Shaken Baby Syndrome

What is Shaken Baby Syndrome?

Although parenting can be a joyful and rewarding time, it can also be very stressful. Unfortunately, some caregivers become overwhelmed with the stress and are at risk of shaking their infant or toddler. Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) is the name given to the collection of injuries suffered by an infant or toddler when shaken.

According to the Iowa Child Death Review Team, 49 infants and toddlers died after they were shaken/slammed from 1995-2007. It is unknown exactly how many children survive Shaken Baby Syndrome each year. Children who survive SBS often face lifelong effects such as learning disabilities, physical disabilities, blindness, behavior disorders, speech impairment, cerebral palsy, and more.

How can Shaken Baby Syndrome be prevented?

Parents & Caregivers

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; s/he 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 & 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 for a while.

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.

Additional Information

See information about Shaken Baby Syndrome on the Prevent Child Abuse website and the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome website.