Study Examines Economy, Baby Abuse

posted by Dr. James G. Hood
Wednesday, June 16, 2010

This article and the helpful hints that follow may be very important information for caregivers of newborns.

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This appears to be a national issue.  I am on a workgroup with Seattle Children’s Hospital that has a goal of fully implementing The Period of PURPLE Crying, a promising prevention strategy, with the birthing hospitals in our state.

Study examines economy, baby abuse

By Amanda Pierce

Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, May 19, 2010 12:25 a.m. MDT

OGDEN — A weakened economy may be to blame for a rise in the number of shaken baby syndrome and abusive head trauma cases, according to a new study presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies’ annual meeting in May.

The study, conducted at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and headed by Dr. Rachel Berger, assistant professor of pediatrics, shows the additional stress on families during the economic downturn may cause parents to unintentionally injure their babies, according to the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome located in Ogden.

According to the center, Berger’s study shows the number of shaken baby syndrome cases rose from 4.8 per month in December 2007, the start of the recession, to 9.3 per month since that date. In the study, 63 percent of the 512 cases of abusive head trauma from the four hospitals evaluated resulted in the child being admitted to a pediatric intensive care unit. Sixteen percent resulted in death.

Brian Lopez, marketing director for the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, said the study is especially important to the state with the highest birth rate — Utah.

“Utah is well-known for being family-friendly and hungry for information that can lead to better care for their children,” Lopez said.

One of the center’s programs, the Period of PURPLE Crying, was created in 2002 and first implemented in 2007 after three years of testing, he said.

The goal of the program is to help educate parents about the period of PURPLE crying, a developmental stage all infants experience, by distributing free 10-minute DVDs and 11-page informational booklets to new parents.

During this normal developmental stage, an infant may cry for up to five hours without cause, Lopez said. This stage begins when the newborn is 2 weeks old and ends when he or she is 4-5 months old.

Dr. Ronald Barr, a developmental pediatrician, came up with the PURPLE acronym, which stands for: peak of crying, unexpected, resists soothing, pain-like face, long lasting and evening.

According to the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, the acronym is supposed to help parents realize the baby’s crying will increase over time, come and go sporadically, continue despite the parents’ attempts to soothe the child, create the impression of pain when there is none, last five or more hours per day and peak in the evening when the parents are more likely to be tired.

“The program creates an easy way for parents and caregivers to understand the normalcy of early infant crying through the use of the PURPLE acronym,” Lopez said. “This information gives parents realistic expectations of crying as it pertains to a new infant.”

Utah was the first state to implement a statewide PURPLE program. As of 2009, all birthing hospitals in Utah have the program, Lopez said.

Since its creation, the PURPLE program has spread to 289 hospitals and organizations and is now present in 45 states.

“It’s important for people to share the PURPLE message with parents and caregivers of new babies,” Lopez said. “We ask that people take an easy, online pledge promising to talk to anyone who cares for a baby about the Period of PURPLE Crying.”

To take the pledge or for more information visit

Tips to Soothe Your Crying Infant

1. Feed your baby. Hunger is the main reason a baby will cry.

2. Burp your baby. Babies do not have a natural ability to get rid of air built up in their stomach.

3. Swaddle your baby. Learn more about swaddling by clicking here

4. Give your baby a lukewarm bath. A great soothing technique, but remember to never leave your baby unattended.

5. Massage your baby. A gentle massage on a baby back, arms, or legs can be very comforting.

6. Give your baby a pacifier. Use sparingly, because if used when your baby isn’t crying, it may prove to be ineffective.

7. Make eye contact with your baby and smile. Eye-to-eye contact with your baby when they are crying can distract and comfort them.

8. Kiss your baby. This can help lessen the tension during fierce crying episodes.

9. Kiss the bottom of your baby’s feet. A baby’s feet are one of the most sensitive spots on their body, light kisses on their feet can help turn a challenging situation into a happy one.

10. Sing Softly. Lullabies were created because of their effectiveness at calming crying babies.

11. Reassure your baby with soft words like “it’s ok”. This can help comfort you and your baby during a difficult crying episode.

12. Hum in a low tone against your baby’s head. Dad’s usually do this soothing feature best.

13. Run a Vacuum Cleaner. The noise from a vacuum is referred to as white noise which is any sound produces a loud, neutral, masking sound. Babies find these noises hypnotizing.

14. Run a Dishwasher. Dishwashers have different cycles of white noise which some infants find soothing.

15. Take your baby for a ride in the car. The vibrations from a car have a sleep inducing effect on babies. Always make sure your baby is secure in a rear-facing car seat in the back seat.

16. Rock your baby in a rocker. Rocking your baby in a chair can be very relaxing for you and your baby.

17. Push your baby in a stroller. A stroller ride is the next best thing to a ride in a car.

18. Place your baby in a car seat on top of a running dryer. This is a classic soothing technique, but use caution. Never leave your baby unattended.

19. Put your baby underneath a lighted mobile. The sounds, lights and movements of a mobile can be very amusing and entertaining for a baby.

20. Dance Slowly. Dancing can be fun for both you and your baby and allows for a variety of soothing movements.

The list above is not an all inclusive list as there are many other things you can try to calm your baby’s crying.  Remember… while many of these techniques will work most of the time, nothing works all the time and that is okay.  This does not mean there is anything wrong with you or your baby.

2955 Harrison Blvd.     • Suite 102     • Ogden, UT 84403     • Phone: (801)627-3399     • Fax: (801)627-3321     •


Department of Social and Health Services

Jeff Norman, MSW
Program Manager
Region 4 DCFS

100 W. Harrison St., Ste S400

Seattle, WA 98109
206-691-2520 Office
206-409-2026 Cell
206-281-6288 Fax

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