Sunday, May 17, 2009

Shaken Baby Syndrome

This morning on the WUSA9 News Now program Annette Cooper; our managing editor and Peggy Fox will be discussing Shaken Baby Syndrome.

Shaken Baby Syndrome has recently touched our Washington FAMILY Magazine family. A former employee is currently dealing with the tragic aftermath of her five-month-old being diagnosed with Shaken Baby Syndrome. Our thoughts and prayers are with her, her baby and her entire family. The following is an exert from an article written by Amy Bevins, our assistant editor. The article will appear in the June issue of Washington FAMILY Magazine.
If you’ve ever been around a crying baby, you know how hard coping and handling the frustration can be.

But what happens when you or another caregiver SNAPS? Gives in to the overwhelming emotion and lashes out – shaking the baby to stop the crying.

Shaken Baby Syndrome, or SBS, impacts thousands of children and families each year. SBS usually occurs when a young child (primarily 0-2 years, but seen in children up to 5) is violently shaken back and forth and/or slammed into a soft or hard surface. Crying is the number one trigger for SBS, but feeding and toileting difficulties are also frequent triggers.

A baby has a disproportionately large head and a weak neck. When shaken, the fragile brain slams back and forth, tearing blood vessels and brain tissue and often causing retinal hemorrhaging. The bleeding and subsequent brain swelling commonly causes further brain damage.

According to the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome (, common symptoms of Shaken Baby Syndrome include:
Lethargy/decreased muscle tone
Extreme irritability
Decreased appetite, poor feeding or vomiting for no apparent reason
Grab-type bruises on arms or chest are rare
No smiling or vocalization
Poor sucking or swallowing
Rigidity or posturing
Difficulty breathing
Head or forehead appears larger than usual or soft-spot on head appears to be bulging
Inability to lift head
Inability of eyes to focus or track movement or unequal size of pupils

Immediate medical attention is critical to helping a child survive a violent shaking.
Shaken Baby Syndrome is preventable.
Providing caregivers with skills to cope with crying babies is essential to preventing SBS. According to The Shaken Baby Alliance (, “Babies cry to communicate, and most babies cry several hours each day. It is the caregiver’s job to learn how to cope with a crying baby, not make the baby stop crying.”
The Shaken Baby Alliance offers the following tips for how to cope with a crying baby:
Check to see that the baby’s basic needs (food, diapering, appropriate clothing, burping, etc.) are met.
Offer the baby a pacifier.
Take the baby for a ride in a stroller or car.
Call a friend, relative, or neighbor.
If a baby’s crying becomes intolerable, put the baby in a safe place such a crib, swing, or car seat and get yourself away from the baby. Take a break, cool down, and remember that it is the baby’s job to cry. It is your job to cope with this crying. Children are not injured by crying, but they can be severely injured or even killed by a caregiver who becomes frustrated and takes this frustration out on the child.
Shaken Baby Syndrome is a preventable, serious, abusive trauma in which 25% to 35% of victims die and a significant percentage of the survivors have lifelong disabilities. The best prevention of SBS is education of caregivers.
So the next time your baby has you at your wits end with non-stop howling, close your eyes, take a deep breath – and do your job. Your baby certainly is.

Shaken Baby Syndrome has recently touched our Washington FAMILY Magazine family. A former employee is currently dealing with the tragic aftermath of her five-month-old being diagnosed with Shaken Baby Syndrome. Our thoughts and prayers are with her, her baby and her entire family.
To learn more, please visit

Helpful Resources:
The Shaken Baby Alliance (
The National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome (
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (
Please if you know someone who can benefit from this information, please pass it along.


  1. As the father of a son who was shaken when he was eleven months old by a child care provider (a 51 year old grandmother), I'd like to thank you for your efforts to increase awareness about the consequences of shaking a child.

    Along with many other family advocates, we work also work to make parents and caregivers aware of the opportunity to prevent shaking injuries. Learning about the vulnerability of young children to shaking is important, but being prepared for those moments of frustration with a simple coping plan is even more important.

    Most important of all is learning how to share that information with all of your child's caregivers in a positive way, without accusation. In the words of an educator, "telling ain't teaching."

    Support in dealing with the consequences of a shaking injury is very important: I would encourage anyone affected by SBS to join an online support group, such as SBSSupportandDiscussion on Yahoo.groups. For info, contact DDycus1067(at)

    We also have a blog with links to information and resources:

    George Litho
    SKIPPER Initiative

  2. I have been dealing w/ the results of my son being shaken for 17 yrs and it doesn't get any easier as the years pass by. I have tried to contact supports groups such as Yahoo and I can not get a response back. Its like such things as this article, the stories are out there but when a parent really needs to join a supports group you can't get a reply. I really want to help anyone I can w/ the long term affects of SBS to help fight the justice system for stronger punishments against the people that hurt these children....Can anyone direct me to some place that will respond to me for a supports group on SBS? God Bless.....