Shaken Baby Syndrome

Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) is the term used to describe injuries that result from roughly shaking an infant or when a baby is thrown against an object. It can result in lifelong problems and potentially cause death.

A baby’s head is large and heavy compared to the body. The neck is weak. When the head jerks back and forth very quickly, it causes the brain to move back and forth inside the skull. This can cause damage to brain cells and can lead to permanent brain damage. It can also tear blood vessels inside of the baby’s head and cause bleeding in the brain.

Shaken Baby Syndrome is most common in infants less than one year of age and occurs when a baby’s demands, especially crying, become the trigger for a frustrated parent or caregiver to shake or throw a child.

This is a form of child abuse.

How to protect baby:

  • If your baby’s crying is frustrating you, take a break. Gently place your baby in a safe place and leave the room. Take 10 to 15 minutes to give yourself a chance to calm down. It is more important to calm yourself before you try to calm your baby.
  • Talk to others who care for your baby, such as babysitters, relatives, and friends, about how to safely care for your baby. It is important that everyone is aware that shaking a baby can be fatal.
  • Always support baby’s fragile head and neck when holding or moving baby.
  • Never toss a baby or young child in the air.
  • Learn ways to cope with a baby’s crying.

If your baby continues to cry after you have made sure that there’s no specific problem, try to stay calm and be aware of how you feel.

If you feel like you might lose control, below are some suggestions to help calm yourself:

  • Place your child safely in the crib, take a time-out and leave your child’s room for as long as it takes you to feel calm.
  • Take slow and deep breaths.
  • Cry.
  • Take a shower.
  • Talk to a friend, family member, neighbour, or anyone else you trust, and get some support. Ask a trusted person to take care of your baby for so you can take a longer break.

If you ever feel you may hurt your baby, call for help such as a family member, neighbour, a local crisis line (709-737-4668 or toll free 1-877-737-4668), child protection (709-729-4612), or the police (911).

Services related to this information:

Public Health Nursing offices, Eastern Health

811 HealthLine (Newfoundland & Labrador) – Call 811 or 1-888-709-2929 / TTY 1-888-709-3555

Mental Health Crisis Line – 709-737-4668 / 1-888-737-4668
A free, confidential service for individuals, family and friends. The crisis line is province-wide, 24 hours a day.



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Last updated: 2019-08-14