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The Shaken Baby Syndrome: What is it?

Even if this subject has been talked about in the media several times in recent years, it remains little known. This is undoubtedly a fear that many parents face. Beyond the fear of cracking oneself (because this unfortunately exists, and it is important, remember, to get help in the event of postpartum depression), we are often afraid that our child will be a victim of the syndrome. of the shaken baby, via a third party.

Babysitter, licensed nanny, family member… this gesture of “shaken baby” unfortunately still happens too often because it is not well known. Let’s take a look at this subject to be better informed.

Definition of The Shaken Baby Syndrome

What acts could fall under that definition ?

There is an official definition of this act, provided by the Solidarité Santé website, set up by the Ministry of Health and Prevention and the Ministry of Solidarity, Autonomy and People with Disabilities.

Shaken Baby Syndrome is nothing more than non-accidental head trauma. It occurs when an adult grabs the child by the armpits or chest, and shakes him violently. At this moment, the baby’s brain hits the cranial wall. This can therefore cause serious brain, eye or spinal cord damage.


Still according to the same source, we have recovered important – and impactful – figures about shaken baby syndrome. Most babies concerned are between 2 and 4 months old. This syndrome can also occur later but the cases are rarer.

We know that each year, several hundred babies are victims of this abuse – because it is classified as one. Those figures are not precise, as they can only take into account officially recorded cases. Just like many other situations, a number of cases will never be diagnosed and therefore counted.

In any case, this represents more than 1 victim per day in France. We will discuss the consequences of this act below, but you should know that 75% of victims have serious sequelae… Moreover, one of the characteristics of shaken baby syndrome is that it has a high rate of recurrence. Shaken babies have been shaken more than 10 times on average, which increases the risk of after effects.

Protection du bébé

What medical consequences for the child

The most serious cases: the death of the baby

Of course, the most dramatic is the death of the child. Unfortunately, it occurs once in ten cases. This means that in France, approximately every 10 days, a child dies from the shaken baby syndrome. In 9 out of 10 cases, the child will survive. However, in 7 to 8 out of 10 cases, he will have significant after effects that will have an impact on the rest of his life.

The neurological consequences

The most common cases and which have the most varied consequences are cases of brain damage. As mentioned above, this concerns 75% of shaken babies. There may be repercussions on the psychomotor development of the child, as well as motor disabilities. Cognitive disorders and learning difficulties can also occur, but also behavioral disorders. It also happens that the child grows up with a sleeping or eating disorders. Visual deficit or even blindness sometimes occur (since ocular damage is possible) as well as hearing loss. Epileptic seizures can also occur.

What the Law Says About Shaken Baby Syndrome

Voluntary or involuntary violence?

Although there are extenuating circumstances – postnatal depression, etc. – the fact remains that the shaken baby syndrome is still considered as an act of intentional violence. This is a non-accidental trauma, therefore the baby is the victim of a criminal offense.

What are the rights of the shaken child?

The child victim has the right, even if he is not old enough to file for a complaint himself, to be represented by his parents in the context of an investigation and legal proceedings. If the parents are the actors of the violence, the child will be represented by a special administrator for this specific situation (ad hoc).

The victim also has the right to be represented by a lawyer, who will defend his interests. It is important to hire a lawyer specifically trained in the compensation of bodily injury.

At the same time, a private investigator can also intervene in this type of case. It can help the victims and their families to collect useful information for the investigation.

For example, he could carry out some surveillance with a nanny suspected of ill-treatment when she has the child under her care.

Finally, the child will be able to make a claim for compensation, in the sense that the consequences of the violence suffered would affect his entire life. This very sensitive and difficult , must be addressed to raise awareness among parents and those around young children.

Certain signs should alert: contusions, hematomas or bruises on a child who cannot move on his own are a first warning signal. Behavior indicating unease or discomfort in the presence of certain adults can also raise suspicion. It is necessary to talk about it: in case of doubt, it is better to act for nothing than to have regrets in the face of a dramatic situation that could have been avoided.

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