Babies Cry, Have a Plan to Prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome
About Shaken Baby Syndrome
Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) is the name of injury to an infant’s brain caused by vigorous shaking by another person, whether a child or adult. An infant’s neck muscles are not strong enough to be very supportive of the head. During vigorous shaking, the brain hits the inside of the head, causing swelling, bleeding, and pressure in the brain. These injuries can lead to brain damage, hearing loss, blindness, seizures, speech and learning disabilities, paralysis, or death. A baby who has been shaken hard may experience lethargy, irritability, vomiting, inability to suck or swallow, loss of appetite, seizures, difficulty breathing, unconsciousness, inability to focus, or inability to move.
Tips for Preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome
Be prepared for crying. It is normal for infants to cry, and they may do so for three hours a day or more. Sometimes your baby will not stop crying, even if you have met all of his needs. You can try different ways of comforting your baby, including walking with him, singing or talking to him, or taking him for a ride in the stroller or car. If nothing seems to work to calm your baby, check for signs of illness or call his doctor.
Discuss SBS with your infant's other caregivers. Talk to all of the adults who care for your baby, including spouses, grandparents, siblings, and child care providers, even if you leave your baby in their care only for a few minutes. Share with them ways that you have found to soothe your baby, including how your baby likes to be held, under what conditions he sleeps best, and how you comfort him. Ask your child care provider how she copes with infants crying. For more tips, see OneToughJob’s fact sheet The Childcare Transition - Preparing Yourself and Your Child.
Know yourself. Recognize when you are becoming frustrated, tired, angry, or overwhelmed with the baby’s crying. If your baby just won’t stop crying and you feel yourself becoming very frustrated, leave him safely in the crib on his back for several minutes while you leave the room to cool down.
Call for help. Sometimes you will need more than just a few minutes away from your crying baby. Make this part of your plan; let family and friends know you may call when you need their help. Call them to come over and watch the baby so that you can get a longer break. Joining a parent support group can help you normalize your feelings of frustration and learn coping techniques from other parents. If you have had thoughts of shaking your baby, contact a counselor or social worker, or call the free, 24-hour Massachusetts Parental Stress Line at (800) 632-8188. If you think your baby might have been shaken, call emergency medical services or your doctor immediately.
This information was compiled by Sunindia Bhalla, and reviewed by the Program Staff of the Massachusetts Children’s Trust Fund.