Understanding and Preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome

Crying is normal for newborns and older babies. Likewise, feelings of frustration or stress over infant crying are also normal, especially for new parents or caregivers. But that frustration can sometimes have significant consequences.

One of the most common causes of shaken baby syndrome, a dangerous, even life-threatening condition, is parent or caregiver frustration with infant crying. Shaken baby syndrome is the neurological damage done when an infant is picked up and shaken hard back and forth.

This causes 2 serious problems in the infant brain:

  1. Parts of the brain of differing size and weight move back and forth at different rates. As they move in this way, pieces of the brain tear, causing brain damage and sometimes death.
  2. Blood vessels in the brain and the eyes are broken, damaging the brain and potentially causing blindness.

Shaken baby syndrome is not merely jostling a baby on one’s knee. The American Academy of Pediatrics describes the shaking as hard enough so “that if anyone was observing they would know that this is inappropriate.” 

REMEMBER:  Frustration or stress over infant crying is normal, and many parents and caregivers experience it. When this happens, put your baby in a safe place and take a break for a few minutes.

Never shake your baby out of anger, stress or frustration. And be sure to give other caregivers for your baby the same information and advice.

This message is not intended to provide individual medical advice. Always seek the advice of a physician or qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have about your health or medical condition, your breastfeeding issues and your infant's health. Never disregard, avoid or delay contacting a doctor or other qualified professional because of something you have read in our emails, webpages or other electronic communications.

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