As a parent, the moment when you heard your baby’s first cries after birth was probably the most unforgettable and heart-warming. After all, they were the earliest sounds your little one made. As time passes, your infant’s non-stop crying could leave you with so many questions unanswered. This can be a difficult time for a parent, especially when you are clueless if the constant sobbing and screaming is normal or healthy.

Even when your baby is perfectly fine, his or her crying may get worse especially at around two months of age. This difficult period of your little one’s life is called PURPLE crying when he or she starts to sob regularly for long periods of time.

Curious about how this stage negatively affects your newborn’s life? Read on to learn all the important facts about PURPLE crying—including the definition, history, and some parenting tips to soothe the condition.

Everything Parents Should Know About PURPLE Crying

What is PURPLE Crying?

PURPLE crying is a term used by experts and other parents to describe colic or persistent crying. However, since the word “colic” has a negative connotation (in which babies are sick and should be treated medically), more and more people nowadays prefer to use the phrase, “period of PURPLE crying.”

This period of PURPLE crying usually starts at about 2 weeks of age, peaking at 2 months old, then lasting until 4 months of age. At this stage, it’s important to remember that some babies can cry a lot while others far less but they all go through it.

And unlike what the term might suggest, PURPLE crying has nothing to do with your baby’s colour whenever he cries. The acronym was coined by Dr. Ronald Barr, a developmental paediatrician and an expert on infant crying. He came up with the idea of the word in order to reassure parents that colic is simply a normal phase that many babies go through which may include increased and prolonged sobbing. PURPLE crying simply describes the common characteristics of the particular period or phase in a baby’s life.

What does PURPLE stand for?

  • P for Peak of Crying

The letter “P” refers to a baby wailing a lot (regardless whether it’s day or night) which becomes worse as time passes. He or she may cry more often—reaching the climax at two months old and gradually slowing down at three months to four months of age.

  • U for Unexpected

Unexpected crying means that your little one is consolable during mornings but can be very cranky once afternoon and night-time arrive. He or she stops crying then resumes sobbing again for no particular reason which can drive new parents insane.

  • R for Resists Soothing

Soothing your baby during the period of PURPLE crying might not be the easiest task. This is due to the fact your baby will continue on wailing no matter what kind of soothing you try to do. Whether it’s rocking, bouncing, swaying, or even driving around.

  • P for Pain-like Face

This is the particular characteristic in PURPLE crying worrying parents the most. It may even lead to them thinking it’s a sign of something wrong or a disease. Thankfully, there’s a high chance it’s just a normal phase in your little one’s life. During this period, expect your infant to exhibit a pained expression when crying even when there’s really no pain felt. 

  • L for Long-lasting

Your baby’s cries may seem never-ending during the period of PURPLE crying. In fact, most newborns can cry up to five hours a day or more which may ultimately exhaust both baby and parents.

  • E for Evening

Your little one may cry the most during the late afternoon and evening. This fact proves to be a challenge to every parent as it’s harder to put your baby to sleep when he’s full-blown sobbing.

What Causes PURPLE Crying in Babies?

Doctors are unsure why infants experience increased and prolonged sobbing during the period of PURPLE crying. They did recognise, however, humans are not the only ones who go through this stage. In fact, other mammals also exhibit more whimpering and wailing at this early phase of life. 

Do note increased crying is perfectly normal for babies at this age. However, consult a doctor immediately if the crying seems more excessive than usual. Alternatively, if you have a gut feeling something far more serious is happening.

10 Effective Tips to Soothe PURPLE Crying in Babies

By now, you’re probably wondering if there’s something you can do to ease (if you can’t stop) the period of PURPLE crying in infants. Fortunately, there are some methods you can try in order to soothe babies suffering from this developmental phase. It’s important to remember that not all of these tips would work out as all babies are unique in their own different ways.

#1. Try Feeding Your Baby

One of the common reasons your baby can’t sleep is due to the fact he or she might be hungry. In order to ease this discomfort, you should feed your little one with food appropriate to his or her age. Two-week-old infants should only take in breast milk while four-month-olds can start eating solid food.

And since feeding is naturally designed to nurture a child, it can ultimately lull him to slumber. Furthermore, the warmth of your arms and breast can also comfort a crying newborn.

It’s important to check your baby isn’t hungry when breastfeeding. Breastmilk can vary in supply and it’s important to get baby weighed on a regular basis in the early weeks and plot their measurements in their child health record on the graph. Average weight gain is 150-200g in the first 3 months. It’s also worth checking for other medical causes and having your baby checked by your GP or Paediatrician to rule out anything organic e.g. reflux.

Did You Know? Breastfeeding releases hormones called prolactin and oxytocin which helps you bond with your baby and reduce feelings of anxiety and stress.

#2. Aid Your Baby in Digestion

Most babies don’t have the ability to burp by themselves which may result in uneasiness and eventually, crying. In order to help infants release the air inside their stomachs, gently lay them on their sides and gently rub their backs. Doing this would ultimately soothe them and even pacify their crying.

#3. Swaddle Your Baby

Another reason why your baby may exhibit unusual crankiness is the fact that he or she might be cold. At a young age, most newborns can’t regulate their body temperature on their own which can eventually lead to fussing and whimpering.

Fortunately, there’s something you can do to ease his or her discomfort. Simply lay down your little one in a safe and flat place. Then gently wrap him or her with a cosy blanket. Make sure not to secure the covers tightly as this can pose risks for your baby’s safety.

#4. Play White Noises

Try playing white or repetitive noises such as a washing machine spinning, a fan turning, or even water pouring to soothe babies. In fact, these repetitive sounds remind infants of the time they spent inside their mum’s womb so they’re more likely to calm down and relax once they heard it.

However, if you opt to purchase an actual white noise machine, it’s recommended to place it at least 7 feet away from your baby’s crib to avoid potential developmental problems.

Did You Know? According to the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP), regular exposure to white noise through a sleep machine can affect hearing, speech, and language development.

#5. Give Your Baby a Warm Bath

You may find it surprising that giving your little one a warm bath helps soothe his or her crankiness. This is due to the fact that like white noise, newborns also find the sensation of warm water against their delicate skin similar to the feeling of being inside their mum’s womb.

#6. Massage Your Baby

After bathing your baby, you can also opt to massage him or her to further alleviate discomfort caused by prolonged crying. Use gentle and rhythmic strokes against his or her skin and pour moisturisers or oils to let your hands glide on smoothly.

#7. Sing a Lullaby

Your voice is a very powerful tool you should use in order to calm and relax your baby. In fact, singing lullabies can regulate emotions and stimulate positive reactions. Furthermore, it can decrease stress and anxiety levels, making it one of the top choices when getting your baby to sleep.

#8. Hold Your Baby Close to You

Swaying, rocking, or just simply holding your baby against your chest make calm motions that can pacify his or her crying.

You can also try placing your hand on your baby’s chest and gently rub it back and forth. The soothing touch lets him or her know that you’re safely nearby and ultimately comforts any uneasiness he or she might be feeling.

#9. Shower Your Baby with Kisses

Aside from gently wrapping your arms around your little one, you can make him feel loved and cherished even more by showering him or her with kisses. This loving act ultimately calms down and reduces the tension your crying baby might be experiencing.

#10. Try Making Eye Contact with Your Baby

If all else fails, you have to remember that the simplest things can actually do wonders. 

Try staring deeply at your baby’s eyes in order to distract them from the sensation of excessive crying. Prolonged eye contact can also calm down your little one and even stimulate them with positive emotions.

As parents, it’s normal to get upset or frustrated when your baby starts exhibiting endless crankiness and crying. However, you should know that it’s most probably just part of a period called PURPLE crying when he or she undergoes a developmental phase. Hopefully, with this definitive guide to soothing PURPLE crying in babies, you have a better understanding of this stage in your newborn’s life. With that being said, it’s still best to consult professionals if you feel like something more serious is happening.

If you’re having trouble putting your baby to sleep due to PURPLE crying, you can always consult the baby experts at Nurture Parenting. We offer the Nurture Sleep Program that can take your little one from sleepless to slumber in just seven easy lessons. Contact us today to learn more!

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