Newborns and Purple Crying
Amy Terreros, Advanced Practice RN II, SCAN Clinic (Child Abuse and Neglect)
It’s no secret that newborns cry a lot during the first few months of life. In fact, healthy infants can cry up to six hours a day, which is a normal part of development. It’s also normal for parents or caregivers to feel frustrated when a child is continuously crying and they don’t know why.
The best thing you can do if you find yourself frustrated is put your baby in a safe place and take a break. By doing this, you’ll be more able to console your child after you take a few minutes for yourself.
Studies have shown that excessive crying is the most common reason someone shakes a baby, and you never want to shake your baby because it can cause serious brain injury.
The Period of PURPLE Crying program was developed to teach parents about normal crying, which can lessen stress and reduce the likelihood of Shaken Baby Syndrome. The acronym “PURPLE” stands for:
Peak of crying
Your baby may cry more each week, which tends to peak at four weeks to four months of age.
Crying can come and go, and you don’t know why.
Your baby may not stop crying no matter what you try.
Your baby may look like he/she is in pain, even though he/she is not.
Crying can last several hours a day, or more.
Your baby may cry more in the late afternoon or evening.
There are several ways you can comfort your baby when they’re crying.
- Swaddle your baby in a thin blanket to help him feel secure.
- Hold your baby as much as you want (you cannot spoil an infant).
- Walk/rock your baby to remind him of the motions when he was inside the womb.
- Talk to your baby.
- Calming sounds such as a vacuum cleaner, humming of a fan or dryer, or white noise machine can remind him of the soothing sounds from the womb.
- Do not overfeed because this may make him uncomfortable. Try to wait at least two hours from the beginning of one feeding to the beginning of the next.
- Offer a pacifier if it isn’t time for a feeding. If you are breastfeeding your infant, you may want to delay giving him a pacifier until breastfeeding is going well.
Action Plan Steps
There will be times when you cannot stop the crying even after trying these comfort measures, so it’s important to have an action plan for when you get frustrated with your baby’s crying.
First, respond to cries with "comfort, carry, walk, and talk" to reduce fussing and tend to the baby's needs and not neglect them.
Second, understand it is ok to put the baby down in a safe place, like a crib or playpen, and walk away if the crying is too frustrating. Come back in 10-15 minutes to check on your child. Call a family member or a friend and see if they can look after you infant for a little bit. You need to take care of yourself too!
If you’re feeling depressed or have trouble dealing with your emotions let your healthcare provider know. Your doctor can recommend ways to help.
Lastly, be aware of the dangers of shaking an infant and understand that it is never OK to shake a baby. Education and actions will empower you to respond to your child’s needs, because no baby has ever died from crying, but too many have died from being shaken!
If you still have concerns about your infant crying call your pediatrician.
Learn more about the Child Abuse and Neglect program at Children’s Mercy.
Learn more about the period of Purple Crying.