New push to save babies from being shaken

Experts educating families about the Period of PURPLE Crying

DETROIT - They are the heartbreaking stories we hear reported in the media over and over again -- babies left injured or killed after being shaken by adults trusted to keep them safe. 

According to the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, an estimated 1,400 babies are permanently injured or killed after being shaken by a parent or caregiver each year.

Serenity Bowles, of Fraser, Mich., was shaken when she was just six weeks old.  Jerry and Samantha Bowles adopted Serenity, after serving as her foster parents.

"That one moment in time has effected her whole life," said Jerry Bowles.  "It's just devastating."

The Bowles brought Serenity home from the hospital not knowing if she would ever walk or talk.  Now 8 years old, Serenity loves to dance, sing and play in the pool.  But she struggles with behavior problems and aggression.

"She functions on a 2 1/2-year-old's level right now," said Jerry Bowles.  "Simple things like brushing her teeth, getting dressed, potty training, these things are all very tough for Serenity."

Experts say about 25 percent of shaken babies don't survive.  The rest, like Serenity, can suffer permanent brain damage causing learning disabilities, seizures, paralysis and blindness.

"We've seen the very severe where children do come in comatose and then eventually die," said Dr. Dena Nazer, a Children's Hospital of Michigan pediatrician who specializes in treating the victims of child abuse.  "It's very hard seeing these cases because these are completely preventable."

Nazer is part of a new program that hopes to prevent cases of Shaken Baby Syndrome, by educating parents and the public about something called the Period of PURPLE Crying.

"Sometimes when a baby cries for minutes, it seems like it's lasting forever," said Nazer.  "It happens in every baby.  So we're trying to tell parents, it's not like colic.  It's not something your baby has or doesn't have.  This is a period of crying that every baby would have."

PURPLE is an acronym.

The P stands for peak.  Experts say no matter what you do, babies will cry more and more each week until they hit their peak, often at about two months.

U is for unexpected.

"Sometimes your baby is well fed, they're comfortable, they're not overheated, they don't have a dirty diaper, yet they will just unexpectedly start crying," said Nazer.

R stands for resists soothing.  Your baby may not stop crying, no matter how comforting you are.

P is for a pain-like face.  Babies may look like they're in pain, even when they aren't.

L is for long-lasting.  Crying can last up to five hours at a time.

E is for evening, when experts say most babies cry more.

"When parents are educated, and they know that this is a period that they have to deal with, then they anticipate it versus just being very surprised by the amount of crying the baby does," said Nazer.

A project by the Children's Trust Fund and the Jewish Fund is trying to spread the word about the Period of PURPLE Crying.

"We are going to be educating everybody that has babies in three hospitals, Sinai-Grace, Hutzel, and Children's Hospital," said Michael Foley, executive director of the Children's Trust Fund.  "We anticipate that we'll be educating 13,000 families having babies over a three year period."

The Period of PURPLE Crying program includes a 10-minute DVD and an 11-page booklet available in multiple languages.

"People just get tremendously frustrated with the fact that babies cry," said Foley.  "Never under any circumstances do you shake a baby."

 It's a message experts want everyone to know and share with anyone who will be caring for a baby.  And if you're feeling frustrated with the crying, it's okay to walk away.

"Take your baby, put him in a safe crib alone on his back, without any pillows or blankets and just leave the room to comfort yourself for a few minutes," said Nazer.

It's a message Jerry and Samantha Bowles wish the person who shook Serenity could have heard.

"You want to see your kids graduate from high school and go to college and be successful and because of what happened to her, those things will never happen for Serenity," said Jerry Bowles.

"Don't ever shake a baby," said Samantha Bowles.  "Put the baby in the crib and walk away.  It's not going to hurt a baby to cry.  Call somebody to come and help you, just please, please don't ever shake a baby."

To learn more about the Period of PURPLE Crying, click here.

To find out more about the Children's Trust Fund, click here.

To visit the National Center for Shaken Baby Syndrome website, click here.

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