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First Year

Last Reviewed: March 2017


Shaken Baby Syndrome

What is Shaken Baby Syndrome?
Shaken Baby Syndrome occurs when a baby or young child is shaken violently or is thrown against an object. Children less than 1 are at most risk since they cry more often, but older children can also be seriously injured if shaken violently. Young children are more likely to have a brain injury when they are shaken or thrown because they have:

  • Heavy, large heads for their body size
  • Weak neck muscles that cannot support their head well

If a baby or young child is shaken with force, it can cause many problems with their brain, including:

  • Brain Damage
  • Permanent disabilities like blindness and paralysis
  • Death

Activities like bouncing your baby gently on your knee or swinging in an infant seat are not going to cause Shaken Baby Syndrome. However, if you’re concerned that an activity isn’t safe or may harm your child, don’t do it.

How do I stay calm when my baby won’t stop crying?
The most common reason for shaking a baby is that the baby won’t stop crying. Listening to a crying baby for long periods of time can be frustrating. If you are feeling angry, frustrated or alone, put your baby in a safe place, like the crib, close the door and give yourself a few minutes in another room. Letting your baby cry for a few minutes will not harm your baby and it does not mean you are a bad parent/caregiver. The baby builds trust and feels loved in many ways and letting the baby cry for a short period of time to keep them safe will not make the baby feel neglected. If you’re not able to soothe your crying baby, remember that it’s more important for you to stay calm than to stop the crying.

The following are things you can try to help you stay calm when you are feeling frustrated:

  • Learn to read your baby's cues and respond before he starts crying.
  • It’s okay to ask for help. Ask a family member or a friend that you trust to look after your baby and give yourself a break.
  • Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Focus on your breathing.
  • Listen to your favourite music or read a book.
  • Take a shower or bath.
  • Do something that makes you happy (a good laugh can always help calm you down).
  • Call a friend or family member to talk about your feelings.
  • Exercise.
  • Housework is also a great way to concentrate on something else.
  • If you feel overwhelmed or depressed about your baby’s crying, talk with your doctor or a Public Health Nurse.

Are you looking for someone to talk to about your baby's crying or being a parent in general? Free telephone support is available in many different languages.

For more information:

  • Region of Peel
    Public Health
    Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

    Caledon residents call free of charge at 905-584-2216

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Revised: Friday March 29 2019

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