Carter County Health Department is teaming up with a local nonprofit to shed light on a painful, difficult topic for new parents.
Heroes with Hope of Southern Oklahoma donated knitted hats for infants to the department, each one carrying information about the dangers of Shaken Baby Syndrome, also called Abusive Head Trauma, and how to prevent it. Debra Lleverino, an HWH volunteer, knitted 100 purple hats and the group donated them to the health department and Mercy Hospital.
“By doing this, if this reaches one person and makes that person think about it the next time that their baby’s crying and it makes them reflect on that and prevents them from shaking their baby and saves one child from harm, then the efforts have all been worthwhile,” HWH executive director Melissa Woolly said.
Shaken Baby Syndrome is the result of an infant being violently shaken, even just for a few seconds. This can result in injuries or death, but cases often go undiagnosed until children get older and exhibit symptoms like learning disabilities, behavior disorders, physical disabilities or seizures, years after the abuse took place.
“I think everyone thinks, in difficult
situations, ‘this would never happen to me,’” Woolly said. “That’s everyone’s mindset, but the best approach to that is to talk about it before that becomes you. Avoiding it is not going to fix it.”
The hats come with slips of paper explaining The Period of PURPLE Crying, an intense period of nearly constant crying in the first months of a newborn’s life. Each letter in the acronym stands for a different aspect of PURPLE crying: Peak of crying, Unexpected, Resists Soothing, Pain-Like Face, Long-Lasting and Evening.
The slips go into further detail, explaining how parents can take steps to stay calm during the PURPLE period.
“Things like not being afraid to ask for help, not being afraid to walk away for a second,” Woolly said. “I personally remember doing that, and that’s okay. Be sure to get rest, as difficult as that may sound.”
Julie Williamson, who works for the Parents as Teachers parenting support program, said preparation is key when it comes to the PURPLE period.
“There’s typically a six-week peak of crying. They’re going to cry more and more and more, and then it’s going to get better,” Williamson said. “So what we talk about is having a plan. Knowing there’s a time when they’re going to be really tired and frustrated. A lot of what I do as a parent educator in my program is normalizing things. I help people understand that it’s normal to get frustrated, it’s normal to get upset with their children.”
Heroes with Hope is based in Ardmore. Executive director Melissa Woolly said the group started out organizing annual Shop With Cops events, but recently retooled itself into Heroes with Hope, which is dedicated to helping children in need year-round.
“We officially opened our office on August 1 of this year,” Woolly said. “Shop With Cops has been in Ardmore for 30 years now, so we’re new, but not technically. We’re going to focus all of our efforts on children.”
To learn more about SBS, visit The National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome online at