Shaken baby syndrome: an abuse that can be fatal

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Shaken baby syndrome: an abuse that can be fatal

The government is launching a new national shaken baby syndrome awareness campaign. This abuse fraught with consequences claims more than one victim a day.

A public health priority

The cases of shaken babies are not isolated occurrences. Every year, several hundred children are victims of it. This abuse, deliberately perpetrated by adults, sometimes in denial of the seriousness of their act, represents the most serious form of head trauma in children.

In France, 1 baby out of 10, victim of shaking, dies, others will suffer the consequences all their lives. Shaken baby syndrome is the cause severe neurological sequelae manifested by intellectual, visual or motor impairments, as well as behavioral, speech or attention disorders.

To alert and shed light on the reality of this phenomenon, the Government is taking up the subject through a national awareness campaign. This initiative by Adrien Taquet, Secretary of State for Children and Families to the Minister for Solidarity and Health, supported by experts and witness parents, is based in particular on the broadcast of a shock film that you can watch below and which reminds us that shaking a baby is an abuse that can be fatal.

See the LSF version of this video

Shaking a baby is an abuse that can be fatal

Also called “non-accidental head trauma” (TCNA), Shaken Baby Syndrome results when a baby or young child is violently shaken by an adult. These shocks, always extremely violent, are produced most often when grasping the baby in the armpits or through the chest. His head rocks back and forth rapidly and his brain hits the walls of his skull.

The baby can then stop breathing and brain, eye and spinal cord damage can occur. Significant loss of neurons, that will impact the child all his lifecan also be caused.

Key figures

  • Several hundred children are victims of this syndrome according to Public Health France [1] ;
  • The victims mostly between 2 and 4 months [2] ;
  • 1 in 10 victims deceased [3] ;
  • 3/4 have serious sequelae on the long term [4] ;
  • Shaken Baby Syndrome is characterized by high recidivism rate : Shaken babies have been shaken an average of 10 times [5].

Warning symptoms

Shaken Baby Syndrome is usually not an isolated abuse. Previous symptoms suggestive of abuse are especially common in diagnosed babies. In order to avoid recurrences, it is possible to spot certain signs:

Pay particular attention to the behavior and manifestations of the child that can translate a form ofdiscomfort, malaise, malaise, embarrassment or mental suffering in the presence of some adults.

Worrying about bruises, bruises or hematomas, on a non-walking baby who cannot hurt himself.

If abuse and shaking is suspected, it is essential to talk about it and not to face the situation alone.

The effects of shaken baby syndrome

75% of babies who survive shaking will experience very heavy sequelae due to brain damage:

  • A delay in psychomotor development or motor disabilities;
  • Cognitive disorders and learning difficulties;
  • Behavioral problems;
  • eating disorders;
  • Sleep disturbances;
  • visual impairment or blindness;
  • Hearing loss or deafness;
  • Epileptic seizures.

Adopt the right reflexes in case of difficulty with a child


Keeping a baby is not easy. If you are a parent or a person responsible for a child and you find yourself in a vulnerable situation or experiencing difficulties, there are good reflexes to adopt.

If no one is there to help you:

Keeping a baby is not easy. If those responsible for the child are experiencing difficulties or feel vulnerable to the child, they must:

  1. Secure baby in bed, laying him on his back. There is no danger in leaving him alone in this position;
  2. Leave the room for a few minutes ;
  3. Breathe and focus on something else to regain their composure;
  4. If possible call a relative to talk about it or help them by taking over;
  5. Ask for help : share their fears and doubts with those around them as well as with professionals.

Respond urgently to immediate symptoms


After shaking, symptoms that may be related to serious neurological damage immediately occur:

  • unusual drowsiness, disturbances of consciousness;
  • Body stiffness or on the contrary a loss of tone;
  • Abnormal movements or seizures (arms and legs stiffen or move uncontrollably);
  • Difficulties in breathing or pauses in breathing;
  • Decreased appetite, refusal to eat or vomiting for no apparent reason;
  • Loss of smiles or habitual babbling;
  • Less good contact, extreme irritability, unusual crying;
  • Eye disorders: the eyes have abnormal movements, the pupils are of unequal size, the child squints or no longer follows the gaze.


What to do in an emergency?

  • Contact emergency medical services by calling 15 or 112 (114 by text message for people who are deaf or hard of hearing): Early diagnosis and care are essential to reduce neurological sequelae.
  • While waiting for help to arrive, if the baby has convulsions or if he vomits, place him on his side, in a recovery position.
  • Make sure the baby does not have a fever and if it does, manage it.
  • Check if he does not need to drink or eat, to be changed, covered more or on the contrary, covered less.

There are two toll-free numbers for contacting early childhood professionals:

- An emergency number : line “Hello Childhood in Danger” the National Telephone Reception Service for Children in Danger (SNATED) whose mission is to provide help and advice to callers faced with a situation of a child in danger or at risk of being so.

  • Reachable at 119 available 24/7.

- A help and listening number: the “Allo Parents Bébé” line from the Enfance et Partage association, whose mission is to listen, support and guide worried parents from pregnancy until the child is three years old.

  • Reachable at 0 800 00 34 56, from Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

The communication campaign

To alert to the reality of this abuse and its consequences, and to present preventive solutions shaken baby syndrome, the ministry in charge of solidarity worked closely with committed stakeholders, including recognized experts and witness parents.

Distributed digitally, as part of a media buying campaign, on the main video platforms (YouTube, MY TF1, francetvpluzz, 6play), social media platforms (Facebook/Instagram, Snapchat, Twitch) and a wide range of publisher sites, from January 17, 2022, this shock film formally reports that shaken baby syndrome can prove fatal in 1 in 10 cases.

Its distribution will be accompanied by a communication kit (poster, leaflet, etc.), to help professionals and health institutions raise awareness among their patients or the public they receive about shaken baby syndrome.

This campaign is part of the “first 1000 days” of the child, intended for future and young parents, and is accompanied by a series of ministerial trips to the field.

Download the First 1000 Days app

Testimonials and expertise

  • Aude Lafitte, grieving momtestifies and engages;
  • 3 questions to Dr. Anne Laurent-Vannier, former head of the child rehabilitation center at the hospitals of Saint-Maurice (Val-de-Marne).

[1] Impossible to identify the cases in their entirety, additional information is available in the publication of the Weekly Epidemiological Bulletin (BEH), Public Health France, 2019

[2] High Authority for Health (HAS), 2017

[3] A figure confirmed by the experts mobilized within the framework of the campaign, based among other things on the publication of the BEH, Santé Publique France, 2019

[4] BEH, Public Health France, 2019

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