Preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome

Baby is crying? Stay calm!

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The arrival of a baby for a couple or a family is very often synonymous with joy. Nonetheless, this event upsets routines and can be a source of fatigue and stress for any parent, particularly due to disrupted sleep patterns.

In the weeks and months following birth, the newborn baby shows his or her needs mainly by crying which can, in some cases, continue for several hours a day.

This crying, combined with a lack of sleep, complicated personal situations or stress, can become difficult to bear for parents or carers.

If you feel overwhelmed or at the end of one's tether, it is better to give yourself a break, put your baby safely into the cot for a while or ask for help. It is better to act early to prevent frustration or a loss of control, which could lead to drastic action.

Never shake a baby! He or she risks suffering serious injuries from which he or she could die.

The syndrome and its impact


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What is shaken baby syndrome?

Shaken baby syndrome occurs when an adult shakes an infant violently and repeatedly back and forth. It is a serious form of child abuse that is likely to cause severe brain injuries or the death of the child.

What are the immediate consequences?

The brain of an infant is very fragile. Even briefly, violent shaking back and forth causes sloshing in the cranial cavity that can cause bleeding on the brain and retinal bleeding.

A baby's muscle structure is insufficiently developed and does not allow the head to be stabilised. Great differences in speed (acceleration and braking) caused by shaking apply excessive pressure to the spine at neck level and can cause spinal injuries.

The greater the acceleration and braking, the more severe the injuries. Bruises and fractures can also occur.

In the long term?

Violent shaking can cause long-term injuries. These include physical and/or mental disability, sight disorders or neuropsychological disorders.

What to do when in doubt?

A baby who has been shaken does not necessarily show visible signs of injury. If you are in doubt or if your baby appears to be in an abnormal condition, has seizures or is vomiting, it is essential that you consult a health professional.

Emergency assistance

  • Vaud - Centrale téléphonique des médecins de garde  : 0848 133 133 - Website
  • Geneva - Centrale téléphonique pour les urgences pédiatriques : 0844 022 022
  • Immediate care and emergencies: 144

Some figures on the situation in Switzerland

In our country, victims of shaken baby syndrome are most frequently under 12 months old. In 2/3 cases, they are less than 6 months old, with a spike between the first and second months of life. The death rate is between 15 and 23%. Among surviving babies, 64% have injuries, of which 50% are serious injuries. Before entrusting the care of your child to someone else, make sure that the people around you are aware of and informed about shaken baby syndrome and its consequences. Nannies, childminders, grandparents, uncles and aunts, friends, etc. Any person who frequently or sometimes looks after infants is affected.

Decode the crying of infants to manage your emotions more effectively


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Why do babies cry? Infants crying is completely normal. This is how they communicate.

Hunger, fatigue, comforting, pain or discomfort: crying can have multiple causes. As a parent, you will naturally learn to identify the different ways in which your baby cries. You will thus be able to respond to her or his needs better.

What is persistent crying?

In the first few weeks of life, a baby's crying can increase and continue for several hours a day, often in the late afternoon or evening. This is also called "fussy evening". Some babies can be calmed easily, whereas others continue to cry without a specific reason, in spite of all efforts made to attempt to soothe them.

Not being able to soothe a baby can be very upsetting for many parents. Repeat crying can create additional fatigue and stress. You can thus feel powerless, exasperated or frustrated, and can even become angry.

These emotions are rightful, provided that they are not expressed verbally or physically on the child. It is thus particularly important that they are recognised and that you learn to control them.

Any parent may have difficulty calming their baby when they cry and this does not raise questions about your abilities. It is not your fault!

What is "infantile colic"?

When we talk about "colic", we are generally referring to gastrointestinal problems. However, "infantile colic" refers to excessive crying in a baby who is in good health. In practice, it is thought that a baby has "infantile colic" when they cry a lot, for a long time and remain inconsolable.

Usually, these crying fits spike at one and a half months, and then become less frequent.

Recognise your limits and ask for help to prevent any dangerous action.


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What attitude to adopt to deal with persistent crying?

Do not shout and try to stay calm.

You can try to rock your child, walk him, talk to them softly or hum a song to them.

If you cannot calm him down, the best thing to do is to place your baby safely in her or his cot after you have fed and changed them. Let them cry for a while and give yourself a break in another room. Breathe, relax, take your mind off things! Wait until you are calm before you pick your baby up again.

If you feel overwhelmed, angry or you are losing your temper, it is essential that you ask for help (for example, by calling a friend or family member).

Hand over to someone you trust and give yourself a little space to let go and relax.

Do not hesitate to seek advice and support from your friends and family or health professionals: a paediatrician, a midwife, a perinatal nurse. Rather than a weakness, knowing and recognising your limits is a strength!

You are not alone


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"I didn't know what to do anymore."

Jeanne, mother

"She had been crying for 20 hours."

Damien, father

"Impossible to free myself, neither the arms nor the head."

Nathalie, mother


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The frequency of shaken baby syndrome varies from one country to another. The figure is nonetheless between 14 and 56 shaken babies per 100,000 births each year.

In Switzerland, a study carried out between 2002 and 2007 showed a frequency of 14 cases per 100,000 births each year.

The frequency of this phenomenon is certainly underestimated as only serious situations, requiring hospitalisation, are identified.

This website was designed to raise the awareness of parents and childminders about shaken baby syndrome, publicise the realities of this abuse and its consequences, and offer preventive solutions.

It is supported by the CHUV, HUG, the State of Vaud and the private HUG foundation.

Editorial committee

All the information contained on this website has been reviewed by the CAN and neonatology team at the CHUV as well as the University Center of Legal Medicine.

This prevention campaign was created by a project of the MicroMBA programme at the CHUV.

CHUV - Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaud, logo.
HUG - Hopitaux Universitaires de Genève, logo.
Vaud, Canton logo.
HUG - Private foundation logo

The project team

Tony Fracasso

Sarah Depallens

Lydie Beauport

Pierre Valentin

Elise Méan

Thanks to

Jean-François Tolsa

Laurent Wehrli

Madeleine Taddei-Petit

Madeleine Mirabaud

Dominique Tzogalis-Briner

Mathilde Morisod-Harari

Anne Perrier

Anouchka Micolis