Becoming a baby’s caregiver is a joyful experience often accompanied by stress and worry. The first few months can be especially tense. There’s no shortage of stories from parents describing the moments their child became inconsolable, crying throughout the night seemingly without end. Moments like these can make caregivers feel helpless and like they’re bad parents. This isn’t true; babies just don’t know how to communicate what they need.
Crying is something babies can do well. Early in life, some cry for hours at a time without pause and at regular intervals. This temporary stage of crying is referred to as the Period of PURPLE Crying. PURPLE is an acronym that helps explain what is happening:
Peak of crying – Crying usually peaks when a baby is 2 months old.
Unexpected – There doesn’t seem to be a reason for the crying, and it starts without warning.
Resists soothing – The baby cannot be comforted with food, cradling or other calming activities.
Pain-like face – Crying is accompanied by a face that makes it seem like the baby is hurting.
Long-lasting – Daily crying spells can last 4-6 hours.
Evening – Crying occurs late in the afternoon or evening.
The key word here is “period.” This stage of crying doesn’t last forever, though it sure can stress out many parents. Most babies move out of this phase between 3-5 months of age.
It’s important to remember that newborns get overwhelmed and confused. When they don’t understand something they will cry – there’s not much else they can do. These moments can be exhausting and draining for caregivers, but remember to never take your frustration out on the baby.
When the crying gets to you…
If you feel yourself getting angry, make sure your baby is in a safe sleep environment, step into another room and take a few breaths. Walk around, clear your head and collect yourself. Forgive yourself for being annoyed. After a few minutes, return to your child.
If the crying is earsplitting, you might try wearing headphones and playing white noise to help ease your own suffering. Keep the sound low enough that you can still hear your baby and not harm your own hearing. Some healthcare experts suggest taking a walk or drive together to help distract both of you.
Keep in mind that this crying stage doesn’t last forever. It will end.
For links to healthcare and other resources in your area, explore our Bootheel Community Resource Guide.
If you are worried about your baby, please visit your healthcare provider.