Family Development - A Caregiver's Guide

Soothe, Don’t Shake Your Baby

Everyone that cares for your child should know about Shaken Baby Syndrome. Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) is one of the most common injuries causing death by physical abuse to infants in Florida. SBS occurs when a frustrated parent or other caregiver loses control and shakes a young child, causing permanent brain damage or death. Crying is the most common reason someone shakes a baby. The outcomes for survivors typically include cerebral palsy, blindness, deafness, seizures and learning/behavioral difficulties. Young males who care for a baby alone are most at risk to shake a baby. Everyone who watches your baby needs to know they should never shake your baby.

Common signs and indicators that a baby has been shaken violently and may be suffering Shaken Baby Syndrome include:

  • Unable to turn head
  • Extreme irritability, often misdiagnosed as colic
  • Feeding problems or decreased appetite
  • Inability to suck or swallow
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy or poor muscle tone
  • Inability to follow movements with eyes
  • No smiling or vocalization (cooing, gurgling, etc.)
  • Rigidity
  • Seizures or convulsions; rolling of eyes upward into head
  • Pale or bluish skin
  • Coma or loss of consciousness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dilated pupils
  • Blood spots/pooling of blood in eyes
  • Bruises on shoulders, neck, ribs, upper arms, arms, wrists

The most important thing you can do to prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome is to understand your baby and how to cope with him when he cries or is irritable.

The Florida Department of Health contributed to the content of this tip sheet. For more information, visit their website at www.doh.state.fl.us.