SEATTLE - It's a troubling sign of a down economy. Health experts say cases of child abuse are on the rise.
But a simple learning tool for parents has been shown to protect newborns.
In a DVD called "The Period of Purple Crying" parents tell their own stories about the stressful first months.
There are tips. But if nothing works, that's normal too. The message is based on 25 years of research on infant crying. As part of a study, the DVDs were given to thousands of new moms in King County.
The aim is to prevent shaken baby syndrome.
"A large portion of people who end up shaking their babies are normal parents who love their child but get frustrated with their crying," said Dr. Fred Rivara, professor of pediatrics at Seattle Children's and University of Washington. He led the local research.
"We showed that these mothers who had gotten the information had read it, had looked at it, knew much more about infant crying," he said.
He says learning coping strategies and passing them along to other caregivers is especially important now.
"All parents are stressed," Rivara said. "And there's a lot who are very stressed because they've lost their jobs, and lost their homes."
It could be driving an alarming trend.
"I think it's important to know that at Children's hospital in the last year the number of children that have been admitted for serious brain injuries from abuse has nearly tripled," Rivara said.
He believes some parents might not realize they're hurting an infant.
"You're shaking the baby and they stop crying," he said. "But they stop crying because there's actually some damage to the brain."
It can lead to seizures, permanent disability, and death. It's why the DVD coaches that the best approach to a crying baby is to give yourself a few minutes break before you lose your cool.
The DVD is only available through some hospitals right now. Seattle Children's and Washington state are teaming up to fund it.