The Period of Purple Crying
Amy Movius, MD
March 17, 2009
All new parents at EMMC will soon be leaving the hospital more equipped than ever to care for their baby, thanks to a program known as the Period of PURPLE Crying (POPC). The Period of PURPLE Crying is a program from the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome that is being promoted for the entire state of Maine by a state committee devoted to the prevention of child abuse. Many of the birthing hospitals in our state have committed to the program and EMMC is “going live” with implementing this program in the next couple of weeks. Every family of a new baby will watch the Period of PURPLE Crying DVD in the hospital and be given a personal copy of the DVD and booklet to keep.
The Period of PURPLE Crying program is so exciting because it focuses on 1) the normalcy of crying during infancy and 2) education regarding the expected pattern this crying follows. Crying normally begins to increase at two weeks of age, peaks around 2 months, and decreases from 3-5 months of age. This is true for all term newborn infants though it is impossible to tell at birth what babies will be colicky, or “big criers” and which will not cry so much. Regardless of how much an individual infant cries, they all follow the same pattern. Knowing about it in advance can help caregivers to prepare for the expected increase in crying during early infancy.
The incidence of shaken baby syndrome follows a curve very similar to the developmentally normal crying curve. When caregivers who have harmed an infant have admitted their behavior, prolonged and inconsolable crying is the inciting event; i.e. what “pushed them over the edge." Focusing on the normalcy of crying and preparing caregivers for handling the frustration this can cause is a unique and exciting aspect of this program. Implementing it at birth ensures the information will be given at the opportune time – before the increase in crying starts. Public health nurses, primary care providers, and other health care advocates will be reinforcing this message during subsequent visits and check-ups. The ultimate goal is that everyone will become familiar with the normal crying pattern of infants.
The title of the program has significance. The word “period” is intended to remind people that it is temporary. Each letter of PURPLE has significance that relates to the crying seen during this time.
P: Peak of Crying
R: Resists Soothing
P: Pain-Like Face
L: Long Lasting
The program also has three “action steps” for the caregivers of infants who are going through the period of PURPLE crying.
1.First, try to console the child by increasing the walk, talk, comfort, and hold time. Often this will decrease the crying.
2.If the crying is carrying on for a long time and the caregiver is getting frustrated, the second action step is to put the baby down in a safe place and walk away. The caregiver needs to collect themselves, try to relax, and do something they enjoy for a few minutes. When they are calmer, they should go back to check on the baby.
3.The third action step is to never shake or harm the baby
Families are strongly encouraged to have ANYONE who watches their baby see the DVD and read the booklet as well.
The National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome is a wonderful resource for those interested in more information about this program or child abuse in general. Contact can be made by phone at(801)627-3399 or www.dontshake.org