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Hospital program tries to prevent injured babies

LEBANON - "Period of PURPLE Crying for Teens: Understanding Infant Crying" is a program designed to educate teens around the fact that Shaken Baby Syndrome is preventable, says Debra Samaha, Program Director at the Injury Prevention Center.

It is a crime, but it is also a public health issue, she said.

"People can stop and choose how they want to respond in a given situation," Samaha said.

PURPLE is an acronym that stands for Peak pattern: infant crying peaks around two months then decreases; Unpredictable crying: a baby may keep crying for long periods of time; Pain-like look on face; Long bouts of crying: crying can go on for hours; Evening crying, a baby cries more in the afternoon and evening.

Newborns, especially aged 2 to 4 months, are at greatest risk of injury from shaking.

The consequences include death, brain injury, blindness, mental retardation or developmental delays, cerebral palsy, severe motor dysfunction, spasticity and seizures.

"When you shake a baby they do stop crying because you've just injured their brain," Samaha said.

Statistics on the syndrome are spotty, Samaha said, since child abuse is a crime. Parents and their partners are the majority of offenders and people are reluctant to report or seek care.

The most common trigger for shaking a baby is inconsolable or excessive crying, which is a normal phase of infant development.The teen program seeks to increase understanding around infant crying patterns and peaks.

"It's not rocket science, but it's trying to kind of normalize and support young people that this is a normal phase of child development and if you have a child this is something you should expect," Samaha said.

About 20 schools in Grafton, Cheshire, Coos and Hillsborough counties are receiving PURPLE kits this month. Grafton was chosen because it is where Dartmouth-Hitchcock is based.

The other three were chosen for their teen pregnancy rates, Samaha said.

"At last count Manchester had the highest teen birth rate in the state," Samaha said.

Out of the counties, schools that expressed an interest were chosen.

"Expect peak crying in infants," is the main thrust of the program, Samaha said. "They learn the dangers of shaking the babies, what are the risks are, what some of the triggers are that may lead to an incident like this and ways they can prevent this."

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