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Symptoms of Brain Damage in Infants

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Symptoms of brain damage in infants may appear in their physical appearance, temperament, and cognitive abilities.  

During the long months of pregnancy, frequent doctor visits, sonograms, or other types of fetal monitoring and testing can all provide reassurance that your baby is developing properly. Nothing can compare to holding your newborn in your arms, though, and being able to see for yourself that your baby is healthy. Sadly, it is in these first moments that there may be the first indication that a birth injury has occurred. In the case of brain damage in infants, it often takes years before long term disabilities are fully revealed. However, there are some symptoms that can alert you early on to potential problems in the child’s physical appearance, temperament, and cognitive abilities.

Signs of Infant Brain Damage

Brain damage in infants can occur for a variety of reasons. Problems during pregnancy, undiagnosed medical conditions, prolonged labor, a lack of oxygen during delivery, and harsh extraction methods can all cause disruption in the neural pathways of the brain, resulting in injuries that can have long term impacts on your child’s health and well-being.

According to the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAUSA), brain injuries are one of the most common causes of death and disabilities, with infants being among those most at risk. While some symptoms of infant brain damage may take years to fully appear, others are apparent at birth and in the immediate weeks and months that follow. Brain damage symptoms tend to appear in three different areas:

Physical symptoms, which are often present immediately at birth, include:

  • Swelling and bruising on the head, neck, or face;
  • A head shape that is abnormally large or unusual in appearance;
  • Distorted facial features;
  • Difference in the size of the pupils;
  • Seizures, tremors, or stiffness in the neck and other parts of the newborn’s body.

Temperament symptoms, which start to appear in the hospital or shortly after bringing the baby home, such as:

  • Prolonged crying;
  • Appearing frustrated and fussy;
  • Being unusually quiet or still;
  • Refusing feedings;
  • Sleep disturbances.

Cognitive symptoms, which may be immediately obvious or take weeks or months to appear, including:

  • Appearing indifferent to stimulation;
  • Not following objects and sounds with their eyes;
  • Inability to concentrate for even short periods;
  • Lack of rooting or sucking reflexes;
  • Not imitating coos and other sounds made by others.   

What to do if You Suspect Brain Damage in Your Infant

Speak to your child’s pediatrician about your suspicions of brain damage in your infant. Be persistent, and if you are not satisfied with the answers you are getting, do not hesitate to get a second opinion, as early diagnosis and intervention can be crucial to maximize your injured child’s functional potential. If you suspect that your child’s brain injury may have been caused by a medical mistake, or if you are worried your child’s injury might be due to negligence, consult with an experienced birth injury attorney to discuss your options for filing a claim.