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Shaken Baby Syndrome

A symposium entitled "Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS)-A Tragic Deviation of Infant Development" was held at the International Conference on Infant Studies in Kyoto. Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) occurs when an infant is violently shaken and suffers a strong blow in an abusive incident, traffic accident, etc. An infant's neck muscles are still weak and unable to support its head. Shaking causes damage such as sudden alteration in consciousness, tremors (acute encephalopathy), cerebral hemorrhage (subdural hemorrhage), cerebral edema (swelling caused by accumulation of fluid on the brain), or retinal hemorrhaging. SBS refers to such symptoms that involve the delicate structure of blood vessels and cranium and soft structure of the brain.

SBS generally results when parents become irritated and violently shake a baby who does not stop crying. Inconsolable crying at night for no apparent reason, or colic, is seen in infants up to the age of six months. Dr. Ronald G. Barr of Canada has called this pattern of early crying "PURPLE Crying," an acronym for Peak of Crying, Unexpected, Resist to Soothing, Pain-like face, Long-lasting, and Evening. In fact, the peak of SBS occurrence coincides with the peak of PURPLE Crying between birth and three to four months. For this reason, these two phenomena appear to be related. Although the cause of PURPLE Crying is not fully known, many pediatricians think that it is related to the process by which the infant's biological rhythm after months of the being in the womb with no light gradually becomes synchronized with circadian rhythm. Even adults experience biological irregularities when flying from Tokyo to New York, for example, and normally have jet lag for two to three days before their biological rhythm become synchronized with circadian rhythm. This synchronization takes longer for the elderly, and even longer for newborns. This discomfort is believed to cause PURPLE Crying. This concept of PURPLE Crying has contributed to awareness of infant crying in Canada where parents are educated not to shake a baby when annoyed or during play. As a result, Canada has reported a drastic reduction in SBS occurrence.

SBS can tragically occur when fathers become too enthusiastic while playing with infants and rock them too hard or throw them in the air. SBS has also been reported as the result of reckless driving for an extended period of time. However, U.S. researchers report no cases of SBS resulting from holding the infants high in the air or bouncing them on one's back and knees.

It is important to remember that SBS has a detrimental effect on child growth and development. In addition to severe brain damage, it can also cause other aftereffects such as blindness, paralysis, convulsions, learning disorders, cognitive disorders, behavioral disorders, etc. Infants have undeveloped neck muscles that cannot yet support the weight of their head and this means they need to be treated gently and never shaken.
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