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The Period of PURPLE Crying

crying babyAll babies cry, and that’s the truth.  However, some babies cry more than others.  And most babies experience a peak of crying between 2 weeks and 3-4 months of age.  Whether you call it colic or not, unexplained, prolonged and painful-looking crying bouts are difficult for any parent or caregiver to go through.

The Period of Purple Crying is an awareness campaign that aims to inform and reassure parents about this period of infant development.  Unexpected, prolonged crying is normal in babies between 2 weeks and 3-4 months of age.

Dealing with a baby who won’t stop crying is hard enough.  If you don’t know that what you’re going through is normal, and you believe instead that you’re a failure as a parent or your baby is manipulating you with his cries, the frustration can lead to tragic results such as Shaken Baby Syndrome.

Our Experience With Infant Crying

When my babies were new, they both went through periods of fussiness and crying in the evening. Neither experienced any kind of prolonged and intense crying that I’d call colic.  They were just fussy in the evening.

Claire wanted to cluster feed between 6-10pm, nursing almost constantly before going to bed for the night.  And so we spent many evenings in the rocking chair or curled up together on the couch.  If I had to get up to pee, or change into my pajamas, or brush my teeth?  The wailing began again.  So we nursed a lot, and eventually she grew out of it.

Bea was less happy to nurse all evening and wanted to be carried in the wrap. So Tom spent many an evening strolling around our neighbourhood singing his “daddy song” of low, rumbling hums while Bea nodded off to sleep.

Finding a way of coping with the crying and fussiness is key.  For us, nursing and babywearing worked.  For other babies, it might be swaddling, or an infant swing.  This is not to say that if you do these exact things your baby will stop crying, because it can also be normal for a baby to be “unsoothable” during this period.  For parents with “unsoothable” babies, coping might look like taking shifts of holding the baby while the other parent walks around the block to calm down.  Or, if you’re alone, coping might mean putting the baby down in a safe place while you go to another room to calm down.

What does PURPLE stand for?

period of purple crying

Help Spread the Word About PURPLE Crying

Parents who don’t know that this period of unconsolable crying is normal and  temporary are at risk of harming their baby.  I would honestly be surprised to meet a mom who never once thought about harming a baby who wouldn’t stop crying.  Infant crying has a powerful physiological effect on parents.  Thinking about harming a baby is a sign of the tremendous strain of sleep deprivation and caring for an infant.  Acting on those thoughts results in tragic injuries and death for thousands of babies each year.  And so, to help protect babies, knitters across North America are participating in a campaign called Click for Babies.  By knitting and crocheting purple baby hats to be distributed to babies born in hospitals during the month of November, they are helping to remind parents that PURPLE crying is a normal and temporary phase that many babies go through.

If you knit or crochet, the Click for Babies website has all the information you need to knit and donate a baby hat (or a few!) to the Period of Purple Crying campaign, including patterns, guidelines, a learn to knit demo video and addresses for collection sites in your area.

The period  between 2 weeks and 3-4 months of age is a difficult one for new parents because there are so many things going on at once.  The euphoria of the birth is wearing off, the sleep deprivation is kicking in and the reality of your new life as a parent is becoming more apparent.  On top of all of this, babies begin to cry more.  If you’re in the middle of this, take heart.  It is normal.  It is temporary.  It will pass.

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{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Harriet Fancott August 9, 2011, 8:28 am

    Babywearing was huge for us. My son is 2 now, and it really does get better. Thanks for writing about and spreading the word on this issue.

  • anonymous August 15, 2011, 8:18 pm

    I have never once thought about hurting my baby, it states in this article you would be surprised to meet a mom that hasn’t. Well be surprised. As stressful as a crying baby can be that thought has never crossed my mind. When my little girl cannot be consoled I keep trying new ways to calm her, switching between her father and I, but never once has the idea of harming her in anyway came to mind. I am absolutely shocked that anyone would find that a normal thought.

    • michelle August 16, 2011, 11:07 pm

      I know that most parents would never truly consider harming their baby, but that doesn’t mean that it’s abnormal to have brief flashes or urges that are frustrated, angry or violent. My main point is that *thinking* about angry, frustrated, harmful actions is human and normal but actually *doing* those things is not ok.

      Denying the existence of negative thoughts doesn’t make them go away. Noticing and acknowledging violent thoughts makes it more likely that someone will say to themselves, “Hey, I’m really frustrated and angry right now. I better get some help/put the baby down/walk away before I do something terrible.”

      Saying, “I can’t possibly have thought about doing that. I must be a monster. If I tell anyone I thought that they’ll take my baby away,” is only going to make it less likely that parent will get help when he/she needs it.

      Every baby and every parent is different. I am sure there are some babies and parents who are so calm that they very rarely get upset, but for many parents the first few months are very difficult.

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