Chartwell residents knit hats to raise awareness about Shaken Baby Syndrome

A group of residents at Chartwell Imperial Place are knitting hats to raise awareness about Shaken Baby Syndrome and help infants get a healthy start in life. Many parents are unfamiliar with the condition that puts the lives of their newborn children at risk.

The period of PURPLE crying
The hats are being knitted in partnership with B.C. Women’s Hospital & Health Centre and Click for Babies, an initiative from the U.S.-based National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome. The caps are purple, symbolizing the period of PURPLE Crying that puts infants at risk of Shaken Baby Syndrome.

Newborn babies go through a period of intense crying – sometimes for up to five hours – beginning at around 2 weeks old then escalating to a peak at 2 months and then winding down from 3-5 months. This is a normal developmental phase, but some parents may become frustrated and shake the baby, which can lead to injury or death. PURPLE is an acronym used to describe the characteristics of this crying period – it stands for Peak of Crying, Unexpected, Resists Soothing, Pain-Like Face, Long Lasting and Evening.

The CroKnits make a difference 
At Chartwell Imperial Place, the “CroKnits” are helping spread the word about the Period of PURPLE Crying. This group of knitters and crocheters - hence the name – meet once a week to make the hats. So far, they have created 250 hats. There are nine residents that participate in the program, while the residence’s Chef Al also learned to knit, contributing 10 hats, and Lifestyle & Programs Coordinator Jennifer Wasden has made 35 caps so far. Most of the members of the CroKnits are between 85 and 93.

The group aims to create a total of 350 hats before they are collected by B.C. Women’s Hospital this fall. The hats will be distributed by the hospital for parents to take home with their child’s delivery, along with educational pamphlets and a video about the period of PURPLE crying.

A commitment to community service
A love for helping the community led to Chartwell Imperial Place’s involvement in the PURPLE crying caps project. The CroKnits first learned of the program when the residence received a letter from B.C. Women’s describing the initiative. Jennifer approached Martha, a member of the CroKnits nicknamed the “HOPE Grandma” for her heavy involvement in Chartwell’s community service-focused HOPE program, to discuss the project. Martha had been a leader in the residents’ involvement with Baskets of Love, an initiative that puts together baskets of helpful items for teenage mothers and their newborn babies in partnership with a local daycare. In July, the residents collected 357 pounds of non-perishable goods for the program. Looking for a project to participate in during the school year, Martha and Jennifer thought the PURPLE caps would be a great fit.

“Learning the patterns can be frustrating, but as one of our knitters said to me, ‘If this hat is going to save a baby’s life, then I’m going to do it,’” said Jennifer.

A widespread problem
Last year, B.C. Women’s collected 9,100 hats for the program. The Canadian Paedriatic Society noted that there is no definitive figure for the number of children affected by the syndrome in Canada, adding that the incidence may be “severely underestimated due to missed diagnosis and under-reporting.” The syndrome is a widespread problem in the United States, where it is the leading cause of death in child abuse cases. About 30 of every 100,000 children under age 1 suffer from the syndrome each year, according to Click for Babies.