You know babies cry—and as you get to know your little one, you’ll also discover what their cries mean and how to soothe them. Are they hungry? Do they need a change? Do they just want some extra cuddles?
But there are times when no matter how hard you try, your baby just won’t. Stop. Crying. And it can leave parents wondering, “am I doing something wrong?”
Some might tell you it’s probably just colic, but more recently experts have learned that persistent, inconsolable crying in babies younger than 5 months old is usually just part of a normal developmental phase that all babies go through. It’s called the period of PURPLE crying.
What is the period of purple crying?
No—it doesn’t mean your baby is going to turn purple! It’s an acronym used to describe the period from about 2 weeks old to 3 to 4 months where babies go through inconsolable crying episodes. It stands for:
Peak of crying: the peak of this period is usually around month two.
Unexpected: these crying episodes are unpredictable and come and go without any rhyme or reason.
Resists soothing: even when you try your best to help calm your baby down, their crying may continue.
Pain-like face: your baby might look like they’re in pain while crying—even though they’re not.
Long-lasting: some babies may only cry 30 to 40 minutes at a time, while others may have PURPLE crying episodes that last hours or even days.
Evening: ever heard of the witching hour? Usually PURPLE crying episodes are worse or last longer in the late afternoon and evening.
The good news is, they call it a “period” for a reason—it has an end. While the months of PURPLE crying can be exhausting and frustrating for parents, it WILL end!
What is the difference between colic and PURPLE crying?
You might not have heard of PURPLE crying before, but you’ve probably heard of colic.
A colicky baby is defined as an infant that cries at least 3 hours a day, for 3 or more days a week, for 3 consecutive weeks, but is otherwise healthy.
So how is PURPLE crying different? Well...it’s really not.
Colic is commonly given as a diagnosis for these consistent, inconsolable crying episodes. But experts have more recently discovered that this period of newborn crying is actually a developmental phase that all babies go through—not something that requires a diagnosis. Some babies might cry more or longer than others, but PURPLE crying is completely normal.
How do you soothe purple crying?
When your baby is going through a PURPLE crying episode you can try skin-to-skin contact, swaddling, rocking, walking, or swinging to help calm them down. Sometimes getting outside for some fresh air or a warm bath can do the trick, too!
However, the “R” in PURPLE stands for “resists soothing”. So know that sometimes the best thing you can do when you’re feeling really frustrated and tired is put your baby down in a safe place and walk away to take a break.
Also be sure to use your mother’s intuition. Check for any physical symptoms like fever, rashes, etc. that might indicate there’s something more going on. If you think there might be another reason for your baby’s inconsolable crying, check in with your pediatrician.