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What is PURPLE Crying?

The first year of motherhood was one of the second toughest thing I have been through next to pregnancy itself. My daughter was a baby who cried, and she cried HARD and for LONG periods of time.

Looking back at her newborn days, I WISH someone would have explained The Period of PURPLE Crying. Knowing this information back when I was in those trying days would have helped bring some level of understanding to what my daughter was going through.

The Period of PURPLE Crying was created by Dr. Ronald Barr, a Developmental Pediatrician and World Expert on Infant Crying. The acronym PURPLE breaks down this crying into six different characteristics. I love thinking about it this way as it helps to explain (even though not explaining the “actual” crying part) what you may see in your infant during periods of intense crying.

The Period of PURPLE Crying 

P-Peak of Crying

The crying starts around 2 weeks of age, with peak crying in the second month. Thankfully, crying will begin to decrease between months 3-4. This is why it is called The Period of PURPLE Crying.

U- Unexpected

Babies cry for many reasons: dirty diapers, hunger, overtiredness, or overstimulation. In this case, unexpected refers to crying that happens when all the baby’s needs are met. This crying can come and go and leave your frustration levels high.

R-Resists Soothing

My son (second born) took to soothing quite well; when he did cry (which was rare), he would calm down with a quick cuddle or smile. My daughter, on the other hand, would cry, and NOTHING worked to calm her down. Rocking, nursing, bouncing (INTENSE bouncing), swaddling, stroller rides….nothing. She would cry and resist any soothing. It was. Hard.

P-Pain-like Face

I still have memories of my daughter’s face and body when she would cry. She would arch her back and cry as if something or someone was hurting her, even though my husband and I tried everything to help her calm down. A pain-like face is another characteristic of PURPLE crying.

L-Long Lasting

Crying during these weeks/months can be long-lasting. Bouts of crying will range for each unique infant, however for some the crying duration can reach 5+ hours a day.

E- Evening

Some may refer to the evening as the “witching hour,” which describes the last characteristic. The crying mentioned can happen at any time during the day. However, it is most commonly seen in the late afternoon and evening. I have vivid memories of leaving events early as we simply could not calm my daughter down. We felt so defeated.

What’s the difference between PURPLE crying and Colic?

According to The Mayo Clinic:

"Colic is frequent, prolonged and intense crying or fussiness in a healthy infant." Fussing and crying are normal for infants, especially during the first three months. And the range for what is normal crying is difficult to pin down. In general, colic is defined as crying for three or more hours a day, three or more days a week, for three or more weeks.

The main point about colic to take away is that colic happens in three’s. Three hours a day, three days a week, and for three or more weeks.

The term colic is often used in a way to describe a baby that cries A LOT. It describes a condition that some babies have and others don’t. This is not the case for The Period of PURPLE Crying. The characteristics in the acronym PURPLE describe ALL infants. Some babies, like my son, will have far less, and other infants, like my daughter, will have FAR more crying. However, ALL infants show this as a normal part of their behaviour and development.

If you are struggling, I want you to know that I have been deep in the struggle, too; I have been through long crying spells that made me question if I was meant to be a mother. You are not alone, and you WILL get through this! Reach out if you need support!


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