Updated: Mar 17
It’s 7 p.m. and again your 6-weeks-old baby has a scrunched-up face and is uncontrollably crying. You’ve fed, burped and change the poopy diaper. You are thinking: what is wrong, why won’t baby stop crying, is baby sick or in pain?
It can be scary being a parent of a baby, especially if it’s your first. An episode like the one described above will worry you, make you wonder what you are doing wrong, and frustrate you because it seems no matter what you do baby won’t stop crying.
Baby is most likely experiencing a period of PURPLE crying. #purplecrying PURPLE is an acronym to help parents understand what is happening when their infant cries up to 5 hours a day. It does not mean your baby’s face turns purple when they cry. The acronym is meant to help parents realize their child is going through a normal phase of development and that there is an end to this tough period.
A period of PURPLE crying is not a statement about your parenting skills. The period of PURPLE crying that babies go through happens all over the world and the signs are the same regardless of which county the baby lives. The acronym PURPLE applies to all babies.
What Is PURPLE Crying?
Let’s take a look at what the acronym PURPLE signifies.
P = Peak of Crying
The first P stands for peak of crying. PURPLE crying fuzziness tends to start around 2 weeks of age and peaks between weeks 6 and 8. PURPLE crying usually ends between 3 and 5 months of age. The good news is PURPLE crying does have an ending to this period of development.
U = Unexpected
The U represents the unexpected and unpredictable nature of the crying. The episodes come and go with no apparent reason for when or why they occur. Episodes occur more frequently in the afternoon and evening.
R = Resist Soothing
The R signifies that babies are not soothed by things that normally would comfort them. Babies cry to communicate. They sometimes cry a lot and normally can be consoled. However, with PURPLE crying, feeding, burping, changing the diaper, holding them close to you has little to no effect on their crying.
P = Pain Like Face
The second P describes the look that parents frequently say they see on their baby’s face. Baby’s face looks like they are in pain even though they are not. This is difficult on a parent especially if your baby isn’t responding to soothing.
L = Long Lasting
The crying can occur in episodes of 30 minutes up to 5 hours at a time. As tough as this is for you, the crying will end at some point today. And remember, it is okay to lie baby down in a safe place so you can take a break to collect yourself.
E = Evening
Evening tends to be the worst period of crying. Crying may start in the late afternoon but evening is typically when the crying peaks and last the longest period of time.
Ways to Soothe Baby During a Period of PURPLE Crying
It helps to know that the crying will end, and PURPLE crying is part of normal development. However, you still need to and want to try to soothe baby as much as you can. One of these tried and true techniques may help calm your baby. Try different ones because what works one day may not work the next and vise versa.
First, check physical ques to make sure baby isn’t crying for a specific reason.
Check for a fever. A baby’s normal temperature range is from 97 to 100.3 degrees. WebMD. (2020, October 20). Fever in Babies. https://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/fever-in-babies#1
Make sure baby doesn’t need a diaper change.
Feed baby if it has been a while between feedings.
Burp baby to make sure baby has not swallowed too much air during feeding or crying.
Swaddle baby in a soft blanket. Wrap baby snuggly to help them feel safe and secure. Be sure to speak with your pediatrician regarding their opinion of swaddling before you begin this practice. Some pediatricians steer away from swaddling because too tightly wrapping the baby’s hips and legs can cause baby’s hips to dislocate. Ask your Pediatrician to demonstrate the proper way to swaddle if they recommend the practice.
Hold baby next to you where their chest is against you. You can do this using a baby carrier. Good Housekeeping has a list of the ones that they consider the best #babycarriers for 2021. https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/childrens-products/g4799/best-baby-carriers. You can also wrap them up in your arms. Feeling the warmth of your skin and hearing your heartbeat will comfort your baby.
Dim the lights and turn on soft music. Spotify has Calm Baby Music: Great Songs for Babies Relaxing, Sleeping and Settling Down playlist already created. Listen to the play list at https://open.spotify.com/album/2QjyFNajETVuIKbsF2BlEc
Movement will often calm a baby. Try rocking baby or walking with them in a baby carrier.
Place them in their car seat and take them for a ride in the car. People of every age become sleeping riding in a car.
Give Yourself a Break from a PURPLE Crying Baby
You may need to step away from baby for a few minutes if no comforting techniques you have tried are working. Being a new parent means you are possibly running low on sleep, mentally exhausted and even have lower patience levels.
It is better to place the baby in a safe spot and walk away for 10 or 15 minutes than to completely run out of patience. Do check on baby at least every 15 minutes to make sure they are safe. Do not pick baby up until you have calmed down unless something is physically wrong with baby. Instead, you should spend another 10 or 15 minutes trying to regroup your composure.