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Knitters gather to educate parents about crying babies

In a new series of ads, Legacy Health celebrates the work we do in the community with the help our partners. 

We highlight a partnership with volunteers who knit purple caps to remind parents about the Period of PURPLE Crying to prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome.


"One little cap at a time"

About two years ago, Mary Zellhaire was looking for a volunteer project. She found CLICK for Babies, a program that creates thousands of purple caps for babies to wear as a reminder to their parents about the Period of PURPLE Crying. From two weeks to four months old, it is normal for babies to cry a lot. The program teaches parents about this developmental stage – and helps to prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome.

The 69-year-old is one of dozens of volunteers who has worked closely with Legacy Health. She's knitted about 100 caps a year and she and her husband have helped, along with members of her church, do quality control – to make sure the hats are safe, are soft enough, big enough and are labeled with the safety message stickers for parents.

Zellhaire says her "selfish" reason for joining is her love of knitting. But her "unselfish" reason is that she is passionate about spreading the message about the Period of PURPLE Crying to others. She says last year, she even stopped a mom with a crying baby at the mall one night and told her that it was not her fault." Zellhaire said, "She was so grateful … It relieves parents’ feelings of guilt."

And Zellhaire doesn't just help with the CLICK for Babies. She knits hats for the homeless in winter months and helps make quilts for her church for other nonprofits. But with 70 fast approaching, she's also taking care of herself. Last year, she hired a personal shopper and lost 10 pounds with Weight Watchers. "I didn't want to go into a new decade feeling down," she said. Now she says she's heading into her seventies on a "high note."

According to Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel’s Amber Kroeker, MPH CPST, injury prevention program coordinator, the program gathered about 8,000 hats in 2015, and knit-ins were held in hospitals, yarn stores and churches. Kroeker says that the awareness campaign normalizes the Period of PURPLE Crying so that parents recognize it – and don't harm their babies. Infant crying can create, "Intense frustrations and may lead to a momentary loss of control with devastating consequences," Kroeker says, and education is key to preventing harm.

Working with programs all over the state, the educational campaign is now given to 80 percent of Oregon's new parents.

2015 marks the 10th anniversary of PURPLE program and the fifth anniversary of the knitting program which runs from spring to the end of September.