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How is shaken baby syndrome treated and prevented?

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Treatment for shaken baby syndrome depends on the injury. Surgery may be needed in an emergency. Some children will need care for the rest of their lives.

Shaken baby syndrome is 100% preventable. It starts with making sure all the baby's caregivers -- parents, grandparents, baby sitters, nannies, etc. -- understand two things:

1. The dangers of shaking a baby, even for a few seconds.

2. That babies cry a lot at first. The National Center for shaken baby syndrome calls it PURPLE crying:

Sometimes you can stop the crying by rubbing the baby's back, singing, using “white noise” from an app or the sound of running water, taking a walk, or using a pacifier. Sometimes nothing seems to work. That’s when you especially need to manage your feelings.

Have a plan in place. If you feel pushed beyond your limit, put the baby on his back in a safe place -- or inside your home in a car seat with the baby strapped in on the floor (never leave your little one alone in the car!) -- and step away for a moment. Call someone you trust -- even your neighbor -- who'll listen to your frustrations. As you talk, check on the baby every 5-10 minutes. You could also ask someone to watch your baby for half an hour while you take a walk and collect yourself.

If you notice your caregiver or another parent struggling, be supportive and suggest a safe place they can take the baby when they need a break. Like babies, sometimes parents and caregivers just need to cry and be comforted.

If you suspect someone of shaking a baby, call your local police or the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 800-4-A-Child (800-422-4453).

  • Peak pattern. At 2-3 months old, babies cry the most.
  • Unpredictable. Crying starts and stops without reason.
  • Resistant to soothing. Nothing stops the crying.
  • Pain-like look on face. When babies cry, they look like they're in pain, even if they're not.
  • Long bouts of crying. Babies can cry for hours at a time.
  • Evening crying. Some babies cry more in the afternoon and evening.

From: What Is Shaken Baby Syndrome? WebMD Medical Reference

SOURCES:

CDC: "A Journalist's Guide to Shaken Baby Syndrome: A Preventable Tragedy."

Mayo Clinic: "Shaken baby syndrome."

National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome: "Learn More."

Childhelp: "Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline."

Reviewed by Dan Brennan on June 25, 2019

SOURCES:

CDC: "A Journalist's Guide to Shaken Baby Syndrome: A Preventable Tragedy."

Mayo Clinic: "Shaken baby syndrome."

National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome: "Learn More."

Childhelp: "Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline."

Reviewed by Dan Brennan on June 25, 2019

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