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The Period of Purple Crying

Aimee Ellinger, 4-H/Youth Development and FCW Agent


(Source: Kim Bushaw, NDSU family science specialist, 701-231-7450, kim.bushaw@ndsu.edu)

Purple CryingAll too often, we see news reports of a parent, friend or relative who was caring for a young infant and has shaken the child, causing lifelong disabilities, seizures or even death.

The reporter generally quotes the adult as saying, “The baby just wouldn’t stop crying.”

The ‘Period of PURPLE Crying’ is that time in a baby’s development between 2 weeks and 5 months of age where, at times, the crying can be nearly unbearable to the child’s parents or other caregivers.

The National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome has resources to help parents and other caregivers understand their baby’s crying to alleviate the frustration that comes when a baby is crying frequently and the parent feels hopeless to help.
The Period of PURPLE Crying has nothing to do with the color. Instead, the word “period” indicates that the crying has a beginning and an end. The baby will cry less after the second month. Remembering that is important. This crying is not forever.

PURPLE is an acronym. The first P stands for peak of crying. Again, the baby begins to cry more in week two and keeps it up through the second month, but then the crying becomes less through time.

This can seem a little like waiting for the days to get longer here in the upper Midwest. The crying seems to be reduced by only seconds at first, but before you even really notice it, the crying is less and the days are longer.

The letter U stands for unexpected. The crying can start and end at any time. The R stands for resists soothing. Sometimes you can’t do anything to stop the crying, no matter how hard you try.

The second P stands for pain like face. Even when babies are not in pain, their face or body may make them seem to be in pain.

The L is for long-lasting. Crying can last for five or more hours a day. The E is for evening (or later in the afternoon). Most of the crying happens later in the day.  

Understanding that the baby is normal, even with all of that crying, and that you are not inadequate because your baby cries, may help new parents feel less frustrated during these early months of their baby’s life.  Parents who are concerned about their baby’s crying are encouraged to check with their healthcare provider.   

Dr. Ronald Barr explains more at http://purplecrying.info/what-is-the-period-of-purple-crying.php.

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