New App aims to eliminate Shaken Baby Syndrome

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Aaron J. Jenne
  • 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
All new parents know that babies cry, sometimes with no apparent explanation. That’s when parents are most at risk of shaking their baby.


“Many times [parents can reach their wit’s end when] they’ve done everything to see why the baby’s crying; baby’s dry, baby’s fed, baby’s in a clean environment, but he’s still screaming,” said Terri Turchan, 436th Medical Group Family Advocacy treatment manager. “Far too often this is when a parent will snatch their baby up, and since they have no muscle control in their necks, their brain hits against the brain pan causing any of the numerous injuries associated with shaken baby syndrome.”


Turchan said shaking a baby can result in multiple injuries including detached retinas, bleeding in the brain and other trauma to the head area.


Shaken Baby Syndrome is also a leading cause of death in children under 3 years old, accounting for 43 percent of deaths in this age group.


In an effort to raise awareness to this terrible syndrome, the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome developed the Period of PURPLE Crying.


PURPLE stands for:


Peak of crying: The crying may crescendo, peaking around the child’s second month.


Unexpected: The crying may start or stop without any indication why.


Resists soothing: The child may not stop crying despite any of the parents’ efforts to sooth them.


Pain like face: A crying child’s face may appear to be in pain, even if the child is not suffering.


Long lasting: The baby could cry for more than five hours in a day.


Evening: The baby can cry more in the evening hours.


The word ‘Period’ means the crying has a beginning and an end.


“The Period of PURPLE Crying begins at about two weeks of age and continues until about three to four months of age,” said Marilyn Barr, NCSBS founder and former executive director. “There are other common characteristics of this phase, or period, which are better described by the acronym PURPLE. All babies go through this period. It is during this time that some babies can cry a lot and some far less, but they all go through it.”


In order to get more information to parents, the NCSBS released the Period of PURPLE Crying app, which is supported by all major smartphone carriers and providers.


The Air Force has partnered with the NCSBS to share this app with military members. It’s free to download, however, it does require an access code, which is available at any Air Force military treatment facility, including Family Health, Flight Medicine, Family Advocacy and the Pediatrics Clinic.


“There’re some really simple methods for soothing a baby that we tend to forget when babies are going crazy crying and you’re exhausted because your baby isn’t sleeping at night yet,” said Capt. Cristina Benitez, 436th MDG Family Advocacy Officer. “This app can show you some good tricks you can try then and there or at least remind you that this is just a period and it will come to an end. Hopefully this can give parents some hope.”


Benitez said the app contains literature and videos about this period in a child’s development and also demonstrates various soothing methods. It’s also available when it’s needed, anytime, anyplace.


The Family Advocacy staff encourages every new parent to stop by before the stress becomes overbearing.


“Everybody seems to think when you have a baby you have instant access to this encyclopedia and you’re going to know exactly what is going to happen and how to handle every situation,” Turchan said. “You find out the first week you have the baby home that you know nothing. For me, it’s very satisfying to know I can share information with new families so children can grow up happy and healthy.”


Turchan said Airmen and their families may find themselves far from home during their military career, so knowing there is a support structure should be a source of encouragement.


“Through working with the New Parent Support Program, I’ve seen that most of us have learned to take care of babies from our mothers, aunts and grandmothers who are around us,” Turchan said. “When you join the military, you may find yourself 1,200 miles away from your mother, so being able to find a support structure is extremely important. Come visit us anytime, and we’ll talk about how you can do it, and how we can help you succeed.”


For more information about the Period of PURPLE Crying, visit www.purplecrying.info, or download the app from your app store and visit any Air Force MTF for an access code.