Keeping Babies and Parents Happy

Mother comforting a crying childAs parents, we’re proud to show off pictures of our kids. Much less common on social media are selfies of sleep-deprived faces caused by hours of infants crying. But babies will cry, for all kinds of reasons, and sometimes for no reason at all.

The term PURPLE Crying was coined by the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome to describe a period in a baby’s life when they cry more often than ever before. Its acronym describes the common characteristics to help parents better understand their baby’s crying:

Peak of Crying: This period begins at two weeks of age and can last until age 4 months.
Unexpected: The crying occurs without warning, for reasons parents can’t immediately identify.
Resists Soothing: Parents have difficulty soothing the baby once a crying jag starts.
Painful: Babies may look like they’re in pain, even if they’re not.
Long Lasting: The crying can last five or more hours per day.
Evening: The crying commonly occurs in late afternoon or evening.

While this phase is a normal part of every baby’s development, it can cause frustration for caregivers, along with anxiety, stress and anger.

Krissett Loya-Bodiford, pediatric injury prevention and education outreach coordinator at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, helps parents understand and cope with infant behavior. She recommends several strategies for coping with purple crying:

  • Rule out common causes of crying such as hunger, gas and physical discomfort.
  • Hold your baby.
  • Comfort your baby with touch and the sound of your voice.
  • Seek medical attention if your baby’s behavior seems abnormal.
  • Step away and let babies cry it out for a little while, as long as they are in a safe environment.

Loya-Bodiford stresses that if parents find themselves becoming overwhelmed by the crying, it’s okay to step away for a while and let babies cry it out, as long as they are safely ensconced in a crib or playpen. She advises parents who feel frustrated or alone to reach out to friends or relatives for support.

“We want the first year of your baby’s life to be beautiful,” says Loya-Bodiford. “Part of that is understanding the hurdles you have to overcome to build a loving, safe environment for your new baby.”

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Child Development