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Home » Advice and Tips, Baby, Featured

The Period of Purple Crying

Submitted by on Tuesday, 23 September 200818 Comments
We can learn something from the color purple

We can learn something from the color purple

I’ve seen a lot of posts on other blogs lately about crying babies and they inspired me to write this article, especially because our daughter, who I will call Sweet Cheeks, has also been crying more lately (she’s two months old now).

It is important for parents to realize that it is absolutely normal for babies to go through a period of increased crying.  There is even a name for it.  It is called the Period of Purple Crying.  Once parents know that the Period of Purple Crying exists, it helps them to deal with it a lot better.  The Period of Purple Crying also helps parents to understand that it is okay for your baby to cry, and an inability to calm your baby doesn’t make you a bad parent.  It also doesn’t mean that your child is abnormal or unhealthy.

Was the guy who came up with the idea of the Period of Purple Crying a fan of the colour purple, or Whoopi Goldberg?  Maybe.  But there is a reason why it is called “Purple Crying.”  It is PURPLE because:

There is a PEAK to the crying.  The baby cries more and more each week, until it reaches a peak at around 2 months of age, and then it decreases over the following months.

The crying is UNEXPECTED.  You don’t know when or where it will start or stop.

The child tends to RESIST soothing.  No matter what you do, the baby doesn’t stop crying.

The child may have a PAIN-LIKE face while crying.  The baby may look like it is in pain, although it is not.

The crying may be very LONG LASTING.  It can last as much as five hours a day or more (oh god!).

The crying increases in the EVENING or late afternoon.

Put it all together and what do you got?  PURPLE crying.

This crying is no game

This crying is no game

It is important that parents understand this period of crying and that it is completely normal.  Knowing this really helps parents to deal with the frustration that they feel when they are unable to calm their baby.  Parents need to know that it is okay to be frustrated, as long as they deal with the frustration in an appropriate way.

The best ways to deal with the frustration are:

1.  Use techniques to try and stay calm while calming the baby.  I have some ideas about how to do this in an article I wrote here.

2.  Take a break by handing the baby over to your spouse.

3.  If your spouse or no one else is available, place the baby in a safe place and take a 5 or 10 minute break.  Do something relaxing during this time that will help relieve your frustration, then go back to your baby.  Know that it is okay to leave your baby in a safe place while crying for a few minutes.  This is better than carrying your baby while you are very frustrated.

It is important that parents also make sure that anyone who is looking after their baby knows and understands the Period of Purple Crying and how to deal with it.  The last thing that you want is a caregiver that shakes your baby out of frustration.

Join the Jam and let us know what you do to deal with Purple Crying!

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The Period of Purple Crying is an evidence-based Shaken Baby Syndrome prevention program put forward by National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome.  It is based on research conducted by Ronald G. Barr and other scientists worldwide on normal infant crying patterns.  Please visit this link if you are interested in more information on the Period of Purple Crying.

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18 Comments »

  • [...] you managed to survive The Period of Purple Crying with your baby, your next big hurdle will be to overcome teething and teething pain.  Going [...]

  • kassi09 says:

    my daughter was born prematurely so her purple crying tends to be worse than normal babies….i have the technique of calming her down to the T. But husband is easily frustrated…he went on vacation not to long ago to see family…he just came back and today he caught an attitude cuz of her crying and said he should have stayed where he was stormed out the house and slammed the door…im clueless she’s just a baby and thats what babies do or maybe its more than what meets the eye and its me

  • Head Jammer says:

    Hi Kassi, thanks for your comment. From what I’ve read on the topic, many parents can get frustrated with the period of purple crying, I believe mainly because sometimes, despite their efforts, the baby continues to cry. Education on the topic, and knowing that it is okay to just try your best, and that all parents go through it, is the best you can do to try and ease the frustration. I hope it all goes well for you and good luck!!

  • cher says:

    I had and raised 4 babies of my own, 8 grandbabies and took care of more babies than I can count and never experienced anything like this period. I even worked in the newborn nursery for a few weeks during my nurse’s training.
    All my babies were totally breastfed, never had colic or cried much.
    If they cried it was for a reason, hungry, wet or needed a change, even during teething they didn’t cry much.
    I believe that bottle feeding is most likely the source of discomfort, but is overlooked. It could be an allergic reaction to the formula or products in it.
    It was recently discovered that the dry formula carries bacteria that can cause stomach distress.
    Also I didn’t have my babies vaccinated early, as usually scheduled, they were all at least 6 months or older.
    The only thing close to this was my niece who was not breastfed and had colic, which I believe was formula related. I was the only one who could quiet her during these episodes.
    In my opinion babies crying for no reason is not normal, they always have a reason.
    I think it’s better to seek a reason than to write the crying off as being normal and something you have to live with.
    Babies cry for a reason. And an escalation in the crying is not a good sign either!
    It could be an early sign of Autism, or early teething. My youngest son started cutting teeth almost from birth and didn’t stop until he had a full set before he was year old!
    It could be that the baby is on a strict feeding schedule and is hungry but not being fed when needed because of the schedule.
    Other babies have gas from the formula and need anti-gas liquid to ease the discomfort.
    Maybe the infant wants to be held close, needs body contact to be comforted. Maybe walking the floor helps. We had a baby that would quiet down or go to sleep until she had a ride around the block in the car. Car rides do seem to help them sleep.
    Some just want company or be entertained, you keep searching and trying things until you find what works to quiet them.
    I can’t imagine having a constantly crying baby and not finding out why and doing something about it.
    Crying is the only means a baby has of letting us know that something isn’t right and needs to be fixed.
    Just because menstrual cramps are “normal” it doesn’t mean that we have to just endure them until it’s over. There are many reasons and solutions but we have to look and not settle for “just learning to live with it”.

  • Head Jammer says:

    Hi Cher, thanks for your comment and for sharing your experiences. Our babies were breastfed and well taken care of, yet we still experienced this period, and know many parents who did. There is also research that supports the existence of this period. Perhaps you were lucky not to encounter it, but I would not discount its existence.
    Sure, like you say, it is worth the effort to see what you can do to comfort the baby, and that should be your first course of action.
    However, I truly believe that sometimes there really is nothing you can do to stop the crying… I experienced it myself… despite all one’s best efforts and intentions, sometimes nothing works, and if we don’t accept that as a fact, we risk overly frustrating ourselves, possibly becoming aggressive, and even becoming depressed.
    So sometimes it really is better, if you have tried all you can, and still can’t calm the baby, to just take a break.

  • carmen says:

    My daughter is 5 weeks old and has just begun these crying episodes but they seem to start cuz I put her down and won’t carry her. She does seem to have a sensitive stomach but we mexican americans call this “embrazilado” meaning the baby is used to being carried and will ry when put down cuz they just want to be carried. I just don’t know what to do. I feel so overwhelmed cuz my son was nothing like this!

  • Head Jammer says:

    Hi Carmen, thanks for your comment… that is indeed a difficult situation and happens to a lot of parents. On the bright side, at least you can stop the crying by carrying her, so I think that is helpful. The Happiest Baby on the Block is a good resource for alternative methods to calm the baby in these cases as well.

  • Brandon says:

    @cher: you are lucky! please check out this very interesting information shown here which talks about the crying curve in other cultures where babies are fed constantly and also in other animals. go half-way down the page where it starts with “a second reason..”

    http://www.purplecrying.info/sections/index.php?sct=2&sctpg=2&

    this would indicate that crying is not always a result of the some of the things you’d mentioned such as feeding schedule and formula

    @head jammer: great topic and information! soothing techniques are great but unfortunately there’s no evidence showing that there’s a magic calming reflex or 4th trimester as provided by HBOTB. thanks so much!

  • ALY says:

    I breastfed my baby too, and she screamed for 4 hours a night non-stop no matter what we did. We didn’t just sit there and stare at her either. We held her, swang her, took her for drives, walked her, bounced her. It didn’t matter. However, her bottle fed sister barely cried when she had a wet diaper. So I wouldn’t discount this period of time. It’s interesting how people can take their experiences and overgeneralize it into thinking it’s the same for everyone. I try not to do that.

    Another thing, I have never heard of autism signs appearing under the age of 2, and I have never heard of crying being a sign of autism. I don’t want people with crying babies to be panicking. Autism usually is displayed by a LACK of communication (i.e. not smiling, not crying, not verbalizing.)

    I am not an expert, but I am a social worker that works with the 0-3 population and have some experience.

  • Head Jammer says:

    Thanks for your comments Aly!

  • steph says:

    Cher my baby is EBF and never had a bottle and experienced this…

  • Barb says:

    I find many young couples expierencing babies crying and they are Cold. New Borns need to be warm, just think you carried this baby around for 9 months in this nice warm body. Baby is born and out into the cold world it comes. If they are cold they will cry and not sleep either. My daughter insisted the cute look ! The child would wake up at night and want to crawl into bed with her. Or that was the way they could quiet the child when an infant. Babies kick the covers off they will get cold and be unhappy and cry. I would suggest blanket sleepers over PJ’s Oh no, I finally gave up and let her figure it out. The 2nd baby wore blanket sleepers at night and they didn’ thave tha problem.
    My DIL also wondered why her new born was fussy and crying, I said you need to wrap him in a recieving blanket. she said it’s 100 degrees out. I said yes but you have the AC on and ceiling fans going. That air circulating cools his little body down. She finally understood. And had a much happier baby, I too beleive a child crying is trying to tell you they are unahppy about something.
    My son had a tight spinter muscle and was having problems having a BM . Different baby after we visited the Dr , and he showed him how to relieve the problem.. this child also had a milk allergy ! Much happier on a soy formula… Hope this helps some of you…
    that have crying infants.. Keep them warm and well fed. You’ll all be much happier. Nursing Mothers You are what you eat, you eat gassy foods you’ll have a gassy baby, and that weight you wnat to loose. Not eating much or skipping meals, Remember your producing milk from Your Body.

  • Agamor says:

    I beg to differ. My daughter started exhibiting these symptoms when she was 3 days old, still at the hospital. I tried to breastfeed her but she was mostly bottle fed before my milk came in 3 days after she was born. We spent 2 hellish months trying to find the right formula (eventually she got Neocate and she was fine within a few days.) Before that she was gassy, IN PAIN and had blood in her stool, mostly invisible to a naked eye and detected by a special test. Once it was clearly in her diaper. I think the theory of purple crying may be harmful as it will put parents minds at peace while they should be trying to get help. My daughter had milk protein allergy and if I kept on feeding her milk based formulas her neurological system could have been badly damaged.

  • Head Jammer says:

    Hi Agamor, thank you for your comment and sharing your story. You raise a good point, and I agree that parents should do their best to find out what is going on, and yet, there truly can be situations where the baby is just crying because he/she is frustrated, feeling fussy at the end of the day, or overstimulated, or just tired, and in those cases, even though you try your best, they cannot be calmed, and this is what the period of purple crying is. So if there is a health issue, it definitely needs to be addressed, but in the cases I have experienced (now with three children), there was no health issue, and all my children are healthy, it really was just a temporary period of purple crying.

  • cia parker says:

    I think the important thing to add to this article is that persistent, inconsolable screaming is a symptom of vaccine reaction. My baby was given the hep-B vax at the hospital at midnight the day she was born, even though I had said I didn’t want her to get it. I didn’t have hep-B, and there was no way she would be exposed to this usually sexually transmitted disease. She started screaming in the evening nearly four days after having been given the vaccine. The usual timeframe for reaction to this shot is from three to five days after getting it. She screamed even though she had been fed and changed. I rocked her literally all night, and she never stopped. She passed out with exhaustion at dawn and slept three hours, only to wake and scream again, on and on for four days and nights, when she stopped screaming. She lost one pound two ounces in the first two days of the screaming, because she couldn’t feed. The doctor dismissed it as colic, but colic doesn’t interfere with feeding or weight gain. She was later diagnosed with autism. The really bad thing is that there’s no treatment for vaccine reaction, they can try steroids to try to counteract the encephalitic brain inflammation, but it often doesn’t work.
    My daughter was diagnosed with autism when she was 20 months old, and I”m certain it was because of the screaming which indicated encephalitis from a vaccine reaction.

  • Mayra says:

    Well recently three days ago my two month baby girl started crying in the afternoon didnt know what to do, she was clean fed. I was gettibg upset because i hold her she stopped crying a little but this only happens in the afternoon in he morning or night shes fine happy playing. Im sp confused is it colic ?

  • Head Jammer says:

    Thanks for that info cia!

  • Head Jammer says:

    Hi Mayra, it could be colic, or it could be the period of purple crying, which usually peaks at about 2 months. If it continues you should talk to a doctor to get their opinion.

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