Skip to Main Content Health Care Professionals Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit Search

Shaken baby syndrome

PDF/Printer-Friendly Version

When babies cry, you may want to cry too. This is normal!

Babies cry for many reasons and sometimes they cry for no reason at all. Crying is perfectly healthy and normal in babies as it is their only form of communication.

The average newborn cries two to three hours a day and can have crying spells that last 20 to 60 minutes, or longer.

When your baby cries…

  • Remember to stay calm.
  • All babies cry, some more than others.
  • Babies may cry more each day until 2 to 3 months of age before their crying starts decreasing.
  • Crying can last 30 to 40 minutes or even longer.
  • Babies may not stop crying regardless of what you do.
  • If you feel angry or frustrated, put the baby in a safe place and give yourself 5 to 10 minutes to calm down.
  • Call a family member or friend to help.
  • If you are worried consult your doctor.

Prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome

Shaken Baby Syndrome is a condition that occurs when a baby is shaken violently. Shaking is a potentially fatal form of child abuse. If a baby is shaken with force in a moment of anger or exhaustion, it can lead to a lifetime of problems:

  • Shaking can damage a child’s brain.
  • Shaking can cause permanent disabilities such as blindness or paralysis.
  • Shaking can even cause death.

Never, ever shake your baby or young child!

Why do babies cry?

Crying is an important way that your baby communicates to you before they can speak. Figuring out crying can be difficult – here are some suggestions::

Hunger

Offer the breast often, if that helps to soothe baby. Continue to feed baby on demand as baby may be hungrier on some days.

Need to be close to people, touched, picked up, held, rocked

Hold, rock, massage, dance with baby in your arms, sit together on bouncing ball or rocking chair, talk and sing to baby. Take off shirt and hold baby skin to skin. Take bath with baby. Go for walk with baby in your arms or in a stroller. Lie down beside baby while you nurse, massage, gently touch or talk to baby. Let someone else hold baby.

Pain or discomfort

Pick up baby, comfort, change diaper, burp or rub baby’s back. Changing baby’s position may help.

Too hot/too cold

Babies should be dressed as warmly as you are – plus one more layer. Baby should not be cool to the touch.

Tired or over-stimulated

Swaddle baby with a light blanket, turn lights off, keep surroundings quiet. Rocking baby gently can be soothing for both of you.

Needs a change

Read, play, talk, sing, hold baby everyday. Change rooms so baby can look at different things.

Control Your Breathing – “Just unknown”

Hold, rock, talk, walk, sing, bathe baby, swaddle, massage, offer the breast, or try soothing music. Try to comfort the baby, giving time for baby to respond to each thing you do.

Illness

If your baby’s cry sounds different to you or baby cannot be soothed after trying everything, see your doctor or call: Telehealth Ontario 1-866-797-0000

Updated January 2019.

Source

  • Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation Shaken Baby Syndrome Prevention Program
  • Life Span Adaptation Projects, Institute of Child Study
  • University of Toronto, 45 Walmer Road, Toronto, Ontario M5R 2X2 ~ 416-934-4524