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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. But many of these injuries can be avoided when parents and caregivers understand how to respond appropriately to a crying baby.

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, mental retardation, blindness, deafness, seizures, paralysis or death. Infants who survive severe shaking may require 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 frequently 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.