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Published on May 19, 2020

swaddled newborn baby crying

Understand the Period of Purple Crying

As a new parent I remember bringing home my son and wondering if all of his crying was normal? Was he ill or in pain? Did I need to call the doctor? What should I do if I couldn’t soothe him?

The Period of Purple crying begins at about 2 weeks of age and continues until about 3-4 months. Sometimes babies during this time may look like they are in pain, but the period of purple crying is a normal stage in development.

The Period of Purple crying is an acronym:

  • P- Peak of crying: Your baby may cry more each week, the most in month 2, then less in months 3-5.
  • U- Unexpected: Crying can come and go without reason.
  • R- Resists soothing: Your baby may not stop crying despite your soothing techniques.
  • P- Pain-like face: A crying baby may look like they are in pain even if they are not.
  • L- Long-lasting: Crying can last as much as five hours a day or more.
  • E- Evening: Your baby may cry more in the late afternoon and evening.

The period of purple crying is not the same as colic.

So how do parents know that their infant is not sick? Usually if the crying is due to illness the infant may have other symptoms such as fever, diarrhea and vomiting. If baby is crying a lot it is always a good idea to have them checked over by the doctor to make sure there isn’t medical reasons for the crying but know that it is typical for some infants to go through a period of time where they may cry often and for long periods of time.

It is important for parents and caregivers of infants to know about the period of purple crying, because it can help prevent abusive head trauma often referred to as shaken baby syndrome. When parents and caregivers understand that this period of intense crying is a regular part of development and not their fault, it can make it easier to cope. If you ever feel overwhelmed by an infant’s crying put them down in a safe place and take 10-15 minutes to yourself or call a trusted friend or family member to come give you a break.

Some soothing techniques that may help a crying infant include:

  • Using a sling carrier
  • White noise
  • Singing
  • Giving baby a bath (always keep one hand on the baby in the bath)
  • Car ride or stroller ride
  • Sucking on a pacifier
  • Closeness
  • Breastfeeding/skin-to-skin contact
  • Holding/rocking baby
  • Walking with baby

There are times when there’s nothing a parent or caregiver can do to soothe a baby’s crying. Understanding that this is just a part of infant development can ease a parent’s worries. It’s important to remember that some babies cry more than others during this time period and it isn’t your fault.

Always put baby to sleep on their back on a firm surface, never sleep with them on the couch or use soft bedding due to suffocation hazards. Remember that the period of purple crying does end and learning these soothing techniques can help.

By Patricia Bates, Family Life Educator, Women’s and Children’s Community Outreach Education, Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center

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