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Heads Up: Prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome

SBS: It's not just a crime, it's a public health issue.

What is a Shaken Baby Syndrome?

Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS), a form of abusive head trauma (AHT) and inflicted traumatic brain injury (ITBI), is a preventable and severe form of physical child abuse. It results from violently shaking an infant by the shoulders, arms, or legs. SBS may result from both shaking alone or from impact (with or without shaking).1 The resulting whiplash effect can cause bleeding within the brain or the eyes.2

Nearly all victims of SBS suffer serious health consequences and at least one of every four babies who are violently shaken dies from this form of child maltreatment.

How Can SBS Be Prevented?

Research shows that shaking most often results from crying or other factors that may trigger the person caring for the baby to become frustrated or angry.

The fact is that crying—including long bouts of inconsolable crying—is normal developmental behavior in infants. The problem is not the crying; however, it’s how caregivers respond to it. Picking up a baby and shaking, throwing, hitting, or hurting him/her is never an appropriate response.

baby cryingEveryone, from caregivers to bystanders, can do something to prevent SBS. Giving parents and caregivers tools to know how they can cope if they find themselves becoming frustrated are important components of any SBS prevention initiative.

You can play a key role in reinforcing prevention through helping people understand the dangers of violently shaking a baby, the risk factors and the triggers for it, and ways to lessen the load on stressed out parents and caregivers.  All of which may help to reduce the number of children impacted by SBS.

Where Can I Find Additional Resources?

Shaken Baby Syndrome Initiative Educational Tools and Resources

New study: "Characteristics of non-fatal abusive head trauma among children in the USA, 2003–2008: application of the CDC operational case definition to national hospital inpatient data." Also available as PDF [169 KB]

CDC/Medscape Expert Commentary: Shaken Baby Syndrome: Making the Diagnosis
Sandra P. Alexander, M.Ed
View the video
(Free login required through Medscape to view the video)

Related Links


  1. Carbaugh, S.F., Understanding Shaken Baby Syndrome. Advances in Neonatal Care. 4(2): 105-116, 2004.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Violence Prevention. Shaken Baby Syndrome Tip Sheet. Accessed at:


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