Knit for a Cause: Purple baby hats signal normal crying, aim to prevent shaken baby syndrome

Using soft yarns in shades of purple, artisans can knit or crochet a message of support for babies born at two Spokane hospitals.

As part of a popular campaign in the United States organized by the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, Click for Babies: Period of PURPLE Crying Caps is raising awareness of Shaken Baby Syndrome, also known as abusive head injury.

Locally, individuals knit baby hats to donate to newborns at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Children’s Hospital as well as Providence Holy Family Hospital. The “click” in the campaign name refers to the clicking of knitting needles.

The hats are distributed along with educational materials intended to help new parents deal with the stress of caring for newborns.

“The hospital is giving out purple baby hats along with a DVD and a flyer about babies who never cry and never stop; it lets parents know they’re not alone, ”said Sallee Johnson, 73, of Spokane. “It gives parents advice they can use. “

Johnson coordinates the Harvard Park Retirement Community knitters who donated 301 caps in June to Holy Family. She said the South Hill facility had 14 people – residents, friends and staff – who made the baby hats, the third year they made it.

A baby hat can be any shade of purple, even the Spokane region’s favorite lilac tone, and should be at least 50 percent purple. Suggestions for knitting or crochet patterns are online at

About five years ago, Providence Hospitals in Spokane began using the Period of PURPLE Crying education program, said Kim Jorgensen, director of women’s and children’s services for the two sites.

Parents receive the Purple Crying Period DVD and materials, an acronym for increased crying typical of early childhood, which can peak at 2 months and end at 3 to 5 months.

The video program also emphasizes the importance of never shaking a baby, which can cause brain damage, vision problems, developmental delays, physical disabilities, hearing loss or even death. Severe head injuries are one of the leading causes of physical abuse death in children under 5 in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The purple knitted or crocheted beanies are meant to show community support for parents and babies, while providing a visual reminder of the tips available through Period of PURPLE Crying. Parents in hospitals receive a purple baby hat with program materials, if enough hats are available.

VIOLET means:

Peak, with babies crying more each week and most at 2 months, then less at 3 to 5 months

Unexpected, because crying can come and go without the people around them knowing why

Resists appeasement, in that babies might not stop crying no matter what a parent tries

Pain, because babies may appear to be in pain; even when they are not

Long lasting, as crying can last up to five hours a day, or even longer

Evening, indicating that babies may cry more in the late afternoon and evening.

Jorgensen said the campaign recently developed an app for iPhones and Android smartphones, which is free when the hospital provides a code. The app has the same DVD layout, but also provides information in five different languages, including Spanish and Russian.

Families can watch a short video with PURPLE education through a TV system in the hospital, then parents are asked if they prefer the on-the-go DVD or the app code.

“We ask them to do this before they go out, then we provide their baby with a purple hat and explain that they were donated, and they follow the recommendations for the PURPLE crying period,” Jorgensen added.

“When you give them the purple hat, the nurses tell them that this is a visual reminder to remind you of the PURPLE crying information period, that the hat will remind you to either initiate what you have. learned, either to get on the phone and go over the steps you need to take to deal with your baby’s crying.

“We try to give the caps away for as long as we have them, at all times. Babies actually lose heat through their heads. Even if it’s summer, we put a hat on them.

Hospitals in Providence receive many in-kind donations, including handmade hats in different colors, throughout the year. In any given year, her Providence Health Care Foundation receives donations of 3,000 to 5,000 knitted hats for newborns and pediatric patients.

The two Spokane facilities typically handle around 4,500 births per year.

The foundation accepts in-kind donations to the Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital, but people sometimes bring them in person to the Holy Family. More baby hats made in purple are always welcome, Jorgensen said.

Christine Baker, based at Seattle Children’s, is the statewide program coordinator for the Period of PURPLE Crying program and is part of a state coalition to prevent abusive head injuries.

She said the education program is based on 30 years of research into increasing crying over an eight-week period, which typically decreases around 3 to 4 months. In premature and term newborns, even babies of different cultures, increased crying is common, she said.

“What the research has shown by looking at this pattern of normal development of increased crying – people used to call it colic – if you take that and overlap the number of cases of abusive head trauma, or shaken baby, is almost the exact same curve, ”Baker mentioned.

“The link has been shown that this increased crying is the trigger for a parent or caregiver shaking a baby when they are frustrated or angry with the crying.”

The educational materials were developed to educate parents that crying is normal, as are their feelings of frustration and even anger, she said. “You are not a bad parent, you do not have a bad baby, you are not an incompetent parent, this is a normal phase of development,” she added.

“It provides tools to appease but also to normalize. It’s okay to be frustrated or even angry, but the best thing to do is drop the baby off in a safe place, walk away, and take a break.

The Click for Babies component helps spread the word to other members of the community, she said, for a change in public perception of crying babies and a move towards supporting parents rather than judging them. , she said.

Some hospitals with fewer handmade hats give them to parents during the colder months of November and December, although the PURPLE crying time material is distributed year round with or without the hats, Baker said. .

The education campaign has been running in Washington state since 2012, Baker said. Of the state’s 62 delivery hospitals, 44 distribute Period of PURPLE Crying materials, she said; other centers, including the Rockwood system now under MultiCare Health System, have expressed interest.

Washington state has 86,000 to 87,000 births per year, according to Baker.

“We had to get caps last year from another state; we were running out, ”Baker said. “At Seattle Children’s last year we handed out 3,500 hats. They are always warmly welcomed and the parents appreciate that someone has done it for them.

“Parents feel so much pressure to do the right thing, and sometimes your baby cries. It’s just normal. This is one of the main takeaways, and it is validation for parents. ”

About Tracy G. Larimore

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