Parenting Now!

Understanding and Preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome

In this blog post to support National Child Safety and Prevention Month, we discuss Shaken Baby Syndrome.

Caring for a crying newborn can definitely test you as parent. It’s loud, distressing, and emotionally exhausting—combine that with sleep deprivation and it’s enough to send you screaming into another room.

Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) is the leading cause of death from child abuse in the nation. Every year, there are 1,300 cases of SBS in the U.S. alone.

SBS most often occurs when a caregiver becomes frustrated with a baby’s crying and tries to stop the crying by violently shaking the baby. Even though shaking a baby who is crying makes the crying worse, this illogical response to a crying baby can happen, especially when the caregiver is alone, tired, depressed, male, or not related to the baby.

SBS, also called Abusive Head Trauma, is the name of a collection of injuries to an infant’s brain caused by violent shaking. Because babies’ heads are larger in proportion to their bodies and their neck muscles are relatively weak, when babies are shaken, their heads move violently back and forth on their bodies. This causes the brain to be damaged by hitting the inside of the skull.

80% of babies who suffer SBS have significant brain damage, including learning problems, seizures, blindness and other issues, which are long lasting. Twenty-five percent of victims die.

Signs of Shaken Baby Syndrome include a baby who has:

Sometimes people worry that SBS can be caused by activities such as bouncing babies on knees or laps, throwing them in the air and catching them, or riding on bicycles. While some of these activities might be dangerous, they do not cause SBS-type injuries.

Crying in babies can be frustrating. Understanding why babies cry and how to successfully deal with crying can help decrease injuries and deaths due to SBS. The National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome has launched a campaign, called Purple Crying, in an effort to help families understand how to deal with normal crying in infants. They remind people that normal crying in infants:

If your baby is crying, try:

Babies should NEVER BE SHAKEN. Educating and supporting families, parents, and caregivers can help decrease the incidence and heartbreak caused by Shaken Baby Syndrome.