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The Period of Purple Crying - A Helpful Way to Understand Colic


A newborn cries and waves his arms

The color purple.


What comes to mind? Maybe your favorite color. Or Prince’s iconic “Purple Rain”?


A shade of purple may be your hue of choice… And it’s raining, but raining lots of baby tears. It’s called the Period of PURPLE Crying.


But when we’re talking about PURPLE crying, we’re actually NOT talking about color. Instead, as you’ll see, it’s an easy-to-remember acronym to describe a period of excessive, inconsolable crying in an infant’s life.


Colic and the Period of PURPLE Crying go hand in hand. Many parents receive a diagnosis of colic and wonder what it means, what to do next, and how to cope.


The Period of PURPLE Crying is an explanation and also a program that goes in-depth to educate, normalize, and help parents and caregivers better understand their child’s crying. Read on to find out more.


What Is the Period of PURPLE Crying?


The Period of PURPLE CryingⓇ is a term and registered trademark that was coined by Dr. Ronald G. Barr, a developmental pediatrician, and the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome (NCSBS). It describes a time in a newborn baby’s life when a baby cries inconsolably for hours on end.


Period of PURPLE Crying is not another name for colic. It’s a period that all babies go through. When the crying goes on for longer and is more intense, then it is characterized as colic.


All babies go through this phase in the first few weeks and months of life. Some babies cry more than others, which can attribute to a diagnosis of “colic” by pediatricians.


“PURPLE” does not mean that a baby turns purple when he or she is crying. This is an acronym that describes the characteristics of infant crying.


What Do the Letters PURPLE Stand For?

A newborn baby cries during the period of PURPLE crying.

The “PURPLE” acronym helps parents better understand this period of crying in a baby’s life.

  • "Peak of crying. Your baby may cry more each week, the most in month 2, then less in months 3–5.

  • Unexpected. Crying can come and go and you don't know why.

  • Resists soothing. Your baby may not stop crying no matter what you try.

  • Pain-like face. A crying baby may look like they are in pain, even when they are not.

  • Long-lasting. Crying can last as much as 5 hours a day, or more.

  • Evening. Your baby may cry more in the late afternoon and evening."1


How Long Will PURPLE Crying Last?


It’s called the “Period” of PURPLE Crying to let parents know it WILL end. This is a short time in a child’s life.


For parents, it can be a frustrating time. It can feel like it’ll last forever. But the helpful explanation of the Period of PURPLE Crying explains that it is a finite period. It will be over soon.


PURPLE Crying generally lasts around 3-4 months. Some babies diagnosed with colic may experience more prolonged periods of crying that can last up to a full year. Some may get through this period earlier.


When Does PURPLE Crying Start and End?


A fussy baby cries during the period of PURPLE crying.

If you’ve had a baby with colic, then you’re very familiar with this period of crying. Typically, PURPLE Crying begins around 2 weeks old. It can last for 3-4 months.


That’s not to say that a colicky baby may be fussy and crying (unable to be soothed) earlier than two weeks old. Similarly, it’s possible for this period to last longer than 4 months.


Normalizing Colic With the Period of PURPLE Crying


I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:


Colic is so misunderstood.


Being a new parent is hard enough. Add in an endless period of crying. The confusion about ways to soothe your colicky baby. Not to mention unsolicited advice or unhelpful judgments that may be coming your way.


Thanks to the NCSBS and Dr. Barr, colic and this period of time in an infant’s life is being normalized. After experiencing long periods of crying with his own son, Dr. Barr came up with the “Period of PURPLE Crying” to help explain and normalize to parents that it was indeed normal that their babies were going through this. He also wanted parents to know this was just a “period” that would end.


The Period of PURPLE Crying is a time that happens to all babies, but colic is usually a more intense and longer experience for parents and babies. The Period of PURPLE Crying reminds us that there is an end in sight.


What Help Is Available for Parents?

The Period of Purple Crying program (or the PURPLE program) is an educational program for parents and caregivers. It goes in-depth to explain the early stages of a baby’s development related to infant crying.


The PURPLE program is evidence-based. It’s a shaken baby syndrome & abusive head trauma (SBS/AHT) prevention program.

A goal of the program is to create awareness of the normalcy of baby cries and the dangers of reacting in anger and frustration toward a baby by shaking. Another goal is to reduce the number of incidents of SBS/AHT.


An intro video for the PURPLE program is available on YouTube. The full program is commonly implemented at hospitals, birthing centers, and larger organizations. If you’d like to find out even more about the materials and how to gain access, check out their website.


More Support for Coping With PURPLE Crying


We’re here to do our part to help parents, caregivers, and babies. The ByeByeCry™ sound machine may be physically small, but it’s mighty. Our sound machine is here to help you through this period of time. It’s a normal part of a baby’s development to have a period of crying.


The length of time and severity of the cries and screams will determine if a baby is fully diagnosed with colic. Remember the rule of 3: colic is often classified as being continuous cries for 3+ hours a day, for 3+ days a week, and for 3+ weeks.


We talk about support a lot here in the ByeByeCry community. One of our goals is to open up the lines of help to one another.


We’re so grateful for organizations like the NCSBS and programs like the Period of PURPLE Crying that not only aim to create normalcy around colic but provide concrete information grounded in research that helps new parents… and can save a baby’s life.


Please don’t forget that there are free hotlines that you can call for support as a new parent.

  • 24/7: National Maternal Mental Health Hotline – 1-833-943-5746 (1-833-9-HELP4MOMS)

  • Monday-Friday, 10 AM-7 PM (PST): National Parent Helpline – 1-855-4A PARENT (1-855-427-2736)

  • Postpartum Support International – 1-800-944-4773

The ByeByeCry Club is always here to support moms, dads, caregivers, and of course – babies! We love watching our community grow and are honored to be a valuable resource for families.


As always, we invite you to join us on social media and contact us to share your thoughts and stories.





 

References

​​1. Marilyn Barr, Founder/Former Executive Director, NCSBS, “What is the Period of PURPLE Crying?” http://purplecrying.info/what-is-the-period-of-purple-crying.php, Accessed 17 January 2023.


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