Canadian Red Cross

Be Safe - A personal safety program for children ages 5 -9 with a focus on child abuse prevention.

Respect Education - A variety of workshops that cover Violence, Bullying and Abuse Prevention.
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Who do I tell? - An educational program that offers the facts about child sexual abuse and empowers communities to speak openly about this issue.
Canadian Centre for Child Abuse Protection

Teatree Tells - A child abuse prevention kit designed fro children 4 - 6 years of age. Topics include identifying a safe adult, feelings, naming body parts, establishing personal boundaries, etc.

You are here >For Parents > Infant Crying > What is Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS)?

What is Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS)?

Shaken Baby Syndrome is a term used to describe the very serious injuries that can happen if a baby is roughly shaken. Rough shaking causes a baby's head to whiplash back and forth. The jerking motion can cause blood vessels inside the brain and behind the eyes to tear and bleed. Compared to adults and older children, babies have fragile brains that are still developing. Babies' heads are heavy and their neck muscles are weak; this is why their heads have to be supported. Babies are more at risk they are because their brain and body haven't yet developed fully however, there have been SBS victims as old as five years old. Even a few seconds of shaking can cause a baby to have lasting brain damage or even die.

  • 20% - 33% of the known SBS victims die.
  • Also called: Inflicted Head Trauma, Abusive Head Trauma or Head Injury due to Suspected Child Maltreatment
  • Many SBS survivors have life long disabilities such as:
    • blindness,
    • paralysis,
    • growth and development disabilities,
    • eating problems,
    • mental disabilities,
    • and/or seizure disorders.
  • Even victims who seem OK at first may have problems such as learning and attention difficulty in school when they are older.

Play activities like being bounced gently on a knee or swinging in an infant seat, do not cause the type of injuries seen in Shaken Baby Syndrome. But, when doing any activities that may cause jarring, be sure that the baby's head and neck are well supported. If you are not sure that an activity is safe for your baby, don't do it.


Why would anyone shake a baby?

Violently shaking an infant is not a random act committed by a stranger. Usually, shaking a baby is an impulsive act, often by an exhausted or frustrated parent or caregiver. It could happen to anyone. Reasons for shaking a baby or child include toileting mistakes, sleeping problems, or feeling that the child is not listening to the caregiver.

The most common reason given for shaking a baby is that the baby wouldn't stop crying or fussing.

It is normal to have strong feelings in response to a baby's crying; however, everyone needs to know that they must never shake or otherwise harm a baby. To learn more about infant crying, click here.