Shaken Baby Syndrome

Safe for baby logo


For more information send us an email or phone 858.616.5810.

Shaking an infant or young child, particularly under 6 months old, often results in serious injuries. Compared to older children and adults, babies have large heavy heads, weak neck muscles, immature and fragile brains, and blood vessels that tear more easily than in children or adults. Shaking a baby, even for only a few seconds, can cause serious brain damage and death. About 1,200 to 1,400 children in the US are treated each year for injuries cause by shaking.

When a baby is shaken the baby's brain moves inside the skull in a back and forth quick jerking and circular motion. This tearing of the delicate blood vessels in the baby's brain and eyes leading to bleeding. The brain bruising, bleeding, and swelling can cause massive brain damage or death.

Symptoms After Shaking

Babies or children who have been shaken can have minor or more serious signs such as:

  • Poor feeding
  • Weak movements or limp arms, legs, and head
  • Throwing up
  • Weakness
  • Can't stop fussing or crying, irritable
  • Hard to wake up, sleepiness or inactivity
  • Breathing problems
  • Coma
  • Seizures or spasms
  • Pooling of blood in the eyes

Long-term Effects After Shaking

One in four shaken babies die. Those that survive may have:

  • Developmental problems
  • Mental retardation
  • Brain damage
  • Sensory problems blindness, hearing impairment
  • Motor problems - paralysis, or cerebral palsy
  • Speech problems

Asking for Help

Keeping your baby safe and asking for help are the signs of a good parent. Stop, take a break, and call for help. You can:

  • Call a friend, relative, or neighbor for support and advice
  • Ask another adult to take care of your baby while you take a break
  • Call a crisis hotline
  • Call your health care provider

Everyone who cares for a baby or young child needs to be aware of the serious consequences of child shaking.


San Diego County Child Abuse Hotline
Health and Human Services Agency
(800) 344-6000

Public Health Nursing
Health and Human Services Agency
County of San Diego
(619) 515-4209

Parenting Link
Local parenting Classes and in home support programs
(866) 4-FAMILIES

Shaken Baby Prevention Program
San Diego Naval Medical Center
(619) 532-6276

National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome
(888) 273-0071

The Shaken Baby Alliance
(877) 6-END-SBS

National Institute of Neurological Disorders

Nanny TrustLine Program
(800) 822-8490

Prevent Child Abuse - Shaken Baby Prevention
National Exchange Club Foundation
(800) 924-2643