Education program helps new parents cope

Mothers and fathers know the heart-filling joy that comes with a new baby. For new parents, the first weeks of a child’s life are marked by an endless wonderment at the miracle of life and the instinctive need to nurture and protect a new helpless being.

The bliss of becoming a parent comes with some life adjustments. Sleep is interrupted and less frequent. Caring for the baby takes precedence over other activities and responsibilities.

This week, the Arkansas Children’s Hospital and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences announced a pilot program to educate new and expectant parents about one of the most severe forms of child abuse — shaken baby syndrome.

According to the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, parents or caregivers who shake an infant or child do so out of frustration or anger, most often when the baby won’t stop crying.

The Arkansas pilot 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, according to a news release from the hospitals.

The program, using materials from the Period of PURPLE Crying, was launched in April as part of Child Abuse Prevention Month.

The acronym PURPLE 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.

According to Arkansas Children’s Hospital, research suggests that about one-fourth of shaken baby syndrome victims die and the majority of those who survive live with permanent impairment, including blindness, feeding difficulties, seizures, motor impairments and learning problems.

Parents delivering babies at UAMS and those with babies in the NICU at UAMS and Arkansas Children’s will receive the Period of PURPLE Crying education, including a copy of a DVD and booklet so they can share the information with others who will be caregivers for their baby.

Trying to comfort an otherwise healthy crying baby who won’t stop crying can be frustrating and bring even the best parents to tears themselves. For a parent, knowing what to expect with a newborn can help alleviate the frustration he or she feels when the baby cries and cannot be comforted. This type of education is key in preventing shaken baby syndrome, and we hope to see the education program spread to hospitals throughout the state.

— Southwest Times Record