Ann Stevenson - Never shake a baby

Experts have learned that crying is the No. 1 trigger for shaking a baby

Click, click. How does the sound of knitting needles busily clicking together help prevent infant abuse?

Through a national campaign called Click for Babies, more than 50,000 handmade purple-colored baby caps from volunteer knitters and crocheters across the country are helping to raise awareness about normal crying and the dangers of shaking an infant.

During November, babies born at hundreds of participating hospitals will receive a free purple baby cap, a DVD and booklet called the Period of PURPLE Crying. The PURPLE program was created by the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrom to help parents understand their baby’s crying.

In McMinnville, parents of every baby born at Willamette Valley Medical Center receive this educational, 10-minute DVD and pamphlet upon discharge. They are encouraged to share the DVD with their baby’s caretakers as well.

In November, each baby also will receive a purple cap. In collaboration, the McMinnville Noon Kiwanis Club pays for the DVDs, and the hospital’s birthing center distributes them.

Traci Millsap, nurse manager for the Women’s Center at the medical center is enthusiastic. “I think it’s a wonderful way to present a difficul­t subject,” she said. “Some parents don’t understand that crying is normal. They don’t want anyone to know they are frustrated and may not ask for or seek help. This is an educational tool to help them and, I hope, prevent shaken baby syndrome in the future. What is really great is that this DVD is good for mom, dad, grandparent, siblings, babysitters and anyone else who may be left alone with an infant.”

PURPLE, an easy-to-remember acronym, reminds parents of the characteristics of normal infant crying:

P ­­- Peak of crying. Babies may cry more each week, peaking at two months, and then less at three to five months.

U - Unexpected. Crying can come and go, with no explanation.

R - Resists soothing. The baby might not stop crying, no matter what you try.

P - Pain-like face. It may look like the baby is in pain, even when he or she is not.

L - Long lasting. The baby might cry five hours a day or more.

E - Evening. The baby might cry more in the late afternoon or evening.

Experts have learned that crying is the No. 1 trigger for shaking a baby. An estimated 1,200 to 1,400 children are injured by shaking every year in the United States, and about 25 percent die from their injuries. Actual numbers may be much higher, as many cases likely go undetected or misdiagnosed.

Not only is shaken baby syndrome/abusive head trauma a crime, it is also a serious public health issue. Besides death, shaking an infant can result in permanent disability, blindness, mental retardation or developmental delays, learning disabilities, cerebral palsy, motor dysfunction and seizures.

Survivors may require constant medical or personal attention, which places tremendous emotional and financial strain on families. Medical costs associated with initial and long-term care for these children can range from $300,000 to more than $1 million.

“Many parents have no idea what to expect when they bring their new baby home from the hospital,” says Ryan Steinbeigle, director of development for the NCSBS. “The goal of the Period of PURPLE Crying program is to give parents reasonable expectations and let them know that all healthy infants cry more in the first few weeks and months of life. The crying will come to end, and it is OK to put the infant down in a safe place and walk away when feeling frustrated.”

The good news is that the syndrome is preventable, and we all have a role in that prevention. We can help educate others about the dangers of shaking a baby, we can create awareness of normal infant crying, and we can help support a new parent in the often-frustrating daily care of their newborn by offering to lend a hand. As the national center states on its website, “Believe all babies can be safe from harm. We do.”

More information

Click program: www.clickforbabies.org

Shaken baby syndrome: www.dontshake.org

Period of PURPLE Crying: www.purplecrying.info

Guest writer Ann Stevenson serves as chair for McMinnville Noon Kiwanis Club’s Young Children Priority One Committee, is involved with PURPLE statewide efforts and facilitates a child sexual abuse training program.



This a very good, well meaning campaign. BUT it is short sided in that it uses out dated information. The term "Shaken Baby Syndrome" is no longer used by the Pediatric Association. The doctor that coined the phrase in the 70's has recounted his position on that and now though in his 90's is trying to convince people that many other medical conditions can cause those symptoms. Do not get me wrong. I am not saying that helping new parents know how to cope with crying babies is wrong. Shaking a baby can cause serious damage. It is the mentality that it is the only way certain injuries can be caused. I speak from experience having dealt with the court system. The DA in our case used the term and it was not even a factor in our case. SBS was based on a triad of injuries. Ours had none of them. Yet to blow up the case and create a visual he stated that it was SBS. Our case was and is about Weakened Bone Conditions ( ie Rickets). Helping people falsely accused is not near as popular as climbing on the band wagon to save innocent infants. I actually understand that. But do not think for a moment that innocent babies lives are not affected by false allegations. So please understand that almost all parents are loving parents and would never intentionally hurt their infants. But sometimes the health of the infant is a factor in cases of suspected abuse.


Regardless of updated terms and what not, I find it borderline appalling that our society has come to a point where we have to tell people they can't shake babies. Common sense really isn't so common after all.


@Injustice, I assume you are referring to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) when you state that the Pediatric Association no longer uses the term shaken baby syndrome (SBS). This is untrue. The AAP revised their previous policy statement on SBS to use the term Abusive Head Trauma (AHT) to be inclusive of all mechanisms of injury. The statement reads: "The use of broad medical terminology that is inclusive of all mechanisms of injury, including shaking, is required." The AAP recommends continuing the use of the term shaken baby syndrome for prevention efforts as well. The AAP President Dr. Bob Block spoke at the Twelfth International Conference on Shaken Baby Syndrome this past month and addressed this misrepresentation directly. The full statement can be read here: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/123/5/1409.full

That said, it is unfortunate and in poor taste that you chose to spread your agenda in an article that discusses prevention of abuse and attempt to shift focus from this prevention effort. You agree that shaking a baby can cause serious damage, and this article only goes to reinforce this shared belief and how these injuries can be prevented. I agree with your statement that most parents are loving and would never intentionally hurt their infants. SBS is usually an unintentional injury that is a response to caregivers being unable to stop a baby from crying. Prevention efforts to educate about the normality of early infant crying have been proven to help. Multiple studies have shown that AHT cases doubled during the recent recession.


Until the United States requires some sort of screening process for parents and education on parenting to every single child, teen, and adult, child abuse will continue under the guise of stupidity.
TV, ads, and the media teach children about sex from the time second they are born, yet many parents still do not talk to their children about protection, prevention, or parenting. I need a license to catch a fish, I have to pass my classes with a decent grade to receive a piece of paper that will amount to little in today's job market, yet I need to do nothing special to be a parent.
When will we wake up and realize parenting is not a right, it is a privilege, and there needs to be more done to protect our children?
Purple hats are great, but what about screening for parents, drug tests, mandatory classes, support groups for those who may have limited support, job skills classes for prospective parents who need it, etc?

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