What is Purple Crying? And What Does It Stand For?

What is Purple Crying? And What Does It Stand For?

Ever heard of ‘purple crying’ before?

You wouldn’t be alone in believing that it referred to a baby turning purple from crying so much… (let’s face it, it happens. 🫠).

But, the term ‘purple crying’ actually means something quite different…

It refers to a key development phase in baby’s life, and is actually an acronym that teaches parents about this phase, and how to cope with it.

So, what actually is purple crying?

And how long does it last?

Let’s get right into it. 👇

In this article: 📝

  • What is the period of purple crying?
  • What does the purple stand for in purple crying?
  • How do I calm my baby down during purple crying?
  • Is purple crying the same as colic?
  • How to know if your baby isn’t sick rather than purple crying?
  • Does purple crying cause any complications long-term?

What is the period of purple crying?

The purple crying period (also known as ‘witching hour’) is a period when a baby can spontaneously cry, for no real reason, for a long duration of time.

It’s a developmental phase that every infant can go through.

But, the word ‘period’ serves as a reminder — this phase has a beginning, and it has an end.

And that end will come after their purple crying has reached its peak.

(Spoiler alert: ‘peak’ is actually the first ‘P’ of PURPLE’ — more on this later! 👇).

It may feel extremely frustrating for parents as, often, baby can’t be soothed and the crying may be completely spontaneous, with no real rhyme or reason as to why it’s happening.

And, probably most frustratingly, with no end in sight.

But, rest assured mamas, it does end.

When does purple crying start?

Usually, it begins when baby is around 2 weeks old.

(This is around the same time that baby’s first growth spurt is about to kick in — which can actually make them cranky anyway. 🙃)

Purple crying then tends to peak at around the second or third month of age.

When does purple crying stop?

It really varies!

But, it tends to slow down or stop when your baby is around four months old.

After they’ve reached their peak though, crying will start to slow down (and the light at the end of the tunnel will be in sight 🙏).

🔍 Read More: Why Do Babies Cry When They’re Born? 👶

What does the purple stand for in purple crying?

“So, go on then, what is this P.U.R.P.L.E business all about?!”

Well, it’s an acronym designed to help parents understand the purple crying phase.

Because it really can be so frustrating, especially when you just don’t know when they’ll stop crying. 😖

But learning about it can be a useful coping mechanism.

So, let’s dive right into what ‘PURPLE’ stands for as an acronym, developed by Dr. Ronald Barr and the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome:

P - Peak ⛰️

So, the first ‘P’ is set to give you hope, mama.

But also to prepare you for the fact that it’ll get worse before it gets better.

During this phase, baby will cry until they reach the peak — then, after that, the crying periods will shorten, and it will slowly start to phase out.

But, it’s uncertain when this peak will happen.

In some, it’s around 3 weeks of age, while in others, it could be 8 weeks of age…

But, whenever it is, after that peak, the purple crying phases will start to slow down. 👏

U - Unexpected 🤯

This is because purple crying unexpectedly comes and goes.

It can start spontaneously, and then stop just as quickly as it started.

With no real warning or reason.

It unexpectedly pops up out of the blue, and that can leave mamas feeling frustrated by a lack of control, and uncertainty when it might happen again.

R - Resistant

This refers to purple crying often being resistant to soothing.

Which, can be one of the most frustrating things.

Because often when little babes cry, it’s for a reason.

Hunger, full diaper, attention — you name it!

But, purple crying takes away all logic and reason, which can leave parents feeling helpless.

P - Pain 🤕

When the baby cries, it might look like they’re in pain.

They may scrunch their face up, thrash their arms and legs, and give every indication that they’re hurt.

But, again, this pesky developmental stage of life has you fooled — they’re not (in most cases) in any pain, but simply in a period of purple crying.

L - Long-lasting

So, here’s the real kicker…

This stands for long-lasting bouts of crying.

Sometimes, this can be up to 35 - 40 mins or, in extreme cases, it could even last up to 2 - 3 hours. 😖

This will differ widely between different babies though, and some will last 5 - 10 minutes, and some much longer.

E - Evening 🌙

Research has shown that purple crying tends to happen more in the late afternoon/evening hours, rather than in the morning.

This can be problematic for mamas, as they’re likely tired from taking care of baby all day, so this type of crying after a long day can be pretty unwelcome.

But, fear not — knowing the acronym alone is one step closer to understanding why baby is crying the way that they are.

And that can help you to cope better, and make sure baby is safe and cared for during these times.

How do I calm my baby down during purple crying?

Remember the ‘R’ here, mama.

Resistant to soothing.

Sometimes, babies in a purple crying phase just can’t be soothed or calmed down. 🤷‍♀️

But, of course, that doesn’t mean you won’t want to try all that you can — so, here are a few ideas:

🍼 Cover the basics: Hangry? Tired? Diaper full? If not, let’s move on to the next steps.

🏞️ Change of scenery: Take baby for a walk, or even just outside in your backyard for a change of environment. Maybe just the difference in air could make them settle slightly.

🛁 Warm bath: Being in warm, soothing water can sometimes make all the difference to baby.

🎤 Sing or story-tell: Rhythmic story-telling or singing could potentially soothe baby.

🤱 Skin-to-skin: And, of course, baby might just be in need of some close skin-to-skin contact.

If none of these work for you, mama, please don’t worry — the end is in sight, we promise.

Be sure to take some time away from your baby for a few minutes if it’s getting too much, and switch in with your partner.

It’s very OK to need a break. 💆‍♀️

Is purple crying the same as colic?

“This sounds a lot like colic — what’s the difference?” 🤔

So, colic is very similar, but it’s different because of who it affects.

Colic is considered to be a condition, or an abnormality, that some babies have and some babies don’t.

It’s thought to be brought on by ingesting air during feeds.

But, purple crying is a pattern of crying that all infants have — some just have more or less of it than others.

And that’s why it’s so important for parents (and any potential babysitters) to know about it, so they can be aware it’s a totally normal phase of newborn life.

How to know if your baby isn’t sick rather than purple crying?

So, your baby has been at it for the best part of an hour, and you’re starting to worry there’s something wrong with them… 😕

How can you tell if it’s just the purple crying phase, or something more going on?

It’s helpful to know that if a baby is sick and cries, that’s likely to be more severe crying, and associated with other symptoms.

They could have diarrhea, they might be coughing, or may have a fever. 🤒

While, on the other hand, purple crying can be more spontaneous and unexplained, and isn’t accompanied by any symptoms.

But, it’s important that you see a physician or pediatrician early on in the purple crying phase, just to rule out anything else that might be going on.

Does purple crying cause any complications long-term?

Naturally, none at all!

It’s a very normal developmental stage of your child’s life.

The long-term outcome is generally very good for infants who go through purple crying, and there’s no linked increased risk of allergies or diseases later on.

In fact, it’s a sign of normal behavioral development. 🤗

But, sadly, it can lead to conditions that are a by-product of parents’ reactions to purple crying.

It can be an incredibly frustrating time for the parents.

And, sadly, when some parents are at their wits’ end, they may try and shake the baby to snap them out of the purple crying episode.

This can then lead to a very serious condition called shaken baby syndrome.

If a baby gets this syndrome, it could lead to significant brain damage, blindness, cerebral palsy, or more health issues.

That’s why prevention is key, and that only comes from understanding that this early crying pattern is normal, and it will pass.

We’re here for you every step of the way.

You got this, mama! 💪


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