The long wait is finally over, and your precious little one is in your hands. You are delighted to become a mother and want to shower your baby with all the love in the world. But, there is more to motherhood than just the cuddles and the kisses.
The sleepless nights and the tired days – all new parents are well aware of the first few difficult months when they welcome their newborn. It could be early in the evening or late at night, your baby would cry every day at a specific time, and no matter what you do, they just don’t seem to calm down.
Most babies have such bouts of frequent and persistent crying, but this fussy period may extend beyond a certain age in some babies. Developmental pediatrician Dr. Ronald G. Barr named this phase as purple crying. Read this post to learn what purple crying in babies is and the causes and ways to soothe babies.
What Is Purple Crying?
Purple crying has nothing to do with the color purple; it is an acronym that describes your baby’s characteristics while crying persistently through a specific period.
Previously, many experts believed colic to be the reason behind such excessive and persistent crying, but there are no studies to prove it. Recent findings suggest that many newborns who cry a lot are healthy and develop normally (1). So, if your pediatrician has ruled out colic, then it could be purple crying, a normal phase in a baby’s growth.
Purple crying is a developmental period during which your baby might cry at a specific time and for an extended duration, and everything that you do to soothe them may prove fruitless.
Parents might worry if something is wrong with their baby, but the baby might be perfectly alright and just going through a regular developmental stage. This period of incessant crying is said to start at one to two weeks from birth and gradually resolve by three or four months of age (2).
However, if such excessive crying episodes are accompanied by sleeping and eating disorders and extend beyond the age of four months, it might be associated with long-term psychological or behavioral difficulties, such as ADHD. So, it is important to monitor your baby closely (1).
Next, let us look at what the letters in PURPLE stand for.
What Do The Letters In PURPLE Stand For?
PURPLE is an acronym that describes all the specific characteristics that a baby goes through while experiencing episodes of purple crying. It helps determine if your baby’s cries fall in the realm of purple crying.
The acronym PURPLE stands for Peak of crying, Unexpected, Resists soothing, Pain-like face, Long-lasting, and Evening. Read on to understand what each characteristic means (2).
Peak of crying (P)
The first P stands for peak of crying, which describes the period when the crying peaks. Evidence suggests that most healthy babies may cry a lot. Such crying might start from two weeks of age, peaks at two months, and might resolve by three to four months of age.
If you often find your baby giggling at one moment and crying the next, it is one of the characteristics of purple crying. Initially, you may go through your checklist of why your baby is crying, but this crying wouldn’t fall under any of those reasons. It may come for no reason and go away unexpectedly.
Resists soothing (R)
You could try a hundred things to soothe your baby, but nothing may seem to work because the baby may resist soothing. It usually leaves the parents exhausted and frustrated.
Pain-like face (P)
Purple crying is often associated with the baby making a face as if they are in pain, even when they are not. This might worry parents as it would be difficult seeing your baby cry and not being able to soothe them.
These crying spells may last for a long time, for about five hours to a day or even more. The exact time varies from baby to baby. Although it seems to be never-ending, your baby will eventually stop crying.
Also known as the ‘ (2).&text=Ad troubling as it may,you can deal with it.”>witching hour,’ the crying spells might peak or happen during late afternoon and evening hours, a common scenario in purple crying.
Seeing your little baby crying can be hard for you, even more, if the baby resists soothing. Read the next section to find out what you can do.
Tips To Handle Purple Crying In Babies
It may seem to never end, but there is a reason why it is called the ‘period of purple crying’ because, eventually, this phase will end. Managing your baby while this phase lasts needs a lot of patience, effort, and perseverance. Here are a few tricks and techniques to help you soothe your crying baby. You may have to try a few things before understanding which technique would work best for your baby.
1. Try skin-to-skin contact
You may try to soothe your baby by removing all their clothes (except the diaper) and placing them directly on your chest. Skin-to-skin contact with the mother is said to decrease crying and might help reduce stress and anxiety (3).
2. Try swaddling
Wrapping your baby snugly in a blanket might make the baby feel safe and secure and may soothe them and shorten episodes of purple crying. However, make sure you follow the safety rules of swaddling (4).
3. Comfort them
When your baby is crying, you can try and comfort them by looking into their eyes, talking to them, gently rubbing their back, and holding them upwards on your shoulder. Some infants might need to breastfeed or suck at a pacifier or finger to soothe, as sucking is said to steady the baby’s heart rate, relax the tummy, and help them settle (4).
4. Give a warm bath
Another technique to make your baby stop crying is giving them a lukewarm bath or wiping your baby’s body with a cold washcloth (4).
5. Stroll outdoors
Sometimes, taking your baby out for a stroll in the park might also help. The fresh air and the change in the surroundings may calm the baby and soothe their anxiety.
6. Try soothing sounds
7. Fulfill their needs
Although the reason behind your baby’s cries may not be the usual hunger, sleep, or change of diaper, it is worth checking and fulfilling their basic needs.
8. Take a break
If you have tried everything, and yet, your baby won’t stop crying, then do not hesitate to hand the baby over to your partner or another caregiver. If you are alone, put the baby down in a secure place and walk away for a few minutes. Use this time to compose and recollect yourself. Once you feel better, come back and try to soothe your baby once again.
You may also take help from external sources, such as The Purple Crying Program. Initiated by the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, it is an informative program to educate parents and caretakers about purple crying and ways to soothe the baby.
Does Purple Crying Have Any Connection With Shaken Baby Syndrome?
The incessant crying of the baby might take a toll on the parent. It is not easy to deal with it when you are faced with other challenges, including recovering from childbirth, postpartum depression (if any), frequent feedings, and sleepless nights.
No parent would intentionally want to hurt their baby. Still, out of helplessness and frustration, sometimes, the caregiver or the parent might resort to excessively shaking the baby, leading to shaken baby syndrome.
This is a condition in which the baby suffers brain damage due to vigorous shaking. The parent or the caregiver holds the baby by the arms and rattles, which makes the brain to rock back and forth. Such a head trauma may cause brain swelling or injury, increasing the risk of severe complications, such as blindness, seizures, developmental issues, and even death.
Shaken baby syndrome is voluntary and is categorized as a form of child abuse. It is also known as abusive head trauma (5).
Here are a few signs of a shaken baby.
- Decreased appetite
- Difficulty in waking up
- Increased irritability
- Difficulty in swallowing or sucking (6)
Dealing with your baby’s continuous crying can sometimes be overwhelming. If you ever feel so frustrated and think of resorting to harming your baby, step away and seek help.
Take the utmost care while leaving the baby with a babysitter or a caregiver. Always hire a licensed and experienced babysitter, and instruct them against harming the baby. You can also monitor them using a CCTV camera. These could be some of the steps for abusive head trauma prevention.
Taking care of a baby is an exhausting yet rewarding task. Understand that it is okay to take a break and let your partner or a family member take care of the baby. This does not make you a bad mother; it makes you a human. So, do not be hard on yourself; take some time away from the baby and use it to meditate or relax. Remember, your mental health is equally important.
It may seem never-ending, but babies do outgrow purple crying once they get used to their environment. Do not feel disappointed or give up if you fail to soothe your crying baby during the first few attempts. The key here is to try and try, and you might just crack the code.
2. Marilyn Barr; What is the Period of PURPLE Crying?; The Period of Purple Crying
3. Elizabeth R Moore, et al.; Early skin-to-skin contact for mothers and their healthy newborn infants; Europe PMC Funders Group Manuscript (2012).
4. Crying; Healthy Child Manitoba
5. Muna Al-Saadoon, et al.; Shaken Baby Syndrome as a Form of Abusive Head Trauma; Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal (2011).
6. Period of PURPLE Crying; Seattle Children’s Hospital