Health Matters by Dr.Paul: Crying in Babies

As a pediatrician, I am very aware that babies often cry, and at times to the point where parents become worried and upset. The good news is that crying during the first 5 months of life is common and part of a baby’s normal development. Indeed, some babies seem to cry a lot and nothing helps. During this phase, a baby can cry for hours and still be healthy and normal. Parents often worry that there is something wrong. However, even after a check-up from the doctor which shows the baby is healthy, the baby may continue to cry for hours, night after night. In extreme situations, a crying baby can be a source of tremendous frustration for some parents or caregivers. Sadly, at times a parent or other caregiver may shake their baby out of desperation or even anger.  PLEASE REMEMBER:  NEVER SHAKE A BABY AS THIS CAN CAUSE SERIOUS BRAIN DAMAGE OR EVEN DEATH.

If parents understand that crying, especially during the first few months of life is normal, they will be less frustrated and be more comfortable with their infant. In fact, all babies go through what is called The Period of PURPLE Crying®. This program was created by a mentor and colleague of mine, developmental pediatrician, Dr. Ron Barr.  Dr. Barr’s approach is to explain this phase to parents of newborns so that they know it is normal and that it will end.  This knowledge can reduce their frustration, anger and tendency to shake their baby.

The PURPLE” acronym is used to describe specific characteristics of an infant’s crying during this phase and to let parents and caregivers know that what they are experiencing is normal. The word “period” is important because it means that the phase is temporary and will eventually end.  Each letter of the word PURPLE stands for something that describes this period of crying that is essentially seen in all babies to some degree:

      P    PEAK OF CRYING - Your baby may cry more each week. The most at 2 months, then less at 3-5 months.

      U   UNEXPECTED - Crying can come and go and you don’t know why.

      R    RESISTS SOOTHING - Your baby may not stop crying no matter what you try.

      P    PAIN LIKE FACE - A crying baby may look like they are in pain, even when they are not.

      L    LONG LASTING - Crying can last as much as 5 hours a day.

      E    EVENING - Your baby may cry more in the late afternoon and evening.

If you or someone you know has a newborn baby who cries a lot, it is important to understand that in most cases, it is normal. Knowing more about you baby and The Period of PURPLE Crying® will lessen your frustration and worries and allow you to fully enjoy your new family addition!  For more information, please visit www.purplecrying.info.

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