Shaking a baby can cause permanent brain damage, death

Parenting can be a joyful time, but it can also be a very stressful time, particularly when a baby or young child is crying inconsolably. Some caregivers become overwhelmed with the stress and are at risk of shaking their infant or toddler in the mistaken belief that will stop the baby from crying.

When a child suffers severe head trauma from shaking, it’s called Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS).

Shaking a baby can cause blindness, permanent brain damage, even death. Shaken baby syndrome is the leading cause of death in abusive head trauma cases. An estimated 1,200 to 1,400 children are injured or killed by shaking every year in the U.S. Over 300 babies a year die from being shaken in the U.S.

Research shows crying as the number one trigger leading caregivers to violently shake and injure babies.

What you can do to prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome:

  • Never shake a child, especially under the age of six for any reason!
  • Always provide support for the baby’s head when holding, playing with or transporting him or her.
  • Learn what to do if a baby will not stop crying. Remember that all babies cry, some a lot, during the first few months of life.
  • Make sure that everyone who cares for the child (including baby-sitters, childcare providers, and relatives) knows the dangers of shaking babies.
  • Play gently with babies.

If your baby is crying, and you begin to feel overwhelmed, try the following:

Check the basics: Is your baby hungry, tired, too warm or cold, or sick; does s/he need a clean diaper? Remember, a baby can’t talk; babies can only cry to communicate discomfort.

Soothe the baby: Walk, talk, sing, go for a car ride, and hold baby close to you.

Call a friend or family member: It can be helpful to talk with another adult about your stress, or to ask for a break.

Walk away for a minute: If nothing else works, put the baby on his/her back in a safe place like a crib, and walk away for a few minutes. Use this time to try and relax – listen to music and take a few deep breaths. When you are calm, it will be easier to calm your baby.

Friends and Family Members:

If you know or see a parent who is struggling with a crying infant, try the following:

Offer to help: Give the parent a break from the baby by babysitting for a few hours. Also, make yourself available if they just need to call and vent.

Be sympathetic: All babies cry, and parents feel stressed when their baby cries in public. Even a gentle remark such as, “I remember when my little one used to cry like that. Don’t worry, it will pass,” can help relieve the parent’s frustration.

Talk about your experience: Sometimes parents just need reassurance their baby is fine, all babies cry, and this stressful time will pass. Share the frustration you felt when your baby cried. Remind them it’s normal to feel frustrated; it’s what they do when they’re frustrated that matters.

Education on Shaken Baby Syndrome

Parent Promise presents demonstrations of the Shaken Baby to educate our clients and the community about the dangers of shaking a baby. Combined with curriculum, we establish a plan for coping with an inconsolable baby. The Shaken Baby Simulator is a powerful demonstration and provides critical information for anyone who cares for an infant or trains future parents, babysitters and/or child care providers.

If you suspect a child has been shaken, seek medical attention immediately. This could be the difference between life and death.

Resources for preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome are listed below: