You don't have to be perfect to be the perfect parent!

Why is my baby crying???

purple crying

Is your baby in a PURPLE phase of crying???

I know the look….I remember the feeling.  Every week I see a new Mom with exhausted worried eyes, and the question, “Is this crying and fussing normal?”  Most new parents are not prepared for the amount of crying their precious bundle produces!  Let’s face it, every baby cries…some more than others, and crying can really stress exhausted parents out.

Parents want to comfort their baby, even prevent their crying.  The truth is, there are times that babies just cry and soothing can be difficult.  Beginning at about 2 weeks, most babies will begin fussy periods.  The peak of crying usually occurs between 1 and 2 months of age and usually reduces at about the 3 to 4 month mark.  Is this colic?  Reflux? Fussiness?  Maybe….

There often is not a real reason for a newborn baby’s crying.  Sometimes it is best to concentrate on what might soothe than searching for the why.  After all, there has been many many studies reviewed trying to determine the answer of why babies fuss and what works to soothe.  Parents will often ask me what I think about probiotics, herbal supplements, gripe water, and other treatments for a fussy baby.  I always caution about “giving” a baby a supplement or treatment that is not prescribed or has not been tested completely.  Studies have shown that none of these alternative treatments actually decrease crying.  A 2011 review by the American Academy of Pediatrics of 15 large studies showed that none of these methods really helped much.  We need to be very cautious about putting anything into our babies that has no evidence base of effectiveness.  Many of these alternative therapies have not been thoroughly tested for safety.  Remember that the words “all natural” are not proof that a supplement is actually safe or effective.

Some soothing techniques are worth a try.  I think swaddling and white noise is effective for many babies.  Dr. Harvey Karp touts the 5 S’s which work for many new parents and infant massage can be calming for both parents and baby.  Walks, swings, rocking, car rides, watching for sleep cues, and other soothing techniques are all worth a try for normal newborn fussiness and crying.

Normal newborn fussiness should decrease dramatically by 4 months…and if it doesn’t then parents need to talk further with their health care provider.  Babies in the first 4 months may actually be unsoothable about 5-15% of the time, fuss about 65% of the time and cry about 35%  of the time (that is a lot of crying!) according to Dr. Barr an infant crying specialist (yes there is such a thing!)  Dr. Barr talks about a PURPLE period of crying that ALL babies go through.  Some babies cry up to 5 hours a day and some for as little as 20 minutes, but all babies during the first 3 months have periods of crying and are difficult to soothe.  These periods can result in a Mom and Dad becoming worried, frustrated, and on edge.  Many times parents will feel like they are doing something wrong!  We just don’t expect our baby to seem so unhappy!  The good news….most babies have a significant drop in crying between the 3rd and 4th month of age.

P-Peak  Your baby may cry more each week.  The most is at 2 months and may decrease by 3 to 5 months.

U-Unexpected Crying can come and go and you don’t know why.

R-Resists soothing Your baby may not stop crying or fussing no matter what you try.

P-Pain like face Your baby may look like he is in pain, even when he is not.

L-Long lasting.  Crying can last as long as 5 hours in a day.

E-Evening Your baby may cry more in the late afternoon or evening.

This is NORMAL developmental crying….the PURPLE phase!


So what does a Mom and Dad DO to help during these weeks of PURPLE crying during the newborn period?

  1. Discuss your baby’s crying with your health care provider at a well-baby check.  Decide together whether your baby’s crying is simply the PURPLE period or if there is a health related issue.  Sometimes simply knowing that your baby is healthy will help you deal with the crying!
  2. If it is normal developmental infant crying…then concentrate on different soothing techniques and quit asking WHY, there probably is no answer to the why!!
  3. Try the Happiest Baby on the Block technique, take walks outside in the fresh air and sunlight (this helps your mood and is soothing to baby) decrease the stimulation in the house, play soothing music, try white noise, and most importantly….take a break and ask for help when you need it!
  4. Remember, it is fine to put your baby down in a safe place and take a break.  Take 15 minutes to stand in the shower, walk out on your porch, sip a cup of tea….but take a break so you can cope with the crying in a calm manner.  Call a friend and ask for help if you are unable to cope calmly.  Never handle your baby roughly or shake your baby in frustration, this can cause permanent injury.  Remember, even very good and loving parents can become frustrated with a fussy baby, take a break.
  5. Remember, holding your baby and soothing will not spoil your child at this age and it will help you both get through this PURPLE period.  This too will pass, just like all challenges of parenthood……

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


1 Comment


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