The concept of the PURPLE Crying Period was developed by Marilyn Barr, founder of the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome. It’s used to describe the period of time in a new baby’s life‚ usually between 2 weeks and 3-4 months old—when they may spend a great deal of time crying.
The PURPLE Crying Organization writes, “The acronym PURPLE is used to describe specific characteristics of an infant's crying during this phase and let parents and caregivers know that what they are experiencing is indeed normal and, although frustrating, is simply a phase in their child's development that will pass. The word Period is important because it tells parents that it is only temporary and will come to an end.”
Here’s what PURPLE stand for:
P—Peak of crying
Baby cries more and more every week, peaking at around 2 months, and then gradually decreasing through 5 months.
Crying can start for unexpected and unknown reasons.
Despite using all of your soothing tricks, your baby simply can’t stop crying.
Baby’s facial expression will look like she is in pain, even when she is not.
Period of crying lasts for a long time (sometimes as long ads 5-hours).
Crying periods tend to occur in the evening
Why it matters
The love we have for our babies can make us do amazing things—we reinvent ourselves and reconstruct our worlds around them. Watching our little baby cry inconsolably is truly heartbreaking. It’s also incredibly frustrating and stressful, especially when we are running in a state of total sleep deprivation.
It’s hard not to blame ourselves and feel guilty that we can’t fix it thinking, I must be doing something wrong.
It can also leads to shaken baby syndrome, where a parent or caregiver shakes a baby (usually under 6 months old) forcefully enough to cause brain injury. There are about 1,300 cases of the shaken baby syndrome a year in the Uniter States—25% of those result in death, and 80% of the survivors have lifelong disabilities.
It’s awful to think about. But the truth is that some of the most loving, well-intentioned caregivers get to a point in parenting where they are so fatigued, and so stressed that they are not able to think rationally—and accidents happen.
The PURPLE Crying Campaign seeks to educate parents about this very normal period in a baby’s young life, so that parents know it’s not their fault, and even more importantly that it is normal and a phase. In doing so, parents can feel confident knowing that they can get through this, and that they have support.
A study found that the PURPLE education campaign increased parental knowledge about crying and shaken baby syndrome.
What you need to know
Certainly, the most important takeaway is prevention.
Here’s what to do to keep your baby safe:
- Learn about PURPLE crying and shaken baby syndrome
- Speak to your pediatrician if your baby cries often and hard (or if you have any other concerns, of course)
- Ensure that you are getting everything that you need—sleep, good nutrition and support
- Make a plan for how you will respond if you start to feel incredibly stressed
- If your baby is crying and you feel yourself getting frustrated or stressed, put him down in a safe place (like a crib that meets safety guidelines), and take a break. Walk away until you feel like you are able to resume caring for the baby safely.
- Make sure you have support—consider reaching out to a mental health therapist or your health care providers if you are concerned about postpartum depression or anxiety.