OGDEN -- Utah residents may be seeing purple in August, with the launch of the PURPLE Tears campaign.
The National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome has begun the first year of a public awareness effort to educate people about the period of PURPLE crying, which it defines as a time in a baby's life when he or she might cry inconsolably for up to five hours a day and still be perfectly healthy.
Ryan Steinbeigle, development director for the center, said the center started a process in 2008 to get education about PURPLE crying into hospitals, doctors' offices and health departments around Utah.
This year, it launched a statewide education campaign, which includes messages about PURPLE crying.
Steinbeigle said the message is very important, because caregivers getting frustrated with crying babies is a leading contributor to child abuse and shaken babies.
A 26-year-old Ogden mother, Jewell Hendricks, who confessed to smothering one of her twin sons in January, told police that having two children was too overwhelming and that she was frustrated because her baby would not stop crying.
It is those deaths Steinbeigle is working to prevent. He said too many parents don't realize such crying is normal and will eventually end.
"Babies cry for a lot of different reasons," he said. "It's one of only a few ways they have to communicate, and it's a very basic part of behavioral development."
Babies go through a phase of crying that typically starts at two weeks, peaks at two months and ends by five months, he said. They can cry anywhere from a few minutes a day to several hours. Parents get upset attempting to figure out what's wrong and to make the crying stop.
"We're trying to let parents know that if they ever get to that point of frustration, it's OK to put the infant down in a safe place and go somewhere else or call a friend, a neighbor or a relative," Steinbeigle said.
"It's OK to step away instead of letting the frustration build and build and abuse the child."
Claudia Price, director of nursing at Weber-Morgan Health Department, said information about PURPLE crying is still new to parents, but it's critical that they find out about it.
"Shaken baby syndrome is really a critical public health syndrome. It's really important that parents recognize that the period of increased crying is normal, and with the knowledge, they're better able to cope," she said. "They're less likely to be inappropriate in how they handle the child, like in shaking the baby and causing damage."
To help bring attention to the topic, Steinbeigle said, the center has partnered with businesses and health care providers to put tear-shaped, purple vinyl floor decals in their buildings.
They will be in places such as Harmons, Gold's Gym, hospitals, Megaplex theaters and health departments.
The decals will pose questions about infant crying and direct people to purplecrying.info for more information and resources to help them find answers.
Price said much of the information comes from the hospitals that offer materials for new parents to inform and help them.
Steinbeigle said doctors used to refer to PURPLE crying as colic, but that reinforces the idea that it can be cured rather than it being a normal part of infant development.
The shaken-baby center created a partnership with hospitals in 2008 to really begin getting the word out about PURPLE crying, he said.
The program and information given to parents is an important step in creating a safe home, said Tim Kendell, McKay-Dee Hospital professional relations manager.
He said the information gives parents tools to deal with a crying baby that will hopefully keep the baby safe and help the parents cope.