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The Period of PURPLE Crying: What It Is and How to Cope

by Vannessa Rhoades 04 Apr 2023
The Period of PURPLE Crying: What It Is and How to Cope

All infants cry. Some do it more than others, especially in the early days, and getting through some of those long, screaming periods requires a lot of patience, understanding, and help. For some families, the crying settles into a relatively predictable pattern in terms of when and how their infant gets upset. For others, this crying phase seems to be unending, and the relentless screaming frequently starts at specific times of the day. If your healthy baby is experiencing a stage of inconsolable crying, you may be going through what experts have labeled as the Period of PURPLE Crying. This phase is marked by a significant increase in crying for no apparent reason.

For many babies, there is nothing medically wrong. The PURPLE crying period is a normal developmental phase that many infants experience. Unfortunately, it can be incredibly overwhelming and stressful for caregivers. Let’s take a closer look at the period of PURPLE crying and how to cope.

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What Is The Period of PURPLE Crying?

For many years, experts and caregivers thought colic was the primary cause of persistent, inconsolable crying in healthy newborns. However, recent studies indicate that bouts of persistent crying prior to five months of age don’t necessarily indicate any medical issues are present. Surprisingly, this stage is perfectly normal and even expected during your baby’s development. This period of PURPLE crying age starts around two weeks and typically continues until your little one is about three to four months old. To help caregivers during this period, the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome created a research-based education program called PURPLE Crying. 

The PURPLE Crying Program was developed in order to teach caregivers about these distinctive periods of relentless crying that occur with newborns. It educates parents on what the average crying curve is like and the risks of shaking a baby. PURPLE is an acronym used to describe distinctive attributes of a baby’s crying. It’s a particular type of excessive, inconsolable crying that occurs in very young infants.

  • Peak of crying: During these months, your newborn may cry more each week, with the peak happening during the second month. This normally starts to gradually decrease during the third to fifth month.
  • Unexpected: The relentless crying is unexpected and unpredictable. Your infant’s crying episodes may start and stop with no apparent reason for why they are happening.
  • Resists soothing: Despite multiple attempts to calm your baby, crying persists.
  • Pain-like face: During an episode, your baby may appear to be in pain, even when they are not.
  • Long-lasting: The bouts of relentless crying may last anywhere from 30 to 40 minutes at a stretch to multiple hours. They can also go on for days at a time.
  • Evening: Late afternoon and evening hours are often referred to as the “witching hour,” when crying peaks or lasts the longest.

The word Period is important because it tells parents that this phase of development is only temporary and will come to an end.



Coping With the Period of PURPLE Crying

PURPLE period of crying is frustrating and exhausting, but rest assured that it won’t last forever. It’s helpful to have a variety of calming techniques in your arsenal to see which might be more effective for soothing your little one. Unfortunately, sometimes nothing works well, and it becomes important to prioritize self-care.

Comfort your little one

Having a trusty bag of baby-soothing tricks can be a lifesaver when it comes to comforting a crying infant. Figuring out which technique works best may take a little trial and error, so hang in there and give them all a try.

    • Meet physical needs: Check your baby for a fever or whether they need a diaper change. Check whether gas is making them uncomfortable or whether they need to be fed.
    • Head outdoors: A little fresh air and a change of scenery can sometimes redirect your baby’s attention.
    • Try skin-to-skin contact: Undress your infant down to their diaper only and lay them directly on your uncovered chest. Skin-to-skin contact may help soothe their distress.
    • Move around: Try swaying, rocking, or walking
    • Bathe them: If your little one is usually a fan of bathtime, try soaking them in lukewarm water when they’re having a crying spell.
    • Swaddle: Sometimes wrapping a newborn like a mini-burrito can help them feel safer and more secure and may help them settle down.

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Comfort yourself

If none of these methods seem to soothe your baby and you feel yourself becoming upset or frustrated (which is normal), place your baby in a safe spot, like their crib, and step away. Give yourself a few minutes to regain your composure and decompress before going back to your infant and trying again. If you need more than a few minutes to truly calm down, ask a partner, friend, or family member for assistance. If you’re still unable to calm your baby, consult with your pediatrician to discover whether there may be an underlying medical condition responsible for the persistent crying.

The Takeaway

Knowing that your infant’s crying bouts are a normal, temporary stage of their growth and development can help you deal with this frustrating, overwhelming phase. Tools like the PURPLE acronym can help you manage the fussy periods, help you assess the situation, and figure out what steps you need to take to get through it. Remember, if you’re feeling frustrated take a moment to evaluate your needs and take care of yourself as well. Self-care is an essential part of good parenting that’s often overlooked. Managing your own health means you’ll be in a better place mentally to care for your little one.

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