What Is Purple Crying?

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The Period of PURPLE Crying

What is Purple Crying? 

Purple crying is a term used to describe a stage in normal infant development.

In the past, infants that experienced periods of inconsolable crying, but were otherwise found to be healthy at check-ups, were labeled as having colic. However, with recent findings, if your baby experiences episodes of persistent crying, and are otherwise healthy, it may not be colic. 

Do you all babies go through purple crying?

Yes, to some degree all babies will experience moments in the day, usually the evening, where they will have an increase in fussiness or crying. It will be more difficult to soothe them during this time period.

Is purple crying real?

Though it is a newer term used to describe a normal period of infancy, purple crying is real.

It is not a period of crying where your baby turns purple, though some babies will turn red, or almost purple, in the face during episodes of crying. 

What is the period of purple crying? 

The period of purple crying is the time that a normal healthy newborn will experience episodes of being fussy or crying, with moments of inconsolable crying. 

Babies will be extra fussy or cry more, than their usual self, during the period of purple crying. All newborns will experience this. However, it is normal that the time in which your baby is extra fussy may be shorter or longer than another baby’s period.  

At what age do babies experience purple crying?

Purple crying typically begins around 2 weeks of age. This period can last until approximately 3-4 months of age. 

soothing baby crying during period of purple crying

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What do the letters in PURPLE crying stand for? 

The acronym purple crying was developed to help parents understand the change in their infant’s behavior during the purple period. 

P in purple stands for a peak of crying. This means that your baby may cry even more in month two, but less in month 3. 

U in purple means unexpected. Your baby’s crying may be unpredictable and you cannot understand why they are crying, as there is no explanation. 

R is for resisting soothing. Your baby may not stop crying no matter which measures you try to use to soothe them. 

P represents a pain-like face. Your baby may look like they are in pain during the period of purple crying. However, research states that your baby is not in pain, this is just another symptom of purple crying. 

L is purple stands for long-lasting. The episodes of crying may last for upwards of 5 hours, and in some cases even longer. 

E is for the evening. It has been found that the periods of crying are more likely to occur in the late afternoon or evening hours. Many refer to this time at “the witching hour”. 

The word PERIOD was placed after the word purple to help parents recognize that the crying has a start and an end, it is just a period of time. 

Purple Crying versus Colic

Purple crying and colic both describe periods where a healthy infant cries for no known reason and is not easily soothed. 

Is purple crying the same as colic? 

Through the years, many parents, grandparents, and well-intentioned neighbors have used the term colic and attached a negative connotation to it. However, colic is a normal newborn phenom, that you can read about here

Purple crying and colic are essentially the same things. Purple crying is a newer term used in place of colic, which can sound like a diagnosis you don’t want your baby to be labeled with. 

Additionally, colic is diagnosed using the rule of threes. The rule of threes states that a baby should experience three hours of inconsolable crying a day, to be labeled as having colic. 

The purple crying period instead recognizes that all infants will experience periods of time in the day where they are fussier or cry more. This period does not need to last a minimum of three hours. This period can be as short as 30-40 minutes for some infants. Though it is also perfectly normal for this time to last 5 hours, or more, in some babies. 

How do you deal with purple crying? 

As a caregiver, it can be difficult to deal with a baby during the period of purple crying. It can be tough mentally on the parent. 

The best thing to do is to attempt to soothe your baby using a variety of methods. 

If at any point the crying overwhelms you to a point where you need a break, you can swap with another caregiver to give yourself some time. If you do not have another person that can help, it is okay to place your baby safely on their back in their crib and to walk away for a couple of minutes.

To calm yourself, you can take three deep breaths. Once you exhale the third breath you should feel calmer. After taking three breaths, return your baby and continue trying to soothe them.

Soothing a baby that is purple crying 

There are many methods that you can use to try to soothe your baby. You may find that you need to switch around methods multiple times during a fussy period. 

As you try different methods you may find that your baby prefers some methods over others. However, as time passes your baby may prefer different methods. Therefore it is best to switch things up, as necessary. 

Some ways you can try to soothe your baby during the period of PURPLE crying include: 

Use white noise. There are multiple ways to create white noise. There are white noise machines that you can buy. If you don’t have a machine, you can run the vacuum cleaner, put a fan on, or open a window. 

Take your baby for a walk. Many babies love to be outside, especially in the evenings. If the weather is nice, walk outside. However, walking around inside your home is fine too. By using a baby carrier you can keep your baby near your chest. That allows them to listen to your heartbeat as you walk. 

If you have a vehicle, you can take your baby for a car ride. Make sure your baby is properly secured in their car seat. Then you can drive around the neighborhood or on a scenic drive. Some babies prefer the windows to be cracked open slightly, which provides a white noise that may be calming. 

If you are breastfeeding, offer the breast as much as possible. Babies are born a sucking reflex. Knowing how to suck, at birth, is important for a baby’s survival (before modern-day medicine). Babies learn how to suck in the womb, and may use sucking as a calming mechanism. 

Side Note: If you are breastfeeding (or planning to) then you will want to take this course! It’s the BEST online breastfeeding course available. If you’ll be pumping, she also has a “back to work pumping” class and a class just for those that are planning to exclusively pump! You can’t go wrong with any of these classes!

If breastfeeding is already well established, and you are sure your baby isn’t hungry, you can offer a pacifier. A pacifier provides a baby with a way to satisfy their desire to suck. 

You can try bathing your baby. Some babies find it comforting to be placed in warm water. This bathtub can be used on a counter, in a kitchen sink, or placed in a shower or bathtub. Soap is not necessary to use with each bath. If your baby is visibly dirty, this soap is gentle enough for an infant’s skin. 

Offer your baby an infant massage. This oil is gentle and soothing to a baby’s skin. This book will help you to understand how to properly massage your baby. 

Hold your baby in your arms, their head in your hands with their legs bent at the knee and their feet facing your belly. Try gently bouncing while holding your baby this way. You can also make eye contact and sing or talk to your baby. 

If you have a large exercise ball you can sit and bounce on the ball while safely holding your baby to your chest. Many babies will enjoy the bouncing motion provided from gently bouncing on a large exercise ball. 

Hold your baby like a football. You will place their hand in the palm of your hand with their belly draped across your forearm. Their bottom will be by your elbow and their legs dangling. 

For more ideas on how to soothe your baby during an episode of crying, this post has 20 tips to soothe a crying baby. 

When to be concerned about crying?

Any time your baby has a fever, or their cry becomes higher-pitched (than their normal cry) you will want to reach out to your pediatric healthcare provider. You can learn more about checking a baby for a fever, and when to call their doctor, here.

If you cannot get your baby to nurse or drink formulas or if your baby is losing weight, a call to your pediatrician would be warranted.

You should also call your baby’s healthcare provider if your baby is not having wet diapers, or if you are noticing diarrhea in your baby. 

Additionally, if at any time your instinct says something is not right, you should reach out to your healthcare provider

The Period of PURPLE Crying

The period of purple crying is a developmentally normal stage that all infants, across the world, go through. 

If your baby has been found to be healthy, at their check-up, then their period of increased fussiness, or crying, during the evening is most likely the period of purple crying. 

It’s important to try multiple methods to soothe your baby during this time. You need to also remind yourself that crying is a normal developmental period for your infant. 

If you have any soothing methods that have worked for you, I would love to hear about them in the comments. 

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Brooke has been helping families as a board-certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, since 2007. Prior to that, she spent 4+ years working as a Registered Nurse in both pediatric and postpartum nursing. Brooke holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Master of Science in Nursing. Additionally, she is dual-licensed in her state as both an APRN and RN.

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