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Colic > Colic Resources > Never Shake A Baby

Never Shake A Baby

What is shaken baby syndrome?

    Shaking is a potentially fatal form of child abuse. There are no Canadian data to indicate how many babies are victims of shaking, but experts in child abuse caution that they are seeing more cases of shaken baby syndrome.

    If a baby is shaken with force in a moment of anger, it can lead to a lifetime of effects: Shaking can damage a child's brain.

    Shaking can cause permanent disabilities, like blindness or paralysis.

    Shaking can even cause death.

    Children less than 1 year old are particularly at risk. Older children can also be seriously injured if they are shaken violently. No child, at any age, should be shaken.

How can parents protect their child from brain injury?

    Protect your child from this potential tragedy. Talk to your babysitter, day care workers, friends, and relatives so that they are also aware of the dangers of shaking a child.

Where can parents go for help?

    Being a parent or caregiver is not easy. A baby's constant crying can be stressful, and can be a dangerous trigger for you. But there are many resources and professionals who can help you in difficult times.

    If you have concerns or questions, talk to your paediatrician, family physician, or public health nurse, and look for local community resources that support parents and caregivers.

    Check the first pages of your local phone book for the emergency numbers in your area.

    If your child is crying, here are some suggestions:

    • Check to see whether the crying is a signal that your baby needs something specific, like a diaper change, feeding, relief from being too hot or too cold, or attention for a fever.
    • If your baby continues to cry after you've made sure there's no specific problem, try to stay calm and check your own state of mind. Are you upset? Are you frustrated?
    • If you feel like you might lose control, stop! Place your child safely in the crib, take a time-out and leave the child's room for a few minutes.
    • Talk to a friend, family member, neighbour, or anyone else you trust, and get some support.
    • If you feel you may hurt your baby, call for help: a local crisis line, your child welfare agency, or police.
    • Remember, no matter how upset you feel, DON'T SHAKE YOUR BABY.

What should parents do?

    Plan ahead. Some tips for parents:
    • If your baby tends to cry often, make some arrangements for regular child care relief, and get some rest.
    • Form a "back-up" plan for calling in reliable help when your baby's crying seems impossible to deal with.
    • Talk to a friend, family member, counsellor, or health professional about your situation.
    • Know your caregiver. Never leave your child with someone you don't trust, or someone who has violent reactions.

Shaking is not first aid!

    If a baby is not breathing, shaking will not help. The appropriate treatment is artificial breathing, or CPR. Many community organizations, such as St. John Ambulance or Red Cross, offer inexpensive or free courses for these first-aid skills.

    Don't harm a baby in a moment of frustration. The effects could last a lifetime!

Source: Developed by the CPS Psychosocial Paediatrics Committee in 1997

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