WVU Children’s Hospital encourages parents to learn about the Period of PURPLE crying

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – There comes a point in the life of every baby when he or she will cry more than at any other time. Experts at WVU Children’s Hospital are encouraging all parents to educate themselves on the Period of PURPLE crying and how to cope with this difficult stage of infant development.

“PURPLE crying is often described as colic, which is confusing and concerning for parents because it sounds like an illness or that something is wrong with baby, when in fact the baby is going through a very normal developmental phase,” Christine Haufe, R.N., community health nurse clinician at WVU Children’s Hospital, said. “Parents often think something must be wrong and can check with baby’s doctor to see if there is some reason for the crying. However, during this phase of a baby’s life, they can cry for hours and still be healthy and normal.”

The acronym PURPLE is used to describe the characteristics of an infant’s crying during this phase. The word “phase” is important because it tells parents that it is only temporary and will come to an end. While some cry more than others, all babies go through this phase.

The letters in PURPLE stand for:
  • Peak of crying – The baby may cry more each week - the most at 2 months, then less at 3-5 months.
  • Unexpected – Crying can come and go, though parents may not understand why.
  • Resists soothing – Babies may not stop crying no matter how parents try to soothe them.
  • Pain-like face – A crying baby make look like he or she is in pain, even when that is not the case.
  • Long lasting – Crying can last as long as five hours a day or more.
  • Evening – Babies may cry more in the late afternoon and evening.
“Not all babies will experience all of these features. If you have a relatively quiet baby, then you might not notice that the amount of crying follows a peak pattern. You may notice some crying that cannot be soothed, some evening clustering, and some crying that reminds you of pain, but you may not notice the peak or the prolonged crying as much. And, that’s fine,” Haufe explained. “Any one of these features, or any combination of them, can be frustrating if parents do not expect them. Parents should stay calm and try to soothe baby by carrying, comforting, walking with, and talking to baby. Sometimes, parents will be able to stop the crying, but not always.  If parents get frustrated, they should place baby in a safe place, such as a crib, and take a few minutes to calm down.”

A crying baby should never be shaken. Most of the time, shaken baby syndrome occurs when a frustrated caregiver loses control with an inconsolable, crying baby. Shaken baby syndrome is a serious brain injury. One out of 4 babies that are shaken will die. However, the other three babies will need ongoing medical attention for the rest of their short lifespans.

Shaking a baby is dangerous for two key reasons. First, a baby’s neck is too weak to support his or her heavy head. Consequently, when shaken, the head flops back and forth, causing serious brain injury. And, second, a baby’s brain and the blood vessels connecting the skull to the brain are fragile and immature.

Parents of babies born at WVU Children's Hospital or admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit receive Period of PURPLE Crying education, a DVD, and booklet prior to discharge.

“It’s important to remember that crying is how your baby talks to you, and sometimes healthy babies will cry for no reason,” Haufe said. “All parents and caregivers need to be aware of this normal period of infant crying and should watch the DVD in the first days after baby is born.”


For more information:
Angela Jones-Knopf, News Service Coordinator, 304-293-7087
ajk: 03-21-14

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