Discharge Instructions: Preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome
Shaking a baby, even slightly, is very dangerous. It causes a serious problem called shaken baby syndrome. This can lead to major brain damage and death. When a baby won’t stop crying, it can be frustrating. The stress of caring for a baby puts a strain on the parents. It can be even more stressful if your baby has been sick. But no matter how fed up, tired, or upset you are, you should never shake your baby.
Why it’s a problem
When a baby is shaken, the brain moves back and forth inside the skull. Even a little force could cause the brain to hit the inside of the skull. This can result in bleeding and swelling inside the skull. It can lead to permanent brain damage, coma, or death.
If you’re frustrated
If you feel yourself getting fed up, here’s how to cope:
Put the baby down in a safe place, even if the baby is crying.
Take a deep breath. Walk away. Count to 10. Do whatever else you need to do to calm down.
Let others help you take care of the baby. Trade off with your partner, the baby’s grandparents, or other family members.
Talk with your baby’s healthcare provider about what’s causing the crying. There could be a health problem or other issue that’s making the baby cry more than normal. The healthcare provider can also give you ideas for how to console your crying baby.
If your baby’s healthcare provider believes your baby is just fussy, know that this is not your fault. Your baby will grow out of this period of fussiness. It does not mean the baby does not love you, or that you are not doing a good job.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, talk with your baby’s healthcare provider about child care options, counseling, or other resources that can help.
Call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 800-422-4453. The trained operator can help you deal with your frustration, so you don’t hurt your baby.
February 14, 2018
Barr RG. Preventing abusive head trauma resulting from a failure of normal interaction between infants and their caregivers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2012;109(2):s17294-s17301, Child abuse: Epidemiology, mechanisms, and types of abusive head trauma in infants and children. UpToDate, Child abuse: Evaluation and diagnosis of abusive head trauma in infants and children. UpToDate
Adler, Liora C, MD,Freeborn, Donna, PhD, CNM, FNP