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Pilot Project Educates Parents of Newborns about Shaken Baby Syndrome

Educational DVDs Distributed at ACH and UAMS

(LITTLE ROCK, AR) April 30, 2013 – A new pilot program put in place at Arkansas Children's Hospital (ACH) and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) is providing Arkansas families with more information about how new parents can prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome, one of the most severe forms of child abuse. Both hospitals are distributing educational videos and other materials to new and expectant parents as part of the program in an effort to make sure parents know that shaking a baby is dangerous and can cause serious or fatal brain injury.

The pilot program uses materials called the Period of PURPLE Crying to help parents prepare for what can be a challenging but normal part of infant development in the first months of life. Led by UAMS pediatrician and assistant professor of Pediatrics Maria Teresa Esquivel, MD, in partnership with clinical educators in the ACH Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and UAMS nurses, the Period of PURPLE Crying program is designed to equip parents with the knowledge that all newborns go through a period of crying that begins at 2 weeks and continues until the child is about 3 to 4 months of age. Some babies cry more, some babies cry less, but all babies go through it.

The education, which launched during April as part of Child Abuse Prevention Month, prepares parents for possible intense crying, how to respond to it and aims to prevent abuse such as Shaken Baby Syndrome. Evidence from use of the program in some other states demonstrates that it may help prevent this all too common and tragic syndrome. The PURPLE acronym stands for:

  • Peak of crying – Crying peaks during the second month, then decreases during months 3-5.
  • Unexpected – Crying may come and go unexpectedly for no apparent reason.
  • Resists soothing – Crying may continue despite all soothing efforts by caregivers.
  • Pain-like face – Infants may look like they are in pain, even when they are not.
  • Long-lasting – Crying can go on for 30-40 minutes at a time, and often for much longer.
  • Evening – Crying may occur more in the late afternoon and evening.

Parents delivering babies in the private birthing suites at UAMS and those with babies in the NICU at both UAMS and ACH will receive the Period of PURPLE Crying education prior to discharge and will be sent home with a copy of a DVD and booklet so they can share the information with others who will be caregivers for their baby. The goal of the project is eventually to increase awareness of how to prevent this form of child abuse throughout the state.

The birth of a baby is a special time in parents' lives when they are motivated and eager to learn all they can about their newborn. This presents a unique opportunity to educate the parents about normal developmental behaviors that their newborn will go through during the first few months of life, and to educate them about ways to approach and cope with these behaviors which may include excessive crying and /or difficulties in settling to sleep at night.

Knowing what to expect and how to cope will lay a foundation that will lead to less frustration and reduce feelings of inadequacy. This in turn will reduce factors that could lead to Shaken Baby Syndrome. Dr. Esquivel says that "the introduction of the Period of PURPLE Crying Program represents an important milestone in our efforts to effectively reduce the incidence of Shaken Baby Syndrome, in particular, and all forms of child abuse, in general. UAMS and the ACH Team for Children at Risk are fully committed to achieving these goals."

"Everyone's participation is critical," said Shelby Rowe, intentional injury project analyst with the Injury Prevention Center at Arkansas Children's Hospital. "Focusing on ways to build and promote the protective factors, in every interaction with children and families, is the best thing our community can do to prevent child maltreatment and promote optimal child development. Making sure parents have important information about preventing child abuse from the start, like the PURPLE program, is an important building block to keep babies safe."

For more information on the Period of PURPLE Crying program or any injury prevention topic, contact the Arkansas Children's Hospital Injury Prevention Center by phone at (866) 611-3445 or email at injuryprevention@archildrens.org.

Arkansas Children's Hospital is the only pediatric medical center in Arkansas and one of the largest in the United States serving children from birth to age 21. Over the past century, ACH has grown to span 29 city blocks and house 370 beds, a staff of approximately 500 physicians, 80 residents in pediatrics and pediatric specialties and more than 4,000 employees. The private, nonprofit healthcare facility boasts an internationally renowned reputation for medical breakthroughs and intensive treatments, unique surgical procedures and forward-thinking medical research - all dedicated to fulfilling our mission of enhancing, sustaining and restoring children's health and development. For more information, visit www.archildrens.org.

UAMS is the state's only comprehensive academic health center, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a statewide network of regional centers; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute, the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging and the Translational Research Institute. Named best Little Rock metropolitan area hospital by U.S. News & World Report, it is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has more than 2,800 students and 790 medical residents. It is the state's largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including about 1,000 physicians and other professionals who provide care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children's Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS regional centers throughout the state. Visit www.uams.edu or www.uamshealth.com.

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