What Are The Signs Of PURPLE Crying? A Pediatrician Explains

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With the excitement of having a newborn and bringing them home, the most challenging and frustrating thing about them is the crying. It’s so pitiful when you hear it, and you’ll do anything to make it stop. Not only because you don’t want your baby to be upset or in pain, but it’s also really annoying. All newborns cry, that’s a fact, but what if you think your baby is crying more than you thought? Doctors say there's a type of crying called PURPLE crying that's important to know about, but what are the signs of PURPLE crying, and what does it actually mean?

It’s not named PURPLE crying because your baby turns purple when they cry — it signals a change in their crying patterns. According to Dr. S. Daniel Ganjian, a pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, “Often times children start with changes in their crying patterns, which are very concerning to parents. As a result, parents think their children are in pain, have allergies, acid reflux, or gas. Almost all of the children are absolutely normal and are just changing the way they cry. Such a change in children is known as colic, but that term is too vague for parents to truly understand or believe in this phenomenon.” And the signs of “PURPLE” crying are included within the acronym, PURPLE:

  • P - It Peaks at two or three months
  • U - It’s Unexpected
  • R - Your baby is Resistant to soothing.
  • P - When your baby cries, it looks like they’re in Pain, even if they aren’t.
  • L - The crying is Long-lasting, and can last up to five hours a day.
  • E - The crying tends to happen more in the Evenings.
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Ganjian says that when it comes to babies, there’s a “wide spectrum of normal behaviors, and PURPLE crying is considered to be a normal part of development.” However, if the crying lasts more than three hours straight, Ganjian says to see your doctor to make sure everything else is fine.

This PURPLE acronym and PURPLE crying phenomenon was created to reduce the amount of shaken baby syndrome occurrences throughout the United States, and Ganjin thinks this initiative helps because, “once parents are educated and know what to expect, it leaves room for less frustration or despair.”

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Is there anything you can do to prevent PURPLE crying from happening to your child? Or at least help make it stop faster? Ganjin says, “Make sure you are taken care of as a parent, meaning, make sure you take plenty of naps throughout the day, take some time for yourself, and eat well. When you are healthy, then your baby is more likely to be happy (and healthy).” Additionally, for when the baby is currently PURPLE crying, Ganjin suggests swaddling them, going outside for fresh air, having supervised tummy time, putting on music or white noise, and rocking your baby.

Though heart-wrenching, frustrating, and annoying, PURPLE crying is typically harmless, and it’s just a phase most babies go through when they’re around 2 or 3 months old. And according to the PURPLE crying website, even breastfeeding animals go through it. Even though it seems like nothing helps and you’re at your wits' end, try to remember this too shall pass. And as long as you’re sure the baby isn’t sick or needs to see the pediatrician, rest assured it’s a completely normal process. Take a deep breath and good luck. You’re not a horrible parent, and you’re doing everything you can. Your baby doesn’t hate you.

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