Penny Hill-Malone looped the purple yarn with the green crochet hook.
Never looking up, she said: “I have 11 grandchildren. I've crocheted about everything a baby needs.”
The key word was “about.” She has crocheted a newborn baby's cap, but not like the one in her hands. This one could possibly save a baby's life. Or this one might save a baby from suffering permanent brain damage. Maybe it won't. Maybe it's just be a cute little cap for a sweet little baby.
But she and other crocheters and knitters are offering their time and skills just in case “The Click for Babies, Period of Purple Crying Caps” project makes that difference.
The Click for Babies, Period of Purple Crying Caps project is an effort intended to raise awareness about normal infant crying and the dangers of shaking an infant. Volunteers can knit or crochet purple-colored newborn caps in any shade of soft, baby-friendly purple yarn.
Those can be sent to the Oklahoma Child Death Review Board. The caps will be given to parents of newborns at participating hospitals in Oklahoma that are already providing education on the topic and “Period of Purple Crying” DVDs to mothers of newborns.
Malone, who is volunteering as a crocheter, works for the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth.
“I've looked at cases where babies have been shaken and died or have been shaken and survived but their life is never the same because of the brain damage,” she said. “It can happen in just a moment. That's all it takes to do this kind of damage to a baby.
“This brings awareness.”
The child death review board is collecting the purple newborn caps through Nov. 30. After they are received and determined to be safe, the caps are tagged with information about the project. So far, they've received about 600 caps. Another 1,400 are needed.
“It takes only a little bit of force and just a few seconds to cause irreversible brain damage, blindness, seizures or even death,” said Nicole Chasteen, case manager for the child death review board. “It is heart-wrenching to think that anyone could harm any child, let alone a vulnerable and defenseless infant.
“One thing that we have learned about shaken baby syndrome and abusive head trauma in Oklahoma is that it knows no socio-economic or racial boundaries. We see this abuse inflicted on infants of all walks of life and it is 100 percent preventable.”
The mission of the child death review board is to reduce the number of preventable deaths through a multidisciplinary approach to case review.
“We are so thankful that hospitals are using Purple to educate new parents on infant crying and the dangers of reacting in frustration to crying by shaking a baby,” Chasteen said. “Purple provides reasonable suggestions for parents and caregivers to utilize in order to cope with the stress and frustration that infant crying can cause.
“It's so important to have this conversation with not only parents, but all caregivers, and plan ahead in the event that they experience these frustrating and stressful bouts of inconsolable crying.”
Ann Benson, director of Child and Adolescent Health with the state Health Department, is a co-leader for the cap project with Lisa Rhoades of the child death review board. Benson said the DVD given to parents at hospitals provides some important coping techniques.
“You've done everything and can't figure out what's wrong and it doesn't appear anything is wrong,” she said. “It's OK to lay the crying baby down and walk away. You lay it in a safe crib, on its back because that's the proper sleeping habit. You make sure there's nothing in the crib, because that's safe sleep, and then even if the baby's crying, it's OK to walk out of the room for a moment.
“Less damage is going to be done to that baby by you leaving it alone than if you're at your wit's end and you don't know what to do.”
The fliers say “Click Your Knitting Needles Together To Prevent Infant Abuse.”
Chasteen said “Click for Babies” has truly been a grassroots effort and they have been amazed at the number of knitters and crocheters who have volunteered.
“I am in absolute awe of the outpouring of support that we have received,” Chasteen said. “We have had one passionate advocate that set up a group for Oklahoma knitters called 'Click for Babies' on the social networking website for knitters and crocheters at Ravelry.com. She is working on scheduling a virtual knit it, which will be a virtual knit group that knits or crochets purple hats all at the same time, in several locations across the city and state.”
A couple of people at the Oklahoma Federation for Families promised to knit/crochet a cap a day until the deadline.
Chasteen said they received 107 caps from the Comanche County Health Department. Caps have come in from Missouri, Arkansas, Texas and Ohio.
“Everybody waits to see if I have packages and then they come over to my office,” Chasteen said. “It's like Christmas, everybody wants to see the caps that come in. It's been a real morale booster I think. It's just nice to have something tangible to give.”
A visual reminder
To Malone's left, Aimee Merick was crocheting a purple newborn baby cap. Merick, who works for the Oklahoma City-County Health Department's Fetal and Infant Mortality Review, has crocheted afghans and doilies.
Merick became involved because she believes that “when people know better, they do better.” So hopefully when they learn about crying, that it is normal at times and that there are things they can do to help the baby and help themselves to go through it, maybe they'll use that information to protect the babies.
“Even if the baby's not wearing the cap, if it's in the home and they see it,” she said, “it might remind the parent what to do. That may make a difference.”