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Period of PURPLE crying educates new parents about shaken baby syndrome

March 22, 2013

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Sleepless nights caring for a red-faced screaming infant who cannot be soothed can cause parents or caregivers to unravel. It’s easy for them to assume there is something seriously wrong with the baby – or themselves.

But research shows inconsolable crying is normal behavior for all infants, particularly during the first three months of life.

Greenbrier Valley Medical Center in Roncerverte, WV, hopes that by educating patents of this part of a baby’s development – and how to respond to it – they can help prevent abuse.

The hospital last year began distributing DVDs and booklets to the parents of newborn babies to help them cope with excessive crying and learn ways to avoid shaking their baby. It is part of a program called “the period of PURPLE crying,” which was developed by the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome. The hospital’s program also involves community outreach and TV ads – all to make babies safer during their first few months.

The number one trigger for all child abuse is crying, says Molly McMillion, Greenbrier Valley Medical Center’s health education coordinator. She says parents and caregivers should know “three things about inconsolable crying: It is normal, it is not their fault and it will pass.”

The National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome estimates that between 1,200 to 1,400 children are injured or killed by shaking each year in the United States.

Known as the period of PURPLE crying, the cycle begins in the first month, peaks during the second month and tapers off at
the end of three months. “We advise new parents to put the baby down in a safe place for a short time and step away to calm down if they become too frustrated,” McMillion says.

Since the hospital launched the program last March, more than 600 parents have received training and the 20-minute DVD that helps them understand the reasons that babies cry and what is normal for newborns.

“We need to change the culture, and that starts with education,” says McMillion.