Each November, newborns at LHSC head home for the first time wearing purple hats. The hats are handed to new parents along with an education package detailing action steps for dealing with their constantly crying infant to raise awareness about the Period of PURPLE crying - the phrase used to describe the point in a baby's life when they cry more than any other time.
"Last November, 500 babies were born at LHSC and received purple hats," says Kelly Barzsa Jenkins, perinatal nurse consultant, Maternal Newborn Child and Youth Network (MNCYN), LHSC. "Caregivers, typically nurses, give the hats as well as provide important information to parents regarding infant crying patterns and comforting strategies."
In 2011, a call went out to community knitters for knitted purple hats. Since, nearly 10,000 hats have been sent to LHSC from London and surrounding area, and from as far away as Sweden. "We have been overwhelmed with the amount of community support we have received and are considering handing out purple hats throughout the year," adds Jenkins.
The Period of PURPLE Crying is a new way for parents to understand their baby's crying. The word PURPLE is an acronym which reminds parents in an easy to remember way all of the characteristics of normal infant crying. The letters in PURPLE stand for:
- Peak of crying – The baby may cry more each week, peaking at two months, and then less at three to five months.
- Unexpected – The crying can come and go, with no explanation.
- Resists soothing – The baby might not stop crying no matter what you try.
- Pain-like face – It may look like the baby is in pain, even when they are not.
- Long lasting – The baby might cry 5 hours per day or more.
- Evening – The baby might cry more in the late afternoon or evening.
"It is vital that parents realize infant crying is normal and have the tools to remain calm and patient around their child," says Jenkins.
Through a generous grant from the Children's Health Foundation in 2009, Children's Hospital was the first hospital in Ontario to adopt the Shaken Baby Syndrome education program in their mother/newborn unit and the neonatal intensive care unit. The program includes nursing staff providing individual education to each woman/family, including a take-home 11-page colour booklet and DVD, focusing on positive messages on coping with infant crying.