For the last several months, two women from a small community on the western tip of Wisconsin have been making purple baby caps, hoping to make a big difference.
Wanda Viellieux and Verla Thorne from New Richmond, Wisconsin have been busy since the beginning of spring knitting and crocheting nearly 100 purple infant hats to support the Click for Babies: Period of Purple Crying campaign. This annual campaign organized by the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome works in partnership with hospitals, public health and child abuse prevention groups throughout North America to create awareness of the leading trigger for infant abuse - frustration surrounding infant crying.
The campaign has two main goals: one, to support parents and caregivers in their understanding of early increased infant crying, and two, to reduce the incidence of shaken baby syndrome. According to the Click for Babies official website, early increased infant crying (dubbed the "purple crying" period) is defined as a "period of time when infant crying increases; beginning when babies are about two weeks old, peaking in the second month and ending around the third to fifth month."
The purple caps - which are collected all across the US and parts of Canada and donated to local clinics, hospitals, home visitation programs and agencies - are handmade each year, and created in all shades of purple. They are then given to new parents with infants during the chilly months of November and December along with a video, booklet, and bedside information describing the period of purple crying.
While inconsolable crying can be a huge stressor for new parents, there is new research out of British Columbia that claims education about why babies cry has reduced the incidence of shaken baby syndrome in the province by more than one third. The study, by B.C. Children's Hospital and the University of British Columbia, looked at the effectiveness of the Period of Purple Crying campaign to teach parents that crying is a normal development phase. Since 2009, there has been a 35 per cent reduction in the number of children under two admitted to B.C. hospitals with shaking-related injuries.
Dr. Ron Barr, developmental pediatrician and a professor emeritus of UBC's Faculty of Medicine, helped launch the program in B.C. in 2009 in support of new parents who may be struggling with an inconsolable infant.
"New parents often don't have a good idea of what is coming up in the first two or three or five months of life," he said. "Some [babies] cry more and some cry less but they all have this pattern of crying in the early months and so if parents are not ready for it, it can be extremely frustrating,"