When babies are first born, they're not only completely helpless, they're completely overwhelmed. All of the sensations they're experiencing are new, and their little bodies have a hard time processing all of it. During the first few months, you may notice an increase in the duration and intensity of the fussiness of your child. This period is commonly referred to as the period of PURPLE crying. How can you help? What's the best way to soothe a baby going through a period of PURPLE crying?
The tried-and-mostly true (as every baby is unique) method for soothing a baby during a period of PURPLE crying is to pick up your baby more frequently, carry them around either in a carrier or in your arms, walk while carrying them, and talk to them, according to the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome. The idea is to mimic the sensations of being in the womb, and focusing their experience into a calm, reassuring situation with which they are already familiar.
When my kids were struggling through this period, it felt like they lived life strapped into the Ergo carrier. I was only able to put them down very rarely in the evenings, lest they once again become inconsolable.
There is actually quite a lot of research being done in this area, because PURPLE crying is trying to both the parent and child. It puts stress on the caregiver, their relationships, and obviously, it's stressing out the baby, according to Dr. Harvey Karp of The Happiest Baby. It takes a toll mentally and physically. According to his research, it has some pretty significant side effects, like parental obesity and marital strain. That's why it's paramount to know the best way to soothe a baby when going through a period of PURPLE crying — because it's not just your baby having a hard time.
What does the PURPLE in PURPLE crying stand for?
P is for peak of crying. It starts at around two weeks and lasts until the baby is around 3 months old.
U is for unexpected. There doesn't seem to be a reason for the crying
R is for resists soothing. It can feel like nothing works.
P is for pained expression. The babies look like they're hurting or even ill.
L is for long lasting. It can go on for hours at a time, and increase in time each night.
E stands for evening, which is the period of time when the PURPLE crying is the worst.
The experts at Psychology Today have an answering acronym that I find to be very helpful. It's CRY. The C is to calm the baby with touch. This might mean skin-to-skin contact, or it might be as simple as rubbing circles on their back during some tummy time. Babies who are held and touched seem to calm easier than those who are otherwise not.
The R stands for rapid growth. This is a point to remember when your baby is so stressed out. He or she is growing and maturing faster than they can handle, so they're freaking the F out. Subsequently, you are too, because it sucks watching your baby suffer.
Y is for yourself. Care for yourself as much as you care for your baby so that your needs are met and you can go to your child with a semblance of calm. It's not going to be easy, but it's necessary.
I spoke with New Hampshire pediatric nurse, Andi Marche, and she tells Romper that this is a very stressful period, and almost every baby goes through it. "You can only do what you can to soothe your baby when they're upset for hours on end," she says. She adds that you may need to tuck your baby in your shirt with you, carrying him or her like a kangaroo joey. "You can try holding them like a little bean, draped over your forearm with their airway clear, rubbing their backs." Marche notes that singing and talking to them as much as possible also seems to help. "It doesn't matter what you sing, they like the intonation." I can attest to this. After I maxed out of Beatles tunes and lullabies, I sang Barbra Streisand and Britney Spears. It did help.
So as you swing your baby in your arms for the zillionth time, whispering the dulcet tones of "Hit Me Baby One More Time" (because you like the irony), remember this time will pass. Try to focus on your needs as well, and breathe through it. It will be over before you know it.
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