Every new mother is different, but each faces the possibility that their babies may cry uncontrollably, even for hours at a time. While protracted infant crying is normal, many parents are not familiar with this behavior and find it vexing. Frustrated parents might shake their babies, which can cause irreparable brain trauma or even death. But at Lake Norman Regional Medical Center, the Period of PURPLE Crying program is helping new moms and dads understand and cope.
Preparing Parents to Cope with a Crying Infant
Every new parent now receives information and watches an 11-minute video about infant crying. As part of their discharge education process, the Lake Norman nurses in the mother-baby unit deliver the PURPLE Crying information, answer questions and encourage the parents to share the video with other caregivers.
"We've had several patients who are delivering their second or third babies with us who watch the video and say, ‘Wow, that really makes sense. I saw these things in my other children, and now I know it's okay to have these feelings of frustration,'" says Tina Hunter, the Women's Services Education Coordinator at Lake Norman. "And the first-time parents realize that being frustrated with crying doesn't mean they're bad parents. The video shows that excessive crying can be very normal and it's okay to step back and call a pediatrician, obstetrician, relatives or friends for help."
Lake Norman nurses show the video twice to patients who are at a higher risk for shaking their babies, including very young mothers or those struggling with substance abuse. "These babies are more likely to experience PURPLE Crying, and their parents are more likely to be affected by stress," Hunter explains. "We also show the video to grandparents, aunts, uncles or anyone else who will be helping to provide care."
Training Hospital Staff and Community
Hunter and her colleagues have reached far beyond their own nursing staff to share this information. "We provide training to all new employees on the mother-baby unit, from our nursing assistants and scrub techs, to the nurses who conduct the parent education," she says. "Our program has been shared with the neonatologists, pediatricians and obstetricians who practice here, increasing the awareness of the issue at hand." The hospital's childbirth education department has made it part of their curriculum and the emergency room staff shows the video to the parents of young crying patients.
The Lake Norman staff also has taken the PURPLE Crying message to the community. "When our unit started this program last October, local newspapers shared our story and we were even featured on TV," says Hunter. "We've highlighted the program at our annual baby fair that brings local businesses and nonprofits to share information about their services for babies and parents." Local nursing schools also show the video to students before they begin rotations at Lake Norman's mother-baby unit.