Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance

Shaken Baby Syndrome

Every day three to four children are victims of Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) with 20 percent of the cases proving fatal in the first few days after injury. SBS is the leading cause of child abuse death in the United States and it is 100 percent preventable.

Shaken Baby Syndrome, also known as inflicted Traumatic Brain Injury (iTBI) happens when a parent or caregiver shakes a child so hard that the unsupported head moves about violently, causing damage to the brain and blood vessels as the brain repeatedly hits the skull.

Shaking a baby can trigger a "whiplash" effect that can lead to internal injuries including bleeding in the brain or in the eyes. It is important to understand that SBS is the result of violent shaking that leads to a brain injury, which is much like what an adult may sustain in repeated car crashes. Often there are no obvious external physical signs, such as bruising or bleeding to indicate an injury.

The Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance offers training to teen parents, community members and professionals on Shaken Baby Syndrome. For more information, contact Breanna at 612-378-2742 or 800-669-6442.

You should know:

  • While most perpetrators are biological fathers, stepfathers and mothers boyfriends, anyone caring for a child can commit SBS and not all caregivers are prepared to cope with misplaced anger.
  • SBS occurs usually as a result of a caregiver's or parent's violent response to frustration due to excessive crying on the baby's part and it only takes from five to 20 seconds of shaking a baby.
  • Babies, newborn (two to four months) to one year are at greatest risk of injury from shaking because they cry longer and more frequently, and are easier to shake than older or larger children. However SBS has been reported in children up to five years of age.
  • SBS potentially creates a life long disability. It may not always be immediately apparent. The part of the brain that gets damaged may cause it to show up later as a learning disability and can also show up in delays in the developmental milestones such as crawling, walking and coordination in general.
  • The majority of the survivors are left with handicaps ranging from mild - learning disorders, behavioral changes - to moderate and severe, such as profound mental and developmental delays, paralysis, blindness, inability to eat or a permanent vegetative state.
  • The bottom line is that vigorously shaking a baby can be fatal or result in permanent brain damage and disability.


Be meticulous in choosing a day care provider or baby sitter. Always check references or get referrals from close friends or professionals.

If you think something is wrong with your child after being at a day care get medical attention for you baby right away.

  • In severe cases of SBS babies may exhibit the following:
    • Unresponsiveness
    • Loss of consciousness
    • Breathing problems
    • No pulse
  • Babies suffering lesser damage from SBS may exhibit the following:
    • Change in sleeping pattern or inability to be awakened
    • Vomiting
    • Convulsions or seizures
    • Irritability
    • Uncontrollable crying
    • Inability to be consoled
    • Inability to nurse or eat

If you feel like you may be on the verge of losing your temper with an infant, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend placing the baby in a safe environment (a crib or play yard) and leaving the room, checking back every five minutes. The CDC also stresses the importance of asking for help from a friend or family member if the crying gets to be too much and keep in mind that it will get better.

  • SBS can result in the following consequences
    • Death
    • Blindness
    • Cognitive or developmental delays and learning disabilities
    • Cerebral Palsy
    • Severe motor dysfunction
    • Spasticity
    • Seizures

Prevention is the only key – never shake a baby!

If you have questions about Shaken Baby Syndrome, please contact the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance at 612-378-2742 or 800-669-6442.

If you believe yours or another child is the victim of Shaken Baby Syndrome, call 911.

If you have concerns regarding the welfare of a child, please contact your local County Child Protection office which can be found here.

All information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Brain Injury Association of America