The P.E.I. government announced Wednesday, it is launching a program to let parents know about the serious injuries caused by shaking infants.

The Island has the highest rate of referrals among the Atlantic provinces for abusive head trauma resulting from shaking. It is the most common cause of death of children from physical abuse.

The program, called the "Period of PURPLE Crying", teaches parents about normal patterns of infant crying and how to respond appropriately.

Provincial Epidemiologist Dr. Carolyn Sanford said the new program gives parents valuable tools to handle difficult situations with a new baby.

"It really provides them with some good information about the normalcy of crying. It gives them some good suggestions in how they can handle those bouts of inconsolable crying," she said.

Soothing methods:

  • Increasing eye-to-eye contact with the baby while carrying the child
  • talking gently to the baby while walking around
  • keeping the baby close to your body
  • introducing 'white noise' into the baby's environment

"You know if you are at the end of your rope it teaches you some tools to ensure that everybody is safe."

Sanford said if the tools do not work and a parent is getting frustrated, she recommends putting the baby down in a safe place and walking away for a while.

She said having that chance to calm down is important.

Parents will be asked to watch a 10-minute DVD while the hospital maternity ward nurses are on-hand to answer questions.

There is also an information booklet available. The program begins this fall and will be available in several languages.

Program already offered throughout U.S. and Canada

The program is already offered in eight provinces and 49 states.

Halifax's IWK Health Centre,in February, became the first hospital in Nova Scotia to adopt the program.

The Period of PURPLE Crying website describes the period as beginning in infants at two weeks of age and continuing until the child is three to four months old.

PURPLE is an acronym for Peak of Crying, Unexpected, Resists Soothing, Pain-like face, Long lasting, Evening.

According to the website, healthy and normal babies can cry for hours in this phase of their lives. It  says studies have shown that the crying tends to be much heavier in the late afternoon and evening.

In 2009, the American Academy of Pediatrics requested doctors stop using the term "shaken baby syndrome" in favour of "abusive head trauma," calling it a more comprehensive diagnosis for brain, skull and spinal injuries associated with shaking and other head injuries inflicted on infants.

Dr. Robert Block, former chairman of an academy committee on child abuse, said legal challenges to the term "shaken baby syndrome" can detract from more important questions about whether abuse occurred. The new term can avoid that problem, he said.