By Darla Shelden
Twenty nine Oklahoma birthing hospitals recently participated in the “CLICK for Babies, Period of PURPLE® Crying Caps” project. By collecting and distributing more than 3,000 knitted and crocheted purple newborn caps, the program spreads awareness to parents and other caregivers of newborns about normal infant crying and the dangers of shaking an infant.
Frustration with a crying baby during the first few weeks or months of life is the number one trigger for the shaking and abuse of infants. The national public education campaign was started by the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome.
After their discharge from the hospital, parents of newborns are provided with a DVD and purple cap to take home.All hospitals in Oklahoma that deliver babies are encouraged to participate in the program.
Lisa Rhoades, project co-leader, Oklahoma Child Death Review Board said, “Our overall goal is to reduce abusive head trauma, also called shaken baby syndrome. We received great participation from volunteers across Oklahoma and even from people in other states that knitted and crocheted newborn purple hats as part of this project. This is one of many projects included in the Preparing for a Lifetime, It’s Everyone’s Responsibility statewide initiative to reduce infant mortality in Oklahoma.”
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, Oklahoma ranks 44th in the U.S. with an infant mortality rate of 7.85. This means that about eight babies less than one year old die out of every 1,000 live births in Oklahoma.
Ali Wilke, Registered Nurse in the Fetal and Infant Mortality Review program, Oklahoma City County Health Department (OSDH) said, “Far too often, an infant is the victim of abusive head trauma caused by shaking when the parents or another caregiver becomes frustrated with the baby’s crying. The damage from shaking a baby can cause life-altering brain damage and often death of the infant.”
The OSDH Commissioner’s Action Team on Reduction of Infant Mortality has recently expanded to include external partners in the initiative, “Preparing For A Lifetime, It’s Everyone’s Responsibility”, to reduce infant mortality and other adverse birth outcomes as well as reduce racial disparities for such outcomes.
“We plan to do this project every year and will be adding additional hospitals that want to participate and involve their communities in this effort,” said Ann Benson of the Maternal and Child Health Service at the Oklahoma State Department of Health. “We will be recruiting knitters and crotcheters all year long to meet the demand. There are about 4,500 births per month in Oklahoma and we need all the volunteers we can get to reach all the birthing hospitals that want to participate.”
The phrase “Period of Purple Crying” was coined to explain the time in an infant’s life when they cry most often. The word “PURPLE” is an acronym describing the crying: P: Peak of crying, U: Unexpected, R: Resists soothing, P: Pain-like face, L: Long lasting, E: Evening.
Wilke added, “The majority of parents feel alone and that their infant is the only one who cries extensively, sometimes referred to as “colic. Using the term “colic” can be detrimental, as it implies that there is something wrong with their baby. That is simply not the case. Lots of infants experience this “period of purple crying” and just having an acronym, like PURPLE, reminds parents that they are not alone, there is support for them, and it will get better.”
“We hope that by addressing abusive head trauma from the beginning of an infant’s life, at the birth hospital, will better prepare the parents for the possibility of this crying phase,” said Wilke. “We hope that Oklahoma infants will no longer be victims of these tragic accidents.”
For more information or to volunteer to create purple caps, call Ann Benson at (405) 271-4471 or Lisa Rhoades, Oklahoma Child Death Review Board, (405) 606-4900 or visit www.dontshake.org.