Purple Crying: Why some babies cry more than others

Purple Crying: Why all babies get it

All babies cry, and some babies cry more than others. Is it colic? Is it the witching hour? Most likely it’s something experts have called, ‘Purple Crying’. And it’s perfectly normal.

No, it doesn’t have anything to do with baby crying so much their little face turns purple. Purple Crying is actually an acronym for a normal developmental phase that begins at around two weeks of age and continues until bub is about three or four months old. And all babies go through it.

Here’s what you need to know about the Period of Purple Crying.

What is Purple Crying?

Period of Purple Crying

(credit: purplecrying.info)

The term ‘Period of Purple Crying’ was created to help parents understand the period in a baby’s life when they cry, a lot, and help them realise it’s normal. Here’s what the PURPLE acronym stands for:

  • Peak of crying. Bub may cry more each week, the most when they’re about eight weeks, and less as they get older.
  • Unexpected. You’ve checked all the usual things (nappy, feeding) and you can’t work out why bub is crying.
  • Resists soothing. No matter what you do bub just won’t stop crying.
  • Pain-like face. Baby may appear to be in pain when crying, even when he’s not.
  • Long-lasting. The crying can last up to five hours a day, even more.
  • Evening. Bub cries most in the late afternoon and evening.

While Purple Crying is extremely common and happens to every baby, more than 80 per cent of mums we asked don’t know what it is.

Why was the term ‘Purple Crying’ created?

baby hunger signs

Experts found that during the first few months of a baby’s life, their peak periods of crying coincided with increased incidences of shaken baby syndrome. Researchers believed that some parents were shaking their babies to try and stop the long periods of crying.

In response, The Period of Purple Crying was created by the National Centre on Shaken Baby Syndrome (NCSBS) and Dr Ronald G. Barr, a developmental paediatrician and world expert on infant crying, to better explain why babies are crying so much, and help reduce cases of shaken baby syndrome.

Do all babies go through Purple Crying?

What is purple crying in babies and how to comfort them | Mum's Grapevine

Marilyn Barr, Founder/Former Executive Director, NCSBS, says all babies go through this period, but some babies cry a lot and some less. “When these babies are going through this period they seem to resist soothing,” Marilyn explains. “Nothing helps. Even though certain soothing methods may help when they are simply fussy or crying, bouts of inconsolable crying are different. Nothing seems to soothe them.

“During this phase of a baby’s life, they can cry for hours and still be healthy and normal. Parents often think there must be something wrong or they would not be crying like this. However, even after a check-up from the doctor which shows the baby is healthy they still go home and cry for hours, night after night.

“The acronym PURPLE is used to describe specific characteristics of an infant’s crying during this phase and let parents and caregivers know that what they are experiencing is indeed normal and, although frustrating, is simply a phase in their child’s development that will pass. The word Period is important because it tells parents that it is only temporary and will come to an end.”

What can I do for my baby during the Period of Purple Crying?

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According to the experts, the best thing to do is to stay calm. It’s perfectly ok to feel overwhelmed and drained, but don’t let that shape how you treat your bub. Calmness can be reassuring to a baby, whereas it’s harder to calm your baby when you aren’t calm yourself.

Remember if you are feeling completely overwhelmed by your baby’s crying, there is help available via these helplines.

• PANDA National Helpline – Call 1300 726 306
• Parentline (VIC)  – Call 13 22 89  (QLD & NT) – Call 1300 30 1300
• Maternal Child Health Line (Victoria) – Call 13 22 29
• Pregnancy Birth Baby Helpline – Call 1800 882 436
• Tresillian Advice for parents of kids 0-5 years – Call 02 9787 0855

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