The sheer frustration of dealing with an inconsolable infant’s constant crying can drive parents over the edge.
Tragically, those cries are sometimes met with aggression and babies suffer shaken baby syndrome (SBS), which can not only harm, but can be fatal to an infant.
Efforts are underway to help parents cope through an awareness campaign.
Locally, every baby born in November at Vernon Jubilee Hospital will receive a knitted purple cap which will serve as a reminder about the Period of Purple Crying.
All babies go through a period of increased crying, typically beginning around two weeks of age, peaking at two or three months. By four or five months it is over.
Despite all a caregiver’s efforts to soothe the baby, sometimes the crying does not stop.
The Period of Purple Crying campaign teaches parents that this crying is OK.
It’s also OK to let your baby cry.
“If you are getting frustrated and nothing’s working to soothe your baby, it’s OK to put your baby down in a safe place and walk away for five to 10 minutes,” said Public Health Nurse Penny Reimer, who shares this message with new parents during routine home visits.
“That’s where we are educating, before it happens.”
That message was welcomed by new mom Andrea Tennant, whose one-month-old Olivia has started crying more inconsolably lately.
“It seems like when she’s not sleeping or eating she’s crying,” said Tennant of her little “fuss pot.”
“It can be frustrating.
“So you have to pass her off or walk away,” said Tennant, relieved to know that by putting her down and walking away she’s not a bad parent.
Baby Olivia was the first to receive one of the little purple caps recently, as Interior Health kicked off the November campaign at the Vernon Health Centre.
Eight public health nurses and clerical staff at the centre started knitting caps in August, and managed to string together a total of 130 hats.
“We’re knitting to click,” said Peggy Duncan, liaison with the province-wide campaign.
Statistics from B.C. Children’s Hospital show that the message is clicking with parents.
In 2010 there were no definite cases of SBS (shaken baby syndrome) in infants under six months of age – compared to six cases in 2009.
The number of cases of possible to definite physical abuse in infants under six months also dropped significantly, from 18 (in 2009) to three (in 2010).
All new mothers are also given a DVD and material of the Period of Purple Crying, which they are encouraged to share with all of their child’s caregivers.
While long periods of crying can be normal, parents are also encouraged to have their baby checked by a health nurse or doctor if they suspect something is physically wrong with their child.