What Is PURPLE Crying? The Acronym You Need To Know

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The first few months of parenting are some of the hardest and longest days of your life. I know that I was constantly worried about if my child was healthy, happy, and safe. There were times when I wasn't sure. They just get so upset, you know? And nothing, I mean nothing calms them down. In early days, this is something doctors refer to as PURPLE crying. What is PURPLE crying? It's more than just a colorful acronym, that's for sure.

PURPLE crying, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), is a period that every baby goes through. It begins at birth, and it is the increasing amount and duration of crying over a two month period of time that eventually begins to decrease and settle after month three. It is identifiable by the baby's inability to self-soothe or to be soothed by their parent. There is a steady increase in duration of crying, sometimes lasting for hours. Your baby will likely look as though they are in pain, and there doesn't seem to be any root cause of the crying, such as a dirty diaper or teething. It's also more likely to happen at night, which is particularly frustrating for parents.

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As I stated previously, PURPLE is an acronym that's used to educate parents about this particularly trying period of infancy in hopes to prevent parents from becoming so overwhelmed that they succumb to the frustration and end up shaking their babies. The theory is that if people are armed with the knowledge that this happens to everyone, and that it is a finite period of time, that parents can and will recognize this and stop before they do something that could harm their child, according to The National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome.

The first P in PURPLE stands for PEAK, as in the babies will cry a little more each day, peaking at about week 8, and then the duration of the crying will diminish to more manageable levels after that, settling between months 3 and 5.

The U in the acronym stands for UNEXPECTED, meaning that there is seemingly no reason for the crying to occur. Your baby may be clean, dry, well-fed, and should not have a care in the world, but unfortunately, is very upset.

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The R in PURPLE stands for RESISTS SOOTHING. You might carry your baby, sing to her, pat her little bum, do everything you can think of, but she's inconsolable. Nothing is working to make your little angel chill the hell out, and it's unbelievably frustrating. The resistance to soothing is probably the most frustrating part about this period. I remember feeling so helpless.

The second P stands for PAINED EXPRESSION. Your baby probably looks like they just had a roving dog come up and bite them on their tiny tush. It's a specific face that resembles a rictus of horror on an irate little old man. Complete with toothless gum gnashing and gas passing.

The L stands for LONG LASTING, and boy does it ever feel never ending. It's emotionally trying. What it does to your body is intense, and you can't imagine what it must be like for them, because they have no idea what's going on. They just know that they need to express their displeasure, and do it loudly and for hours.

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E stands for EVENING. PURPLE crying tends to come on at night and it can go on all night long. It's the parenting Hellscape people describe when they talk about the rough first few months of sleepless nights. This is the root of the issue. Babies have so many new sensations and they just can't process them in any meaningful way other than screaming at the overwhelming shock of it all.

If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed, step back and step away. If you can hear your baby and see them on the monitor, you can assess their health if you need a breather. Call your parents or your siblings, your partner or your friends to come and assist, and let you take a moment to yourself. It's better to step away and let someone else take some time with your infant than to become agitated and overwhelmed yourself. Thank goodness this period ends.

Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:

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