How to Cope with Infant Crying

Does this situation sound familiar? Your baby is fine for most of the day and then starts crying and crying, often in the early evening—and no amount of soothing seems to help. So what’s a harried parent to do?

The Period of PURPLE Crying,” is an educational program that acknowledges many new parents simply aren’t prepared for the amount of crying a young infant can muster. The program was created by developmental pediatrician Ron Barr, M.D., and Marilyn Barr, founder and former executive director for the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome.

The program has been helpful in preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome, the potentially life-threatening infant brain damage that can occur when frustrated parents or caregivers shake an inconsolable baby to try to stop the infant from crying. 

The program boils its advice down to 3 main action steps:

  1. Increase the “carry, comfort, walk and talk” measures during an infant’s bout of intensive crying.
  2. If the crying continues, that’s OK—but if you start to feel upset or angry, put the baby down safely and walk away to calm yourself.
  3. Never shake or hurt a crying infant in frustration. 

What’s more, experts urge caregivers to care for themselves, whether it’s accepting a friend’s offer to watch the baby or joining a playgroup and sharing time and tips with other parents. 

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Both infants and children can be infected with COVID-19. Infants under age 1 and children with underlying medical conditions may be at higher risk for more severe illness with the virus, so it’s important to take steps to protect them.

So far, COVID-19 has affected most children less severely than adults, with primarily mild cases. Some children have no symptoms, but are still contagious, while a small percentage of other children have been hospitalized with serious symptoms.

If you’re caring for a baby during the coronavirus pandemic, there are steps you can take to protect your little one. 

If you do not have COVID-19:

  • Feed and care for your baby as you normally would.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly (for at least 20 seconds with soap and water) or use sanitizer (with at least 60% ethyl alcohol or 70% isopropyl alcohol) before feeding and handling your infant.
  • When out and about, regularly using hand sanitizer on your infant may be too harsh for the baby’s delicate skin. But if a gentle soap cleanser and water are not available and hand washing is necessary, rub a pea-sized amount of hand sanitizer into the baby’s hands until dry.
  • Avoid people who are sick, large gatherings or close contact with others from outside your household.
  • Wear a mask when out with your baby or when around people who do not live in your home. Do not put a mask on your baby; it is a suffocation risk. Children can start wearing masks at age 2. 
  • Have people from outside your household wear a face mask and socially distance (staying 6 feet apart) when around your baby.

If you or others in your home have (or suspect you may have) COVID-19:

  • Stay at least 6 feet away from the baby, if possible, except for feedings or to provide other needed care. Isolate yourself from the public (and from others in your household as much as possible) until you have recovered.
  • Put on a face mask and wash hands thoroughly before breastfeeding, bottle feeding and otherwise caring for your baby. So far, COVID-19 has not been detected in the breast milk of mothers who are ill, and breastfeeding with the proper precautions is considered safe. 
  • Wash your hands before touching breastfeeding pump or bottle parts. Clean all parts after each use.
  • If possible, rely on others who are well to help feed and care for your baby.

If you had COVID-19 symptoms, take the above steps until:

  • 10 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared; you are fever-free (without medication) for 24 hours; and your other COVID-19 symptoms are improving.
    If you had no symptoms, but tested positive, take the above steps until:
  • 10 days have passed since the date of your positive COVID-19 test.

Symptoms to Watch for

COVID-19 has similar symptoms to other illnesses, such as a bad cold or the flu. Symptoms in infants and young children may include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches, soreness
  • Cough
  • Nasal congestion or runny nose
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Poor appetite or poor feeding

Call your child’s healthcare provider if your child has any (or several) of these symptoms, though some of them may be difficult for you to identify in an infant. If your baby has serious difficulty breathing, call 911.

Important: Don’t delay or skip any medical appointments for your baby due to concerns about exposure to COVID-19. Medical offices have taken steps to help protect children and their families from potential exposure to the virus. If you’re concerned, ask your child’s healthcare provider about these steps. 

Learn more about the virus and how to protect your family.

This message is not intended to provide individual medical advice. Always seek the advice of a physician or qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have about your health or medical condition, your breastfeeding issues and your infant's health. Never disregard, avoid or delay contacting a doctor or other qualified professional because of something you have read in our emails, webpages or other electronic communications.

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