Crying is a normal part of communication for babies and may signal that they are too hot or cold, that they need to be fed, changed or held. Crying can be frustrating for parents and caregivers, as it is not always clear what the baby needs or wants. Sleep deprivation and the stress of having an infant can also lead to frustrations when a baby is crying. Parents or caregivers may doubt their abilities to adequately care for the child and may feel helpless and incompetent when they cannot get the baby to stop crying.

As frustrations mount, caregivers may be driven to shake a baby to stop the crying. This is extremely dangerous and can cause serious harm to the baby or even death. A baby’s head is very heavy and its neck muscles are not strong enough to support it. Therefore, when a baby is shaken, his or her head is thrown back and forth very quickly, causing the brain to hit the skull repeatedly. This damages the blood vessels, which leads to bleeding and swelling inside of the skull. Shaking a baby can lead to permanent disability or death.

Shaken Baby Syndrome is the result of being shaken as an infant and is a type of Abusive Head Trauma. Up to one third of the victims of Shaken Baby Syndrome die while others may suffer lifelong disabilities. If nothing seems to be working to calm the infant, the caregiver should gently place the baby in a safe place and take a few minutes to relax and calm herself before attempting to console the baby again.[/column]

For more detailed information on Shaken Baby Syndrome please refer to the Child Injury Prevention Program, Shaken Baby Syndrome.