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Publication #FAR0410

Shaken Baby Syndrome1

Donna Davis and Suzanna Smith2

Shaken baby syndrome is a term we've come to hear too often in news reports. It's an entirely preventable form of child abuse caused by frustration or a lack of experience in caring for infants.

Caring for an infant can be challenging. It can be difficult to know why a baby's crying or how fragile babies really are. A baby's cries can be unnerving to people unaccustomed to the sound. In an effort to stop the crying, a caretaker may pick up the baby and, out of frustration and anger, shake the baby to quiet it. But babies have big heads and their neck muscles are too weak to support the head. Shaking a baby rattles the brain, which can result in brain damage, blindness, or even death.

Experts from the Child Abuse Prevention Project offer a few suggestions on ways a parent can quiet their nerves when caring for a crying baby.

Consider offering the baby a pacifier. Take the baby for a ride in a stroller or in a car. Put the baby in a safe place and walk away. Be sure to check on the baby every ten minutes or so. The baby will stop crying eventually. Or ask a trusted friend or relative to relieve you for a short time. Remember, it's okay to ask for help. Parenting is hard work, after all.

Listening, learning, and living together: it's the science of life. "Family Album" is a co-production of University of Florida IFAS Extension, the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, and of WUFT-FM. If you'd like to learn more, please visit our website at

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The Child Abuse Prevention Project



This document is FAR0410, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Broadcast as program 122. Original publication March 2009. Revised March 2009. Reviewed January 2015. In the interest of time and/or clarity, the broadcast version of this script may have been modified. Visit the EDIS website at


Donna Davis, senior producer, Family Album Radio, and Suzanna Smith, associate professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.