Preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome: A Call for Awareness and Education

Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) is the leading cause of death in child abuse cases in the Unites States and is considered to be completely preventable. This violent non-accidental injury affects 1.98 children in a general population of 100,000 children, with approximately 44% of them being under the age of 1. The precise mechanism of injury is not always clear, but the associated clinical findings and presentation of injuries or trauma is consistent with each case. The prognosis in each case can vary in degrees from no adverse effect to worse case effect, death.

Education is paramount. Health care professionals are the key to identifying and educating families that are considered to be high risk for shaken baby syndrome.

SBS, also referred to as shaken impact syndrome, is the result of injuries caused when someone vigorously shakes an infant. The shaking that occurs and causes the brain damage usually only takes 5 to 20 seconds and can often be accompanied by a final impact to the baby's head against a bed, chair, or other surfaces.

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Although the victims of SBS are usually under the age of one, it can be seen in children up to 4 years old and is seen predominately in males and children who live at or below the poverty level. (Medscape)When an infant is shaken forcibly, its head will rotate uncontrollably because the necks muscles are underdeveloped and provide very little support to the head. These violent movements cause acceleration and deceleration or back and forth thrusts of the brain within the skull; rupturing blood vessels and nerves throughout the brain and tearing brain tissue and causing bruising and bleeding to the brain.

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This whiplash type injury can cause a variety of common clinical symptoms, to include: poor feeding with a failure to thrive, respiratory problems, irritability, posturing, seizures, fixed and dilated pupils, lethargy, and an altered level of consciousness. (Kids Health)Caring for a sick or irritable infant or child can often be stressful. The sense of overwhelming frustration is normal in these cases, which explains why most perpetrators of shaken baby syndrome are almost always the parents or the caregivers. Finding ways to eliminate the stress is critical to reduce the risk of SBS to children.

If someone feels so overwhelmed with the potential to hurt a child, they should stop what they are doing, calm down and then try to resume helping the child. (Medscape)Education is paramount to the prevention of SBS. The implementation of public campaigns and strategies that increase awareness is necessary. Healthcare professionals are a pivotal key to the success of these campaigns. The educational needs should include ways to cope with the stress and anxiety often associated with caring for sick or crying infants. An offensive and defensive posture can be assumed in combating SBS, which can include various programs like; prenatal and postnatal support programs, child development education, and stress management.


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  2. Carbaugh, S. F. (2004). Preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome. [On-line] Available: , Retrieved on January 18,2005.
  3. Carbaugh, S. F. (2004). Understanding Shaken Baby Syndrome. [Online] Available: , Retrieved on January 18, 2005.
  4. Kids Health, (2004). Shaken Baby/Shaken Impact Syndrome. [On-line] Available: , Retrieved on January 18, 2005.
  5. National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, [On-line] Available:,Retrieved January 18, 2005.
  6. National Institute of Neurological Disorders, (2004). [On-line] Available: , Retrieved on January 18, 2005.
  7. National Shaken Baby Syndrome Campaign, (2004). [On-line] Available: ,Retrieved on January 18, 2005.
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Updated: Nov 30, 2023
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Preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome: A Call for Awareness and Education. (2016, Jul 20). Retrieved from

Preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome: A Call for Awareness and Education essay
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