Dozens of infants die annually from Shaken Baby Syndrome

Dozens of infants die an

baby crib 88 (photo credit: )
baby crib 88
(photo credit: )
Dozens of babies among the 650 who die before their first birthday are probably the victims of Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS or abusive head trauma), according to estimates by Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, head of the National Council for the Child. Kadman said on Monday that in many cases of infant mortality, the cause is not stated. Based on US statistics of 2,000 deaths from SBS in an average year and other findings, the council director said he believes a significant number of infant deaths in Israel result from violent shaking of the head and body of small children. He added that aside from deaths, "thousands and perhaps tens of thousands" of children suffer harm due to "accidents" whose actual proportions are discovered years later. Fully 82 percent of Israeli adults had no knowledge of the syndrome and had not heard or read about it, while only 7% said they have been exposed to information. A public survey carried out this year by the council found that the phenomenon of SBS is "almost unknown among Israelis," while four in 10 had never even heard of the phenomenon, Kadman said. Eight percent admitted to shaking their baby or young child "from time to time" or "frequently." As a baby's head is relatively large and heavy, making up about a quarter of its total body weight, the neck muscles are too weak to support it. In most severe cases of SBS, which usually result in death or severe neurological consequences, the child becomes immediately unconscious and suffers rapidly escalating, life-threatening central nervous system dysfunction. Symptoms include lethargy, decreased muscle tone, extreme irritability, reduced appetite, poor feeding or vomiting for no apparent reason, lack of smiling or vocalization, poor sucking or swallowing, rigidity or posturing, breathing difficulties, seizures, inability to lift head or eyes to focus on or track movement and unequal pupil size. These indicate that the brain has rotated within the skull cavity, injuring or destroying brain tissue. During shaking, blood vessels feeding the brain can be torn, leading to bleeding around the brain. Blood collects inside the skull, possibly creating more pressure within it and causing additional brain damage. Retinal bleeding is very common. Perpetrators may be not only parents and older siblings or relatives but also caregivers frustrated or angry at a baby that doesn't stop crying. Kadman said the council is now launching a public campaign to increase awareness of SBS among parents, caregivers and medical professionals. An informational film, the first of its kind, will be hosted by Channel 10 TV star Miki Haimovich, and premiere at the Knesset during a special meeting of the lobby for children at risk, headed by MK Orly Levy. The Health Ministry has posted advice on how to calm infants, when to hold them, how to cope with colic and how much crying is "normal" on its Hebrew-language Web site (, in the public health services section.