Preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome

Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS), Injury Prevention & Safety

Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) (also called Abusive Head Trauma) is the term used to describe the injuries that result from roughly shaking an infant or young child by the arms, chest, or shoulders causing the head to whiplash back and forth. There are no signs of external head trauma but children could display outward signs of SBS. Even a few seconds of shaking can cause permanent brain damage or death.

Research suggests that most SBS cases result when a parent or caregiver is unable to cope with persistent infant crying. The provincial SBS campaign takes a positive approach to the issue and focuses on educating parents and other caregivers about the characteristics of normal infant crying and building positive parenting skills such as help seeking.

Key Messages

  • All babies cry. Babies cry for many reasons. A baby may cry because he/she is hungry, thirsty, needs a diaper change, needs to be cuddled, doesn’t feel well, or is sleepy. Advise your clients that crying typically begins to increase at 2 weeks of age, peaks around 2 months of age, and then gradually decreases. However, peak times may differ between one infant and another.
  • Stay calm. Advise your clients that it is more important to stay calm than to stop the crying. If your client is feeling angry or frustrated because their baby cannot stop crying, advise them to put their baby in a safe place (like a crib) and let their baby cry for a few minutes. This is not harmful. When your client is feeling calmer, they can try to soothe his/her baby.
  • Take a break, don't shake. Advise your client to NEVER SHAKE A BABY. Even a few seconds of shaking can cause a baby permanent brain damage or death. Encourage clients to think about what they will do if the crying gets to be too much, such as listening to music, going for a walk with their baby, or calling a friend or neighbor for help. Remind them that it is OK to ask for help. Clients can call Health Link to get advice from a registered nurse.

Share with your client the Crying Plan, which offers tips on how to cope with their baby’s crying.

Provider Resources