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Shaken Baby Syndrome

Shaken baby syndrome, also known as abusive head trauma,  is a severe form of child abuse that results in brain injury. An infant has weak neck muscles and a large, heavy head and so severe injuries can occur if an infant or child is violently shaken for as little as a few seconds.

The number one reason that parents or caregivers shake a baby is because the child is crying — often uncontrollably. Frustrated parents or caregivers who shake a baby to get them to stop crying can cause damage and injury to the child’s fragile brain or spinal cord.

When an infant or toddler is shaken, the brain bounces back and forth against the skull and causes a whiplash effect, similar to an adult being in multiple car accidents. This type of injury, referred to as diffuse axonal injury, or DAI, can lead to bruising, swelling, pressure, and bleeding in the brain. These types of closed-head injuries can cause permanent brain damage or even death.

It’s important that parents educate themselves and their caregivers about the dangers of shaken baby syndrome, or SBS, and how to prevent it. Special care must be given when responding to and caring for children, especially those under three years of age. All children deserve safe, caring, and loving relationships, so they can live healthy lives and grow to their full potential.

There are many resources and supporting agencies to assist families and caregivers in the prevention of child abuse. These include:

  • Family Advocacy Programs
  • Mental Health Clinics
  • Healthcare teams
  • Chaplains or Clergy
  • Airman and Family Readiness Centers, and
  • Military Family Life Consultants

If you believe a child is in immediate danger due to abuse or neglect, you should call 911. If you suspect that a child is being abused, report it immediately. Most states have a child abuse hotline. You can also call the National Child Abuse Hotline toll free at 800-4-A-Child or 800-422-4453.