Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) is a condition that occurs when an infant or young child is violently shaken. SBS is a form of Abusive Head Trauma (AHT). Inconsolable crying is the reason most often given for why an adult has shaken an infant.

Infant Crying

Crying is the only way in which infants have to communicate with those around them. Crying is meant to be an annoying sound. If crying was a pleasant sound, an infant’s needs could easily be ignored. A baby may cry if they are hungry, too hot or cold, needs to be changed, to release some tension or for no reason at all. Infant crying typically begins to increase at two weeks of age, peaks at two months of age and may last until four or five months of age.

There are times when a parent or caregiver will be unable to stop an infant’s crying and this can be very upsetting and may cause feelings of frustration or inadequacy as a caregiver. Lack of sleep and other stresses in life can increase the feelings of frustration and inadequacy.

Preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome

Providing information to parents and caregivers regarding infant crying and child development is essential to the prevention of Shaken Baby Syndrome. It is important for parents and caregivers to understand that they are not alone in the way they feel when dealing with a crying baby and that it is okay to ask for help.

Making a Plan to Deal with Infant Crying

Parents and caregivers should make a plan for what to do when a baby cries. It is more important to stay calm then to stop the crying. Things that work to stop a baby’s crying one time may not work the next time. If a parent or caregiver feels they may not be able to control their emotions, they need to take a break.

Ways to Soothe a Crying Baby
  • Check if your baby is hungry or needs to have a diaper change
  • Gently rock and cuddle your baby
  • Talk, hum, or sing to your baby
  • Take your baby for a walk in a stroller or carrier
  • Give your baby a warm bath
  • Run the washing machine, dishwasher or vacuum. These ‘white-noise’ sounds may calm your baby.

Ways to Calm a Parent or Caregiver

If a parent or caregiver is beginning to feel overwhelmed or is unable to soothe their baby, it is important for them to know how to safely take a break and calm down.

Place your baby in a safe place, such as a crib. It is okay to leave the room if baby is in a safe place. Set a timer for 10 – 15 minutes so you know when to go back and try to soothe your baby again.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and need a break, try any of the following:
  • Take a shower or bath
  • Read a book
  • Play a game or do a puzzle
  • Exercise
  • Count to 100
  • Make a list of the top 5 reasons why you love your baby
  • Make a list of the top 5 reasons why you love yourself
  • Hug a pillow

Links

Video for Parents
  • Never Shake A Baby – Phoenix Children’s Hospital (2011)

Resources