When it comes to “Awareness” months, one of the most important ones in my mind happens in May: Shaken Baby Awareness Month.
Shaken Baby Syndrome (sometimes knowns as Shaken Impact Syndrome or Abusive Head Trauma) is a serious brain, head, or neck injury that occurs when someone shakes a baby. Shaken Baby Syndrome is a form of child abuse that causes damage to a baby’s brain, impacts growth and development, and can cause death in a young child.
The most common cause of this syndrome is an adult’s frustration with an infant’s crying. Babies with colic, special needs, or health problems can be at an even higher risk of Shaken Baby Syndrome because of the increased amount and level of their crying.
Although this is a difficult and possibly triggering topic to discuss, it’s a reality that needs to be brought to light. By bringing awareness to Shaken Baby Syndrome, more parents and caregivers can be educated about the severity and harmful consequences associated with shaking a baby.
Support and resources are available for parents, including the ByeByeCry™ baby sound machine. The sound machine can help adults manage their frustration and soothe a baby’s constant crying.
Facts About Shaken Baby Syndrome
Some fast facts to help educate about Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS), also referred to as Abusive Head Trauma (AHT) are as follows:
3 seconds of shaking is all it takes. In this small amount of time, an infant or child can have severe brain damage or other injuries that may even lead to death.
There are an estimated 600-1400 cases of SBS/AHT in the US every year. Because there’s no exact data measurement tool for the precise number of cases, the accurate number is unknown.
Most cases of SBS/AHT happen to babies and children younger than 2 years old.(3)
The number one cause of SBS in infants is a parent or caregiver’s frustration due to a baby’s crying.
“SBS/AHT is the leading cause of physical child abuse in the U.S.”(6)
“Approximately 25% of victims of SBS/AHT die.”(6)
Why Shaken Baby Syndrome Awareness Is Important
It’s important for everyone to be made aware of the severity and the preventability of Shaken Baby Syndrome. For the most immediate and pressing reason: awareness could save an infant’s life.
The good news: SBS is completely preventable.
This is a huge reason why May’s Shaken Baby Syndrome Awareness Month is so important. And it doesn’t stop there – every month counts. The more support and that parents and caregivers receive, the better the chance of preventing this abuse before it happens.
Shaken Baby Syndrome Symptoms
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Shaken baby syndrome symptoms and signs include:
Extreme fussiness or irritability
Difficulty staying awake
Pale or bluish skin
Not all symptoms of Shaken Baby Syndrome are external or present immediately. Some internal symptoms may include bleeding in the brain, damage to bones and the skeletal system, or spinal cord injuries.
It’s important that a child who is a victim of this abuse is seen by a medical professional immediately. If you suspect that your baby has been injured by severe shaking, call 911 or go to the emergency room at the nearest hospital.
Organizations That Help Bring Awareness and Support for Shaken Baby Syndrome
This organization’s mission is to provide support, prevention, and justice for victims and families who’ve been affected by SBS. They offer training, consultation, and many methods of support.
The center works to help prevent SBS and provides support and education to parents, caregivers, and professionals through programs and research.
As a part of the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, this program has the goal of reducing the number of SBS/AHT incidents by supporting parents and caregivers through education on early infant crying.
How Did the COVID-19 Pandemic Affect the Number of Shaken Baby Syndrome or Abusive Head Trauma Cases?
According to a study done by the University of Pittsburgh,
“During the pandemic there was a higher mortality rate along with a higher proportion of patients with retinal hemorrhages and abnormalities on cervical spine imaging compared to pre-pandemic, suggesting increased severity of AHT for patients presenting to a pediatric tertiary care center during the pandemic.”
While it seemed that the number of reported cases of AHT in the first year of the pandemic was similar to the number of cases in the two previous years, the study did show a higher death rate and severity of cases.
How to Support and Bring Awareness During Shaken Baby Awareness Month
Support for SBS/AHT awareness during the month of May can extend well beyond those few weeks. We all know that babies are born every day. Moms, dads, and caregivers need support year-round.
Here are ways to bring more awareness about Shaken Baby Syndrome and help others.
Check-in on new-parent friends. There are many ways to support a friend, especially those with a colicky baby.
Gift ByeByeCry™ to a new mom or dad in need. Preventative tools that can help soothe a colicky or fussy baby can, in turn, help with an adult’s frustration levels.
Share knowledge of helpful tools. One tool I’ve mentioned before is noise-canceling headphones. They can help when a parent is overstimulated by cries and screams. It’s OK to take a minute (or more) to reset. These can help an adult calm down, while still being physically present. Remember, the headphones are not to be used to ignore the baby; put them on when you need to calm down when you are caring for him or her.
Research to educate yourself. The more you can learn about SBS/AHT, the more awareness you can help bring.
Take a new parent education class. If you’re expecting a baby, these classes review SBS and prevention tips.
If you have a colicky baby, know the ways you can soothe them. Managing frustration with proactive steps can help parents remain calm during long bouts of crying.
Use the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Technique.
Make sure your baby’s needs are met (dry, fed, safe)
Put the baby down in a safe space (crib) where there are no blankets, etc.
Set a 10-minute timer & choose a task to do alone. (unload the dishwasher, go for a solo walk, hydrate, etc.) If you don’t have a choice to be alone and have other small children at home, color a page in a coloring book with your toddler(s) in a quiet space.
While you complete the task, practice the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Technique. In your head or out loud, name:
5 things you can see.
4 things you can hear.
3 things you can touch.
2 things you can smell.
1 thing you can taste.
Go back and reconnect with your baby in a different mood and with a new mindset.
Know and share support hotlines, such as
National Maternal Mental Health Hotline at 1-833-943-5746 (1-833-9-HELP4MOMS)
National Parent Hotline at 1-855-427-2736 (1-855-4A PARENT)
Seek professional help. If you or someone close to you is struggling, talk to a doctor, therapist, or your child’s pediatrician.
Spread the word. Make sure that family members, caregivers, and friends who are providing support and taking care of the baby know about the dangers of Shaken Baby Syndrome.
Shaken Baby Syndrome is a serious topic that comes with serious consequences once a baby or toddler has been affected.
Here at the ByeByeCry Club, we work to support one another through colic, as well as help educate and bring awareness to things that all parents and caregivers should know about.
Together, we can help shine a light during Shaken Baby Awareness Month and beyond. Knowledge is true power.
NY State, Child Protective Services. “Shaken Baby Syndrome.” https://ocfs.ny.gov/programs/cps/shaken-baby-syndrome.php#:~:text=Resources-,May%20is%20Shaken%20Baby%20Syndrome%20Awareness%20Month,under%20the%20age%20of%20one.
American Association of Neurological Surgeons. “Shaken Baby Syndrome.” https://www.aans.org/en/Patients/Neurosurgical-Conditions-and-Treatments/Shaken-Baby-Syndrome
Deutsch, Stephanie A., MD. KidsHealth. “Abusive Head Trauma (Shaken Baby Syndrome).” https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/shaken.html
Mayo Clinic. “Shaken baby syndrome.” https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/shaken-baby-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20366619
Cercone, Dominic J., Rachel P. Berger, Mioara D. Manole, Jane K. Soung, Carmen M. Coombs, Kathleen A. Noorbakhsh. “Increased severity of abusive head trauma during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.” https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0145213422005051?dgcid=raven_sd_via_email
National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome. https://www.dontshake.org/