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Crying infants often a cause of frustration for caregivers

December 11, 2003|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Crying is the way an infant communicates, but it is often the cause of the frustration in a parent or caregiver that leads to Shaken Baby Syndrome, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

"We don't know how much force is needed to produce the injuries, but we know it has to be violent," Dr. Mark Dias, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Hershey (Pa.) Medical Center testified Tuesday in Franklin County Court during the trial of a man charged with shaking his infant son.

The back and forth shaking of an infant's head can result in what Dias called a rotational injury which is "much more damaging to the brain than a linear impact" such a fall. He testified he has treated about 70 infants with the syndrome.

The result can be damage to the blood vessels in the brain and eyes, Dias said.

He estimated about a quarter to a third of infants with Shaken Baby Syndrome die, while another third suffer permanent neurological damage such as blindness, mental retardation, seizures or learning disabilities, according to Dias.

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Among the symptoms of Shaken Baby Syndrome are irregular or stopped breathing, extreme crankiness, seizures or vomiting and limp arms or legs, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

When a baby will not stop crying, the department of health recommends several measures to deal with the tension it can create in a parent, beginning with laying the baby down on its back or side in a crib and going to another room for a few minutes to calm down.

The department also recommends:

  • Breathe slowly and deeply.

  • Call a friend or relative to talk.

  • Exercise nearby.

  • Listen to music or read.

  • Ask for help.


The department has a 24 hour crisis hotline that offers support, information, literature and referrals for parents at 1-800-4A CHILD.

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