Shaken Baby

Dept. of Community & Family Services (DCFS)
Sabrina Jaar Marzouka, Commissioner

  Department of Community and Family Services - Dutchess County Government Cares

(.pdf version)

NEVER Shake a Baby


What to do if you suspect your child has been shaken:

  • Immediate treatment may prevent serious permanent damage, life threatening injuries or death.
  • It is important to tell the doctor that your child was shaken (or suspected of being shaken).
  • Contact emergency medical service or your doctor immediately if you suspect your child has been shaken.
  • For immediate help call 911.
  • Be sure to tell medical personnel that you know (or you suspect that the child has been shaken).
  • Without this knowledge, the doctor may spend precious time looking for other causes of illness or problems.


Physical consequences of shaking an infant - What happens:

  • The brain rotates within the skull cavity, injuring or destroying brain tissue.
  • When shaking occurs, blood vessels feeding the brain can be torn, leading to bleeding around the brain.
  • Blood pools within the skull, sometimes creating more pressure within the skull and possibly causing additional brain damage.
  • Retinal (back of the eye) bleeding is very common.


Immediate Consequences

• Breathing may stop or be compromised
• Extreme irritability
• Seizures
• Limp arms and legs or rigidity/posturing
• Decreased level of consciousness
• Vomiting; poor feeding
• Inability to suck or swallow
• Heart may stop
• Death

Long-Term Consequences

• Learning disabilities
• Physical disabilities
• Visual disabilities or blindness
• Hearing impairment
• Seizures
• Behavior disorders
• Cognitive impairment
• Death

Ways to Cope:

Caring for a child is a tough job.  An adult’s frustration from nonstop crying is the number one reason a baby is shaken.  Remember, crying is a way to communicate discomforts like:


  • Hunger
  • Soiled diaper or diaper rash
  • Fever
  • Teething
  • Hair wrapped around fingers or toes
  • Too warmly dressed


If these basic needs have been met, try the following calming techniques with your baby:

-   Gentle rocking or walking
-   Use a swing
-   Offer a pacifier
-   Soft music, singing, reading or talking
-   Soothingly rub the tummy or back
-   Go for a drive

If nothing seems to be working, remain calm.  Crying does not hurt the baby.  It’s okay to feel overwhelmed, but it’s not okay to take that frustration out on a baby.  Just a few seconds of violent shaking can change the child’s life and yours forever.

√  Place the baby in a safe place, like a crib, and leave the room.
√  Only return to the room when you feel calm.
√  Relax, breathe deeply, count to 10, then 20.
  Ask a friend or relative to ‘take over’ for a while.
  Ask for support from someone who understands the frustration of caring for a crying baby.

To report child abuse/neglect call the 24 hour hotline - 1-800-342-3720.

For someone to talk to, call - The Child Abuse Prevention Center or Dutchess County Child Protection Services at 845-486-3080.