Shaken Baby Syndrome

Most of the time, Shaken Baby Syndrome occurs when adults, frustrated and angry with children, shake them violently. If you are a parent, or ever care for a baby, it is very important to know about the dangers of shaking. It is NEVER okay to shake a baby.

A baby’s neck is too weak to support their heavy head. Their brain and the blood vessels connecting the skull to the brain are fragile and immature. When a baby is shaken, the head flops back and forth, the brain bounces around in their skull, the blood vessels tear away, and the blood forms pools inside the skull which causes irreparable damage to the brain.

One in four of the babies who have been shaken will die. Those who survive may suffer blindness caused by bleeding around the brain and eye, or disabling brain damage, including mental retardation, paralysis, seizure disorder, speech and learning disabilities, neck and back damage, and dislocated bones.

Babies may spend 2 to 3 hours a day crying; some babies cry even more than that. This can be very frustrating for the caregiver who may be tired from lack of sleep or caring for additional children. They momentarily give in to the frustration and anger and shake the baby.

When a baby is crying, first check to see that the baby’s basic needs are met:
  • Feed the baby
  • Burp the baby
  • Change the diaper
  • Make sure the clothing isn’t too tight
  • Make sure the baby isn’t too hot or too cold
These are some suggestions to soothe a crying baby:
  • Take the baby for a walk outside in a stroller or for a ride in the car seat
  • Hold the baby against your chest and gently massage the baby
  • Rock, walk, or dance with the baby
  • Be patient; take a deep breath and count to ten
  • Call a friend or relative that you can trust to take over for a while, then get away, get some rest, take care of yourself
  • Offer a pacifier to the baby
  • Lower any surrounding noise and lights
  • Offer the baby a noisy toy; sake or rattle it
  • Hold the baby and breathe slowly and calmly; the baby may feel your calmness and become quiet
  • Sing or talk to the baby using soothing tones
  • Record a sound, like a vacuum cleaner or hair dryer
If you suspect the baby is ill, has a fever, swollen gums, etc., CALL YOUR DOCTOR.

The following are some warning signs of Shaken Baby Syndrome:
  • Poor Feeding/Eating
  • Cardiopulmonary arrest
  • Vomiting
  • Failure to Thrive
  • Pale or bluish skin
  • Irritability
  • Seizures
  • Lethargic
  • Coma

For additional information, contact your health care provider. You may find it worthwhile to check the following web site:

*This information is courtesy of Monongahela Valley Hospital, Education and Planning Department.