance to develop his or her full potential.

There has even been a name applied to this — shaken baby syndrome. Statistics show that up to half the child abuse deaths stem from shaking.

Babies, with their large, heavy heads and weak neck muscles, must be treated especially gently. Shaking makes their fragile brain bounce back and forth inside their skull, causing bruising, swelling and bleeding.

The injuries from shaken baby syndrome may not be immediately noticeable.  Symptoms include extreme irritability, lethargy, poor feeding, breathing problems, convulsions, vomiting and pale or bluish skin.  Shaken baby injuries usually occur in children younger than 2 years old, but may be seen in children up to the age of 5.

You would think the importance of never shaking a baby or a child is something that wouldn’t need to be taught. Common sense should tell us that shaking is every bit as bad as hitting or throwing a child. However, two recent tragedies in our county show something more needs to be done.

While we don’t know the full extent of the injuries sustained by the 3-month old and 5-month old babies who were victims, the cases were serious enough to involve the law enforcement authorities and the legal system.

Not only will the children likely suffer long-term consequences, so will the two young men charged with felonies.

The consequences won’t stop there. Consider the others in the children’s families, whose joy of being around a child has turned to sadness as they watch them struggle with their injuries. Then consider all the others in our community network who will be helping these innocent children grow into all they can be, despite an instantaneous act that changed their lives forever.

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