When a baby cries a lot, parents often feel inadequate, powerless and lonely. For some, this causes an impulse to forcefully shake the child – but this behaviour can have disastrous consequences.

Thousands of babies suffer brain damage every year as a result of the so-called shaken baby syndrome, according to experts.

It is usually caused by the father or a male educator losing their temper during an overwhelming moment of powerlessness, according to German politician Baerbl Mielich, who recently spoke out about the issue at an awareness-raising event in Germany.

“Every baby affected by shaken baby syndrome is deprived of essential development opportunities. That should not happen,” Mielich said.

A few seconds is all it takes to shake a baby in a way that causes them life-threatening injuries, experts say.

Many parents are not conscious of the fact that their child’s neck muscles cannot yet hold their comparatively large head, according to Markus Blankenberg, neuropaediatrics director at Stuttgart Hospital.

Possible consequences include brain haemorrhage, epilepsy and serious disabilities for life. The exact number of cases remains unknown, but German authorities estimate that up to 200 babies suffer brain damage for this reason every year within the country’s borders.

Getting help and explanations early enough can defuse difficult situations and positively affect the sensitive relationship between a child and their parents. – dpa/Roland Boehm