The state of Iowa is receiving national attention for its efforts to prevent shaken baby syndrome.
Most parents of a newborn, before checking out of an Iowa hospital, now receive an informational packet about the “Period of Purple Crying.”
Dr. Marianette Miller-Meeks, the director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, says the packet includes a booklet and ten minute DVD explaining nearly all babies go through a period of increased crying that usually peaks in the second month. She says during that time, a baby can cry for up to five hours a day.
“Sometimes they cry, they seem to be in pain, they’re not consolable and that crying can cause tremendous frustration among parents and that’s normal,” Miller-Meeks said.
“To have that education and support and knowledge of the developmental stages of crying really can help (parents) to understand and then prevent episodes of shaken baby syndrome.”
The National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome has deemed Iowa a “Purple State” in recognition of the effort to educate new parents. Miller-Meeks believes the program, enacted in Iowa three years ago, has been effective. “It goes beyond simple warnings of ‘don’t shake’ and it appeals to mothers, fathers, child care providers, aunts, uncles and grandparents to understand why an infant is crying, the stages of the crying, the connection between their frustration and responses to that…and the response you want is to not shake an infant,” Miller-Meeks said.
Steve Scott, with Prevent Child Abuse Iowa, says it’s normal for newborns to cry for hours even if nothing is wrong. The packet of information warns parents that shaking the infant can cause brain damage or death.
“All of those efforts have resulted in a situation where more Iowa children are safer and making their way through what is unfortunately the most dangerous time for a child, which is the first year of life,” Scott said. Funding for the educational booklet and DVD comes from the state, participating hospitals and a few private investors.