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Prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome

Shaken Baby Syndrome is a form of child abuse and is the most common cause for inflicted brain injury in the first two years of life.

Shaking infants and toddlers can have dangerous consequences because of their large heads and immature brains.

A baby's neck muscles can't support the stress of vigorous shaking. When the baby is shaken, its head moves in a sudden whiplash motion that can cause bleeding inside the head and increased pressure on the brain.

Shaking a baby can cause irreversible brain damage, learning disabilities, intellectual disability, blindness, deafness, seizures, paralysis or death. Infants who survive severe shaking may need lifelong medical care.

Many new parents and caregivers may not understand that crying is the baby's only way to communicate, and that some babies cry more than others. Babies will cry because of hunger, the need to suck, pain from illness, teething or earache, colic, the need for comfort or cuddling, or the need for rest. Parents who understand that babies cry often may be less likely to feel stressed to the point that they shake their baby out of frustration and anger.

Here are a few tips to remember when your baby just won't seem to stop crying:

  • Make sure the baby is fed and dry.

  • Feed the baby slowly.

  • Burp the baby often.

  • Rock the baby gently or go for a walk.

  • Take the baby for a ride in a stroller or car.

  • Try a wind-up infant swing.

  • If you're feeling overly tense or angry and you think you may shake or hit your baby, lay them in a safe place such as the crib and walk away for a short break. Call a friend or a family member and try to get help taking care of your baby. Sometimes being the primary caregiver can be overwhelming. Asking for assistance is the best thing to do for both you and your baby.

These tips should be also shared with all of your child's caregivers because babysitters and partners of the parent often feel frustrated by persistent crying. 

Medical Reviewers:

  • Adler, Liora C., MD
  • Goode, Paula, RN, BSN, MSN