Skip to Content

Shaken Baby Syndrome

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

Shaken baby syndrome is brain injury caused by violent shaking. It is also called abusive head trauma. Intense shaking causes your baby's brain to bleed, bruise, and swell. This leads to decreased oxygen to your baby's brain. It may result in permanent, severe brain damage and can be life-threatening.

DISCHARGE INSTRUCTIONS:

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) for any of the following:

  • You think you might shake your baby or hurt him or her in some other way.
  • Your baby is having trouble breathing or stops breathing completely.
  • Your baby is very sleepy, is difficult to wake up, or will not wake up at all.
  • Your baby has a seizure.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • Your baby has no energy or is limp like a rag doll.
  • You think your baby has been shaken by another person.
  • Your baby does not want to eat or is vomiting.
  • Your baby is very cranky and crying more than usual.

Call your baby's doctor if:

  • Your baby has a fever.
  • Your baby is crying hard and you cannot console him or her.
  • You have questions or concerns about your baby's condition or care.

Keep emergency phone numbers handy:

Keep a list of phone numbers where you can find them quickly in an emergency. The Childhelp National Abuse Helpline number is 1-800-422-4453 . Also include phone numbers of people you trust and local police or emergency phone numbers.

If your baby will not stop crying:

  • Stop. Put the baby in a safe place and leave the room. Do not touch the baby if you are very upset or angry.
  • Calm down. Call hotline numbers or a friend or family member for advice and support. Slowly count to 10 and take some deep breaths.
  • Go back to your baby. When you have calmed down, try again to help him or her stop crying. Try putting the baby in a carrier, or taking him or her for a walk in a stroller. You may also try to comfort with a favorite blanket or stuffed animal.

Prevent shaken baby syndrome:

  • Choose caregivers carefully. Make sure everyone who cares for your baby, including babysitters, understands the dangers of shaking a baby. Do not leave your baby alone with anyone you have concerns about.
  • Stay patient and focused. Crying is normal for a baby. A baby cries for many reasons. He or she may be hungry, need a diaper change, or may be too cold or hot. Sometimes babies cry just to be held. Crying may also be a way for your baby to release stress or tension. Crying may also tell you that your baby is hurt or sick. You may need to try several things to find out what your baby needs or wants. Stay calm and focus on helping or comforting your baby.
  • Manage your feelings. It is normal to feel upset and angry when your baby cries and cannot be consoled. Learn how to handle these feelings. Plan ahead to prevent hurting your baby. Call a friend or family member when you feel upset with your baby. Post hotline numbers where you can see them and use them.

Follow up with your baby's doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2021 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Shaken Baby Syndrome (Aftercare Instructions)

IBM Watson Micromedex

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.