Understanding the Period of Purple Crying

You can ease that helpless feeling when your baby cries no matter what you do simply by understanding that even intense and extended bouts of crying are perfectly normal for young infants.

“The Period of PURPLE Crying,” is an educational program 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.

PURPLE is an acronym for the way in which healthy babies cry for the first several months:

P = Peak Pattern – Crying increases in the first couple of months, and this increase isn't the fault of you or the baby; all babies go through it.

U = Unpredictable – Crying bouts 'just happen' at unpredictable times for no apparent reason. 

R = Resistant to soothing – When a baby starts a bout of crying, it has to work itself out. You often can't fix it, regardless of what soothing measures you use. 

P = Pain-like face – During crying bouts, it often appears as if the child is in pain. The baby scrunches up his face, turns red and howls. This can be frightening and frustrating because you don't know why it's happening, but the crying is not from pain. 

= Long bouts of crying – The afternoon and evening bouts are the longest and can last for hours. Again, this is normal for some infants but difficult for caregivers who have to live through it.

E = Evening clustering – Often crying bouts happen when parents are the most tired, making it hard to find the internal resources to cope with a fussy baby.

Caregivers who are at risk of overreacting can use this tool to stop, think, step back and understand that crying is normal and natural. This information provides clues to normal crying characteristics that can help all parents and babies through difficult bouts of crying.

Disclaimer: This page is not intended to provide medical advice about your child. Always seek the advice of a physician, qualified healthcare provider or child-development specialist with any questions you have about your child's health, medical condition or development. Never disregard, avoid or delay contacting a doctor or other qualified professional because of something you read here.

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