New Study on the Rise in the Number of Shaken Baby Syndrome/Abusive Head Trauma Cases Emphasizes the Importance of Increased Prevention

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Frustration of caring for a crying infant compounded with the stress of a weakening economy makes new program developed by the NCSBS more important than ever.

Frustration with a baby's crying is the number one trigger for shaking. The added stress many families are faced with during a recession can make handling a crying infant even more overwhelming.

The National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome (NCSBS) says a new study conducted by a group of researchers headed by Dr. Rachel Berger at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh emphasizes the importance of evidence based prevention programs. The new study shows a relationship between the weakening economy and the rise of the incidence of shaken baby syndrome/abusive head trauma (SBS/AHT).

Data recorded from four hospitals in Pittsburgh, PA; Cincinnati, OH; Columbus, OH; and Seattle, WA from January 2004 through December 2009 show that the number of SBS/AHT cases rose from 6.0 per month prior to December 1, 2007 (defined as the start of the recession) to 9.3 per month following that date. In Berger's study, 63% of the children were admitted to a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and 16% died. The data represents 512 cases of abusive head trauma in children.

"The results of the study are very concerning and highlight the need for increased prevention efforts during times of economic hardship," says Marilyn Barr, Founder and Executive Director of the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome. "Frustration with a baby's crying is the number one trigger for shaking. The added stress many families are faced with during a recession can make handling a crying infant even more overwhelming."

Hospitals and organizations nationwide are responding by implementing a new program developed by the NCSBS and Dr. Ronald Barr, a developmental pediatrician and world expert on infant crying, called the Period of PURPLE Crying. The Period of PURPLE Crying describes a stage when normal, perfectly healthy babies can cry for five hours a day or more. Since January 2009, 289 hospitals and organizations have implemented the PURPLE program, which includes giving an 11-page booklet and 10-minute DVD to every family of new baby to take home with them.

Currently, the PURPLE program has a presence in 45 out of 50 states with 4 states (Utah, North Carolina, Maine and Kansas) implementing state-wide programs where every birthing hospital will be providing the program to new families. Additionally, Iowa and Oregon have implemented state-wide initiatives that will reach at least 80% of the total births for each state with the PURPLE program.

The Period of PURPLE Crying is a normal developmental phase that all healthy babies experience between two weeks and four months, characterized by long periods of 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, just when parents are getting home from work and tired from a long day.

"The Period of PURPLE Crying program shows parents that crying by an otherwise healthy baby is normal and is not caused by something that they are doing wrong," says Barr. "Additionally, the program helps parents understand that the inconsolable crying does come to an end, which can be very comforting to parents."

For more information about the Period of PURPLE Crying, go to


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