left-arrow right-arrow Twitter Twitter Facebook Facebook Google Plus LinkedIn YouTube Email

Stopping Shaken Baby Syndrome

Child and Family

Parents have a big job. Their most important duty is to keep their baby safe from harm. 

Quite literally, their baby’s life is in their hands.

Every day, through the Shaken Baby Task Force, I work to save babies’ lives. My No. 1 duty is to prevent shaken baby syndrome.

Shaken baby syndrome

Shaken baby syndrome is a serious brain injury which happens when a baby or toddler is forcefully shaken or thrown, whipping the child’s head back and forth. 

Even just a few seconds of violent motion can cause massive brain trauma as the baby’s brain is jostled around inside the skull. The motions cause the brain to pull away, ripping and tearing blood vessels and nerve endings beyond repair. 

Sound violent? It is. Think of what would happen to a yolk if you violently shook an uncooked egg inside a covered dish. The results inside a baby’s head are much the same.

Consequences of shaken baby syndrome

Almost 25 percent of shaken babies die from their injuries. The 75 percent who survive may suffer from life-long injuries which may include:

  • Learning disabilities
  • Physical disabilities
  • Visual disabilities or blindness
  • Hearing impairment
  • Speech disabilities
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Seizures
  • Behavior disorders
  • Cognitive impairment

Who would shake a baby?

Shaken baby syndrome can happen faster than you think. It’s often done out of anger, frustration or exhaustion. In many cases, caregivers lose control because a crying baby can’t be calmed.

However, nothing justifies shaking a child. While you may be tempted to try anything to get the tears to stop, always treat your child gently. 

Calming a crying baby

Crying is a baby’s way of communicating. Ask yourself what a baby might be trying to tell you. Try some of these calming tips:

  • Gently rock the baby
  • Read, sing or talk to the baby
  • Take the baby for a ride in a stroller
  • Put the baby in a swing
  • Offer the baby a pacifier
  • Give the baby a bath
  • Put the baby in a car seat and go for a drive

Feeling overwhelmed?

Again, your No. 1 job is to KEEP BABY SAFE.

In the event that you feel like you might lose control, place the baby in a safe place, like a crib, and leave the room. Slowly count to 10 while taking deep breaths or call someone to take over for a while. Return to the baby only when you are calm and ready.

If you need it, the Shaken Baby Task Force has a 24-hour crying baby helpline. Simply call 866-243-BABY to speak with someone.

Remember, an infant’s life is in your hands.

Jean Armstrong

About the Author:

Jean Armstrong is a registered nurse and manager for Family and Community Health Resources at Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital since 1996. She has also served as the Coordinator of the Shaken Baby Task Force since 1997.

"If I can save just one infant’s life today to prevent a tragedy," said Jean, "it’s all worth it.”

Born and raised in Omaha, Jean has worked as a nurse in many different health care settings before landing her present position at Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital.

See More Articles by Jean Armstrong