Shaking a baby is a serious form of child abuse that occurs mostly in infants in the first year of life. The act of severely or violently shaking a baby—which may also include striking the baby’s head—is often the result of a parent’s or caregiver’s frustration or anger in response to a baby’s or toddler’s constant crying or irritability. Shaking or striking a baby’s head can cause serious physical and mental damage, even death. Serious injuries associated with abusive head trauma may include blindness or eye injuries, brain damage, damage to the spinal cord, and delay in normal development.
Signs and symptoms may include irritability, lethargy (difficulty staying awake), tremors (shakiness), vomiting, seizures, difficulty breathing, and coma.
The American Academy of Pediatrics feels strongly that it is never okay to shake your baby. If you suspect that a care provider has shaken or hurt your baby—or if you or your spouse have done so in a moment of frustration—take your baby to the pediatrician or an emergency room immediately. Any brain damage that might have occurred will only get worse without treatment. Don’t let embarrassment or fear keep you from getting treatment for your baby.
If you feel as if you might lose control when caring for your baby:
- Take a deep breath and count to ten.
- Put your baby in her crib or another safe place, leave the room, and let her cry alone.
- Call a friend or relative for emotional support.
- Give your pediatrician a call. Perhaps there’s a medical reason why your baby is crying.