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Never shake a baby

shake; baby; brain; damage; eye; cry; anger; stress; crying; hit; hitting; shaking; angry; ;

NEVER shake a baby.

Shaking can cause serious brain damage, the injuries can last forever, and some children die.


Parenting is not easy.

All parents and caregivers feel stressed at times.

But no matter how you feel, never do anything that could hurt or frighten a baby, and NEVER shake a baby. Shaking can cause serious brain damage, the injuries can last forever, and some children die.

Adults can easily hurt a baby by rough, angry handling such as:

  • shaking
  • jiggling
  • dropping or throwing into a cot
  • hitting, slapping, pinching.

Babies can also become fearful and tense.

Shaking a baby can lead to:

  • brain damage
  • unconsciousness, fits, epilepsy
  • blindness, cerebral palsy
  • speech or learning problems
  • damage to bones or organs such as liver heart, lungs, kidneys.

Babies under one year are most at risk. Toddlers and older children can be hurt too.

When your baby won't stop crying

You may feel frustrated and angry if a baby cries a lot and nothing you do seems to help.

It may be hard to resist the urge to lash out.

If you feel angry – STOP – give yourself a chance to calm down.

Get away from the baby's cries for a short time.

You could:

  • leave the room – put baby safely in a cot on his or her back, go outside, walk, cry, talk out loud to yourself until you are calmer
  • hand baby to another responsible person while you take a short break
  • phone someone who will listen and understand
  • in South Australia phone the Parent Helpline 1300 364 100.
  • In Australia call your local Parent Helpline

Then you or another person needs to try settling baby again.  Have a look at the topic 'Crying baby' for ideas about how to do this.

Looking after yourself will help you deal with stress better. Exercise, eat well, rest, and say 'yes' to offers of help.

Everyone needs help sometimes. 

Why babies cry

Babies cry to communicate. A crying baby may be:

  • hungry, wet
  • tired
  • uncomfortable, too hot or cold
  • scared, lonely, upset, bored
  • in pain, sick, teething or have wind (colic).

Your baby is not trying to make you upset. Your baby does not know how you feel.

Settling ideas

Settling ideas

If your baby has been fed, changed, cuddled and still won't settle you could:

  • walk with your baby or rock baby snuggled up close to your chest to hear your heartbeat
  • carry baby in a sling
  • hold baby in a 'C' position in the crook of your arm, or face down across your lap – gently pat or rub your baby
  • wrap baby in a cotton sheet – gently pat or rock your baby Wrapping babies
  • put baby in a pram and rock or push backwards and forwards – try taking baby for a walk outside in the fresh air
  • whisper, talk or sing gently, play soft music
  • offer your baby a dummy – but if you are breastfeeding we recommend that you do not give your baby a dummy until breastfeeding is well established.  
  • in South Australia phone the Parent Helpline 1300 364 100 for more ideas.
  • in Australia - call your local Parent Helpline

See your doctor, nurse or hospital straight away if your baby seems unwell.

Have a look at the topic Crying baby. 

Handle your baby with care

Your baby is precious and fragile. As you get to know your baby, you will learn how she responds and communicates.

Be alert to your baby's signals

Stop immediately if baby seems upset, frightened or hurt by the way she is being handled – even if it's 'only play'.

If you need to leave your baby with someone else

If you need to leave your baby with someone, make sure that the person is responsible and knows what to do if your baby cries.

  • If your baby is crying a lot, it may not be a good time to leave your baby with other people who may find the crying too stressful.
  • If you are feeling stressed, then anyone else who spends time with your child will also feel stressed by your baby's crying.
  • In South Australia, make sure that they have the Parent Helpline number (1300 364 100). Anyone can call that number, not only parents
  • in Australia - they can call your local Parent Helpline - they are not only for parents.

If you think your baby has been hurt

  • Get help straight away.
  • Take baby to a doctor, hospital or call your emergency number (000 in Australia) for an ambulance.

Where to get help

South Australia

  • Parent Helpline
    24 hours a day, 7 days a week
    phone: 1300 364 100. 
  • Child and Family Health Centres
    9am - 4.30pm Monday to Friday - for your nearest clinic and to make an appointment
    phone: 1300 733 606.
  • Australian Breastfeeding Association 
    7 days a week for breastfeeding support
    phone: 1800 686 268 
  • Women's and Children's Hospital
    phone: 8161 7000.
  • Crisis Care
    Counselling and practical help for individuals and families in any type of crisis. Week days 4pm – 9pm, weekends 24 hours
    phone: 131 611.


  • Your doctor, nurse, hospital, community health centre or paediatrician.

More to read

Pregnancy, birth and baby - Pregnancy, Birth and Baby is a national Australian Government service providing support and information for expecting parents and parents of children, from birth to 5 years of age.

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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).

This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.

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