A term infant developed stridor, hoarse cry and respiratory distress after forceps-assisted delivery. Oral feeding resulted in aspiration. Flexible laryngoscopy showed a right-sided vocal cord paralysis (VCP). A magnetic resonance image (MRI) of the brain revealed an ovoid lesion in the posterior fossa impinging on the brainstem, which was considered to represent a subdural haematoma. Clinical signs of vocal cord palsy and the associated MRI changes resolved spontaneously by 6 weeks of age. Vocal cord palsy is a common cause of stridor in newborn infants, although in many cases it is considered idiopathic. This is the first report of vocal cord palsy associated with subdural haemorrhage after instrumental delivery, and may represent an important and previously unappreciated cause of VCP. This case highlights the importance of magnetic resonance brain imaging in those infants with VCP in whom the aetiology is uncertain.