It’s important that parents and caregivers understand that it’s OK for young babies to cry without reason—and just because you can’t soothe them doesn’t mean you’re doing a bad job.
Your baby coos and giggles during the day, but in the late afternoon or early evening he starts crying and nothing you do helps. A baby, who seems to be crying more than they ever have before, especially around just a few weeks of age, is absolutely normal.
All babies go through a period of increased crying, and there’s actually a name for it: the Period of Purple Crying. Experts consider it a normal stage of development for every baby.
The word period is very important to remember because it reminds you that these episodes are temporary and they eventually will stop. Additionally, it’s a relief to know that these extended periods of crying don’t mean that your baby is sick or abnormal.
When you know that these episodes are normal, it becomes easier to deal with the frustration that occurs. Manage your frustrations appropriately—inconsolable crying is the leading reason frustrated caregivers sometimes shake babies, which can lead to brain damage or death.
What is Purple Crying?
Purple crying does not mean that the baby turns “purple” with crying, but stands for an acronym developed to describe the common characteristics.
There is a PEAK to the crying
- Begins at about 2 weeks of age, peaks at around 2 months of age, and then decreases over the next several months.
Crying is UNEXPECTED
- No predictable start or stop to the crying episodes.
Baby tends to RESIST calming/soothing
- Baby is difficult to soothe or console. No matter what you do, baby doesn’t stop crying.
Baby makes a PAIN-LIKE face
- Appears to be in pain, when he/she is not.
Crying may be LONG LASTING
- Can last for several minutes to a few hours a day, OMG!
Crying increases in the EVENING
- Baby seems fine throughout the day and then cries without reason in the evening/late afternoon.
Managing Inconsolable Crying
Stay calm while trying to soothe your baby; make sure his needs are met:
- Is he hungry? Need a diaper change?
- Burp baby
- Give baby a lukewarm bath
- Go skin-to-skin with baby while you walk or rock gently
- Take baby on a walk or for a ride in the car
- Make eye contact while smiling or singing softly to baby
If all fails, take a 5-10 minute break. If another trusted person isn’t available to hold baby, place him in his crib on his back and walk away. Check on him every 5-10 minutes until the crying episode passes.