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Have you heard of Purple Crying? 

I remember my short maternity leave with my first born. I spent it primarily dealing with breastfeeding issues and trying to stop the crying. He didn't always cry hysterically, but sometimes he did -- like in this picture.

Some times of day were better than others and, unlike his sister, he did love the baby swing (and so we loved the baby swing too).  But there were definitely times when he would just cry and cry and nothing would help. The worst time was from about 3pm to 6pm. By the time my partner got home from work, I was drained and exhausted and ready to hand off the baby.

As a new parent, I struggled. What am I doing wrong? Is he hurt? Is he hungry? Is he not getting enough sleep? Is something in my milk upsetting his tummy? Does his diaper need to be changed again? Is he teething ALREADY? Is he sick? Does he have a fever? Is he constipated? Is he hot? Is he cold? Is the tag on his shirt bothering him? Over and over again, I would ask myself these questions and try each and every thing I could think of to calm him down. Sometimes something would seem to work, but the next day it wouldn't be any help at all.

I had done a lot of reading to prepare for bringing my baby home and of course I'd heard of Shaken Baby Syndrome. I knew that it could be frustratingly difficult with babies sometimes and that shaking them was incredibly dangerous. I knew that when it got to be too much, it was better to put him down in a safe space and take a breather than to risk hurting him.

Most days, I was able to keep my composure despite the crying. When I couldn't, I was more likely to lay down and cry with him than to react violently. That's just who I am and how I react to that type of stress.

Purple Crying

I knew, at the time, that I needed to get through it. What I didn't know, was that it was completely normal. I called it the witching hour or the fussy time, but I always assumed there must be some underlying cause that I just wasn't seeing. I now know, that may not be the case. The Purple Crying campaign is trying to educate parents and caregivers about the period of Purple Crying.

The period of Purple Crying can start at around two weeks old and continue until about three to four months. According Marilyn Barr, the Founder and Executive Director of the National Shaken Baby Syndrome, babies going through this period can resist all attempts at soothing.

Nothing helps. Even though it helps when they are fussy or crying other times, it is different when they go through these inconsolable crying bouts. Nothing seems to sooth them.


During this phase of a baby’s life they can cry for hours and still be healthy and normal. Parents often think there must be something wrong with them or they would not be crying like this. However, even after a check-up from the doctor which shows the baby is healthy they still go home and cry for hours, night after night. “It was so discouraging,” said one dad. “Our baby giggles and seems fine during the day and almost like clock-work he starts crying about 6 pm. He is growing and healthy so why does he cry like that ?”

So what is purple crying all about? The letters of the word 'purple' spell out an acronym that describe some of the main characteristics that parents and caregivers should be aware of.

Coping with Purple Crying

The most important thing to do when dealing with purple crying is to try to stay calm. The website for the Period of Purple Crying has some information and tips on how to stay calm when you are frustrated and drained.

Personally, I found fresh air to be refreshing. I am lucky that we live out in the country, so it was easy to go outside and get a breather without having people stare at me and my crying baby.

I am a believer in crying in arms (versus leaving a baby to cry on their own).  I think that if I was put in the situation again of having a baby who cried that much, I would have purchased some noise cancelling headphones to at least allow me to focus on my baby without getting a headache. I think it would have allowed me to stay calm longer and not be as distressed while dealing with his needs.

Although  I don't like the idea of a baby crying alone, it is obviously better for a parent to leave the baby alone in a safe space briefly than to do something that will injure the baby.  Ensure you have a safe space for the baby, go out of the room, take a breather and then go back in once you have collected yourself.

Cherishing the Moments of Calm

My second baby was a calm baby. I've often said I could have worked full-time for the first six months of her life if I hadn't had a toddler to take care of too. She basically slept and nursed all day and all night and was pretty much content as long as she was touching me. The saying "nine months in, nine months out" applies perfectly to her. The sling was her home.

My son, however, as I described above, was a very different baby. With him, the quiet calm moments came less frequently, but it made them all that much more special. The picture below is one we've had on our fridge for years. It is the way that I would like to remember his baby days.

Want to help raise awareness?

Every day babies are shaken and abused because the person caring for them became overwhelmed by their crying and didn't know what to do. In a lot of cases, the tragedies that come from those situations could have been prevented if the person knew that the crying was normal and was prepared to deal with it.

If you want to help raise awareness about the Period of Purple Crying, consider sharing this blog post or writing one of your own. Tell people your own story about your baby who wouldn't stop crying and what you did to cope.  Or, if you know how to knit, you can take part in the Click for Babies campaign that is looking for people to knit anywhere from 5 to 50 purple coloured baby caps with baby friendly yarn and send them to the organizers in their province or state.

What was your experience like with your baby? If your baby did cry a lot, did you know about the period of purple crying?

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Reader Comments (62)

Is this colic? Or is that something different?

November 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

Is there a difference between purple crying and colic..? I don't see a difference other than the name, but I have not had a child like this myself.

Although ironically according to my mother I was that kind of baby (colic or "purple" crier).

November 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAbby

I have never heard of this, but boy do I wish I had!!! My son did this for 5-6 hours every single evening. It was so very hard on us. And you're right, everyone would shrug and say, meh, witching hour. But it was much more intense and longer than that. Much more. He was inconsolable, and it was LOUD. We lived in NYC and it was impossible to go anywhere without bothering someone. It was awful. It lasted for two months, if I'm remembering correctly. It would have really, really helped me to hear about this being normal, common - we weren't crazy!

November 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJuli Simon Thomas

Abby / Lisa:

If I've understood correctly, colic could be considered purple crying, but there is purple crying that wouldn't get a diagnosis of colic necessarily. For those parents, the ones with a crying baby and a doctor saying "well, I don't see anything wrong here", it is probably even more frustrating than for those who get a diagnosis and potentially meds to help with it.

There is a better/longer discussion of it here: http://www.purplecrying.info/sections/index.php?sct=2&sctpg=12&

November 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

When I was in the hospital they asked us to watch a DVD about purple crying (that we got to take home) and whoa, what a good thing! Baby didn't cry a lot once my milk came in but she had her bouts. Knowing about this was good for me. Once I knew it wasn't hunger or diaper I just let her cry. It being out of my control calmed me a lot.

November 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStephanieMZ

Oh my goodness. This is such a slippery slope. There is a "sleep expert" in my town that teaches "gentle CIO" and cites "purple crying" as a reason to do so. (although her teachings are as far from gentle as you can get).
My first son had colic, breastfeeding and digestive issues, I know first hand what it meant to be at your wits end, and am sensitive to the issues of shaken baby syndrome….. but this also opens doors for a lot of "experts" to try and "fix" it.
Slippery, slippery, slope. :/

November 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlisha

I think this is what we call colic in the UK. My son had it - from not long after birth to about 12 weeks, with the peak of the nightmare in the first eight weeks where he could just scream at immense volume for hours and hours. No one who has a happy, non-colicky baby can really know what that feels like.
I started to feel some baby blues during this time, but fortunately someone had told me the screaming might be to do with my baby not finding it easy to digest milk in his tiny tummy, so I learned baby massage to help try to calm him down. No idea if this was really a factor in the crying, but it helped keep me calm to feel I was doing something that might help him. And of course like every other baby he outgrew it eventually.
It's great that you're doing awareness raising because it is such a horrific time for new parents who are expecting a joyful experience and suddenly find themselves in a nightmare, but it is a completely normal thing to happen to about 1 in 5 babies.

November 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterrose22joh


I don't think that CIO is an appropriate way to fix this. I do think that getting support, finding a way to get a break, noise cancelling headphones to use while you are holding the baby, and other techniques can help, but leaving a baby to cry himself to sleep is not a solution to me. The thing that is most important to the purple crying campaign for me is helping parents to understand that it is normal sometimes for babies to cry and that it isn't always their fault that the baby is crying. But, just because there isn't a solution to the crying, doesn't meant that the baby deserves to be left alone to cry.

November 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

My second child (the first girl) did this, but it was a little different. I wouldn't even call what she did "crying." She screamed. Ear splitting screams. The night she was born she screamed like this all night long. The nurses eventually completely left us alone because even they weren't sure what to do. She finally passed out and there were strict instructions NOT to disturb our room so everyone could get some sleep. When we got home it was the same. She cried from around 11pm to 3am every night for a solid 9 months. I was so completely sleep deprived that I can barely remember her first year, but I do know that I was not myself. I was scary. That time was scary. But during the day my girl was perfect. Literally the most awesome baby on the planet. If only I could have enjoyed it. I never shook her, but there were nights when she lay in the pack n play while I cried next to her. Sometimes I even fell asleep while she kept going. We tried everything. We checked for everything. There was no answer and then it just stopped. I can't explain it, but it sounds a lot like this purple crying to me. I do wish I'd known about this sooner. The only advice I can give is that it does get better.

November 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

so. so. so. frustrating.

My son did this on and off for a couple of months and it was one of the most frustrating and anger-inducing periods of parenthood for me. (He's 3 now)

I believe the purple crying, combined with lack of sleep and my genetic predisposition pushed me into post-partum depression that bordered on psychosis.

Unlike you, I don't deal with this calmly and had to remove myself from the room several times. I felt like such a failure and I completely understood how shaken babies happen with otherwise reasonable parents.

November 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpamela

I've heard this referred to as the Grandmother's Hour, b/c that's when women (in multigenerational homes/communities) hand the baby off to the grandmother to be rocked. Lucky for me none of my children did this; I feel bad for anyone who has to go through this, but I can imagine it's especially hard on new mothers who worry that it's b/c they're doing something "wrong".

November 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMaranda

It's funny that someone should say 1 in 5 babies do this, because 1 of my 5 babies did this. My third child had what I called Colic. She was completely inconsolable every single evening while we tried to prepare supper. Her Father and I just both worked together in the kitchen to get dinner while passing her back and forth so that she wouldn't have to cry alone. I thank the heavens that he had a job close by for those months and would get home right after 5 when she was starting. I can't imagine how awful it would have been to deal with as a first child. We had two older children from our previous relationships to hang out with our toddler at the time so it was a house full of people all working together to help fix the problem. With all 6 of us together to work as a family to deal with the problem, it wasn't so bad. If it had just been me, or if it had been earlier in the day when it WAS just me because the older kids were in school and DH was at work, it would have been much more scary. As it was, we all talked to her and sang to her and passed her from arm to arm while supper cooked and then while we ate. I think that is the only advice I can give. Share the horror! It makes the bad stuff easier and the easy stuff pleasanter with babies, if you share.

November 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCassaundra

Oh my gosh, this was my kid. I spent the first 12 weeks of my son's life in tears. We couldn't get latched properly, he would scream and cry at least once a day between 5 and 7 pm and some days we had a bonus of it being around 10 at night. I don't believe in CIO, my personal opinions on it are just that, my opinions. I don't do it, I tried it one night against my own feelings and won't do it again. My daughter had a few times where she would just belt it out and scream and cry like this. We had one day where I totally panicked and caught myself in that shaken baby situation. I called my husband to come home because while I would never set out to hurt my children, I had that horrifying instant come up where I was doing one thing that in a split second could be harmful. I laid her down on the bed and did my best to soothe her until she finally did doze off. The whole situation terrified me.

November 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNikki

I don't know how I feel about this. I think sometimes there can be something wrong and we just shouldn't dismiss it as purple crying. My son cried like this. And he looked like he was in pain. And guess what? He was. I had a milk imbalance (foremilk/hindmilk imbalance) and when I got that straightened out he stopped doing this.

November 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTarah

I have never heard the term Purple Crying. And neither of my kids did a lot of this. Both had times when they would cry and nothing I did made it stop. I concluded that babies sometimes need to cry. Sometimes when I'm overstressed and/or hormonal, crying is the only thing that releases the tension. I don't think it's unreasonable to think that babies may be the same.

When my daughter was a baby, a friend came over with her two kids. Her 3 month old, if she wasn't sleeping or nursing, was crying. They were only here for 2 hours and I could feel my blood pressure going up. She said the baby did it every single night and the doctor called it colic.

On a side note, I'm frequently surprised at how often pediatricians dismiss food intolerances as colic. A friend's baby was crying constantly, arching his back, spitting up small amounts of blood, and very gassy. His mother has a milk protein allergy and both parents are asthmatic. Her doctor insisted the baby was too young for allergies, but finally, after weeks of this, decided he was allergic to his milk based formula. A switch to soy straightened him out in 2 days. My son also had a milk protein allergy, and since he was mostly a BF baby, it didn't surface until we started dairy solids at around 7 months. Still, his doctor insisted his lack of weight gain and vomiting was because my milk was drying up. Again, cutting out all the dairy fixed him and he gained a pound in a week.

November 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKayris

Thank you for sharing this. I had so much trouble coping with my first daughter's crying. At one point I had friends sleep over during the nights to make sure I wouldn't snap (my husband was working nights, so I was alone during the worst of it). With sleep deprivation and PPD, I know I was on the edge - I think the PURPLE campaign would have helped me, just even knowing that sometimes babies cry and that's okay. There's so much education on Shaken Baby Syndrome, but not enough education on coping mechanisms for parents. If parents know about PURPLE crying before hand, they might be better prepared to deal with it.

November 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTamara

This is an interesting post. I have heard of this campaign. I heard Dr Harvey Karp speak of purple crying. he has done research around the area of infant crying, infant colic, infant sleep and alternatives to purple crying. In an address at Postpartum Support International, he stated his methods of the Calming reflex, etc....were an alternative to pc and has persons trained in his methods working with at-risk centers to prevent shaken baby syndrome.
After conducting a review of many of the infant sleep specialists/methods currently o nthe market (a series I did over a period of about a year on my blog, and BTW got alot of flack for as ppl are very passionate & opinionated abt this topic) , I am planning on training in Dr. Karp's method myself. I think that it w/b another tool to help parents cope and help mitigate feelings of helplessness, anxiety, depression in new parents...There are lots of ppl demoing it for free on Utube...take care, Kathy

November 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKathy Morelli

I've heard about vaccine-related problems leading to purple crying too. I feel that just because it doesn't appear that something is wrong, something clearly is and this is a newborn's only way of communicating and dealing. Purple crying is not biologically normal behavior. Or at least it doesn't seem like it is. I wonder what the rates of "purple crying" are across the globe. (Coming from a mom whose child had her own witching hour from about 3 pm to 11 or 12 pm for the first two months or so.)

November 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

Hi - Just wanted to share some researched based facts abt infant sleep from Dr. Weissbluth, a sleep researcher, regarding infant sleep, temperament, and colic...[80% of babies have common fussiness, 20% have extreme fussiness (colic) and then 56% of that 20% have a difficult temperament, which means there may be sleep problesm beyond the 3 -4 month marker] you can read here for more info or refer to one of this books....http://birthtouch.com/2011/04/infant-sleep-methods-dr-marc-weissbluth/
He has great informed info abt the research of infant sleep, but I like Dr Karp for sleep methods....but all families are different and what is right for one family may not work for another....good luck to you

November 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKathy Morelli

Thanks for this post Annie - 'purple crying' is a term I've never heard of it. I think it's important to normalize crying for new moms especially since we live in a society where there is a solution or cure for everything. I was never more frustrated as a first time mother than after watching a 'Baby Whisperer' segment on Oprah (Dunstan, I believe) who proclaimed that every mother could easily learn the very distinct cries her baby had as each different sound meant something specific. I felt like a failure for not being able to figure it out (baby #2 was no different - I knew hungry, tired, wet but nothing beyond that).

Sometimes their cries are specific and mean something sometimes they just cry and that's okay too. The focus on the why and fixes can sometimes be more frustrating and overwhelming than the tears themselves.

November 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSara

I got a video and booklet about Purple cry when I left the hospital after having my baby.

November 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterErlinda

I've never before heard the term, "Purple Crying," but our son definitely had it when he was an infant. From the third night home until he was two months old, he screamed in such extreme agony that it sounded as though he were being ripped apart limb from limb. It usually started around dinner time, 5:00, and continued for hours. One night, when I was home alone with him, it lasted into the wee hours of the next morning when he finally collapsed at my breast. We continually took him to the pediatrician, who assured us it was just colic. His advice? Let him cry it out. I couldn't do that! I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of dread every night as the witching hour approached, and no matter how much I tried to mentally prepare myself for the night, it was a profoundly challenging period of time. I cried. I walked him. I massaged him. I put him in a vibrating bouncy seat. I put him in the swing. I tried a warm bath. I turned up the music. I danced with him. Nothing worked. If I'd known then what I know now, I'd advise parents to have a lot of extra help...or invest in some of those earphones you discussed. Maintaining your own sanity is a must during that period. Take time to care for yourself.

November 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCarrie Ella

I had heard about purple crying in a prenatal class and at the hospital after my daughter was born - they gave us a DVD to watch (maybe a Canadian thing?). But honestly, I don't really buy it. I think there's always a reason for the crying. Maybe it's physical, maybe it's emotional, maybe it's a temperament thing that makes them more sensitive to certain stimuli.... I don't know. But why would a baby cry for no reason? It just doesn't make sense to me. I think that we just don't know what the reason is, so we give it a name (i.e. colic, purple crying), and then parents don't feel like they are to blame and are more likely react to the crying more rationally (or at least not in a harmful manner).

I'm sure I'm in the minority for feeling this way, and maybe this is the frame of mind that caused me so much heartache when I just couldn't figure out why my daughter was so unhappy for the first 6 months of her life. I remember wondering what it would be like to see my daughter doing anything other than sleeping, nursing, or crying/fussing - she was never just content and awake like other babies seemed to be. Colic, fussy, witching hour(s), purple crying - whatever it's called, my daughter certainly had it, but I still believe there was a cause. Especially because my husband and his brother were both the same way as infants, according to my MIL, so there must be some genetic component. I know when I changed my diet and cut every source of dairy out it got a bit better, but she was still rarely happy until she was about 7 months old. Some of Harvey Karp's techniques worked early on. But she was the typical "difficult baby," a terrible sleeper, picky eater, got overstimulated very easily, just generally very sensitive. She's almost 2.5 now, and still a very sensitive kid (and still a crap sleeper) but at least she's happy most of the time, and her sensitive nature makes her an incredibly aware, empathetic little girl. As for me, I think I'm still recovering from those months of endless tears.....

November 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAcia


I don't think that people should assume that crying is always purple crying. But I do think that parents need to know that if they have tried everything and looked into everything and their baby is still crying, that it isn't because they are doing something wrong. I also think it is incredibly important for parents with crying babies, whether there is a reason for the crying or not, to learn coping mechanisms so that they can continue to care for their baby without getting so stressed out over it that they either hurt the baby or hurt themselves.

November 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting


I'm not sure. I agree that in most cases, there is probably a reason for the crying and I think it is good to try to figure out what that reason is.

However, in the same way that some moms get postpartum depression and others moms don't, I think it is possible that some babies are more upset and other babies are more content without there being an easy explanation or easy fix for it.

November 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

OK, I live in BC, where PURPLE is a big campaign to help prevent shaken baby syndrome. I had my 4th baby here and my first 3 in the far North.

I hate, hate, hate this campaign. I know it is very well-intentioned, but I think it is going to hurt a lot of babies and families and here's why: the pain-like face P.

All four of my children had mild to severe reflux issues -- especially number 2 and 4. All of my children eventually needed medication to combat the reflux. With my fourth, he was so extremely ill with reflux he screamed whenever he wasn't sleeping until we finally found the right med at the right dose to help him. He was on the meds past his first birthday. He's now almost 18 months old and finally off meds and pain-free.

Here's the thing: If E. had been my first baby and not my fourth, I am sure the PURPLE crying pamphlet and video would have convinced me he was normal and I was just a wimp or something. I would have thought: oh, that must be the pain-like face!

I've also heard from other women with refluxy babies here in BC that their docs brushed the reflux off as PURPLE at first.

Luckily, my doc is excellent (she got me through HG without needing a single IV, all due to preemptive aggressive treatment -- she rocks) and when I came to her and said, "something is NOT right, and this is worse than any of my others," she listened, prescribed us meds, and got us a referral to a pediatriian who specializes in reflux.

That pediatrician told me how dangerous_untreated_ severe reflux can be to a baby. It can make it impossible for a baby to eat enough. It can cause weight loss because it hurts to eat, so the baby eats less. It can erode the esophagus, cause tears or holes in the esophopus (potentially fatal), can dramatically increase the person's chance of esophageal cancer later in life, and is even now considered a possible cause of SIDS. Scary.

My first baby had more "silent" reflux and we just mostly were told he had colic. We used natural remedies for him, which gave him minor relieif. BUt he suffered all that first year because it was brushed off as colic.

I highly, highly suspect most PURPLE babies actually have silent reflux and are actually in pain. I think "normal" PURPLE crying rarely exists. No scientific proof of that, it's just my hunch.

I know the campaign says you go to PURPLE when a doc has ruled out other problems -- but I am here to tell you, and most other reflux parents would probably agree, that reflux issues are brushed off by most docs with no investigation into the baby's true issues. "He has colic!" they say.

And I think leaving a reflux parent with a pat on the shoulder and a video on PURPLE crying is cruel -- with no support, wouldn't that make a parent more desperate and more likely to shake? I have to wonder.

Thanks for this, Annie. Appreciate the discussion, as always.

November 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCin

We stood, for hours at a time, then sat, for hours at a time, in front of a noisy kitchen fan. Or I got on my hands and knees while he rocked the infant and vacuumed the entire house, whether it needed it or not. (Ok. It needed it..)

Most of the time he eventually stopped. Or stopped and started again. Lasted approximately 6 weeks, with the first born. The noise, it became part of our afternoon-evening for so long that when we stopped using it, we kind of missed it at first.

The second...it's a blur. No idea if she did it, how long it lasted, but she too reacted well to the noisy noise. At least that part I remember. :)

Still...the crying, it was heart-breaking.

This is a great campaign. I wish I had seen it then, 6 years ago. Although, as a new, first-time parent, I don't know if the information would have actually penetrated into my brain.

November 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJavamom

I just finished Weissbluth's Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and in the end was rather disgusted. The beginning makes him out to be supportive of many different methods and whatever works for each family, yet every single anecdote in the book that tells a story of a family that "fixed" their sleep "problems" involves letting the child cry it out. He also seems obsessed with the idea of offering bottles, even if breastfeeding exclusively. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, but telling mothers who are perfectly happy to offer every feeding at the breast and aren't touched out that this something they need to do is terrible advice.

Anyhow, I'm not trying to be contrary - as you say, all families are different, but I thought I'd offer another perspective.

November 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

I don't think Kathy was recommending Weissbluth for sleep methods. She said she prefers Karp for that.

Personally, I cannot recommend Weissbluth's book or his methods. I explained why here: http://www.phdinparenting.com/2009/09/02/why-i-cant-recommend-ferber-or-weissbluth/

November 8, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

This is the first I'm hearing of this campaign, though I have heard the term "purple crying." It can really be comforting to parents to know that their child's issues are a variation of normal, and that they're not necessarily doing something wrong/incapable/etc. That said, the campaign doesn't seem to be offering tools so much as a vague knowledge that inconsolable crying does occur without a clear cause. Of course I may have the wrong impression since it's new to me. The real value will come from people sharing their own experience, like you have done here. I don't see the ads doing much more than helping parents feel comfortable giving up if there's no clear reason for their child's crying.

As for my own experience, there were definitely periods of crying that I could not find the root cause for, but I was always able to soothe my daughter eventually, one way or another. It sounds like I had it relatively easy compared to many in this discussion!

November 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

Hi there - For myself personally, I prefer safe bed sharing & bf, and looking back, I know I was touched out and I had severe PPD (was being tx for it, didn't help I wouldnt take meds,,it was 17byrs ago!) looking back I wish I had more info abt infant sleep methods as they seemed a mystery to me as a young woman fresh out of a Wall Street career. I wish Dr Karp's alternatives & info was around back then....But for my clients now I need to know abt differnt methods as not everyone can succeed at the same method....some ppl just need other ways to be a family and be a mom....I find I see many different types of ppl in my office ...and how they mother doesnt mean they love their child less. Dr Weissbluth is a good researcher and has some good alternatives for ppl who want them or really do need them to be mentally balanced. But I am not a fan of extreme CIO at all, and really never recommend it.... And I am certainly not a fan of allowing baby to vomit to accomplish sleep (this is actually in his book). But his research on sleep is good background info...And I think if ppl are happy doing what they are doing, they dont need all of these books...but if they need some help, it's good o have some alternatives and I think it is damn near impossible for a tired anxious parent to sort thru all of the mountains of written info when they need help, I love what one person said abt the "grandmother hour" ..if only we all had an extended network like that..hey, is that what Annie is doing? smile, Kathy

November 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKathy Morelli

My baby had PURPLE crying and reflux. Once we got her on reflux meds the manner of the crying changed - less pained - and all of her other reflux symptoms disappeared. But the crying was still there: for about 1-2 hours a night. Just an anecdote for your thought that "normal" PURPLE crying doesn't exist. I think it definitely does.

November 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce

Cin - I am so sorry your children suffered so much with reflux. I'm glad that you had such a good pediatrician and was able to diagnosis the problem. With the Period of PURPLE Crying program we always encourage caregivers to have their infants checked by a physician if there are any concerns. We would hate for an underlying problem to go ignored/untreated. However, if the infant does get a clean bill of health, then caregivers know that they crying is just a normal part of infant development.

There has been much published research on normalcy of infant crying on all breast feeding mammals. Research has shown that even mammals such as guinea pigs and chimps go through the same crying pattern with a peak around 8 weeks. There has also been research on the "P" for Pain-like face. This link addresses it briefly. http://www.purplecrying.info/sections/index.php?sct=2&sctpg=11&.

I hope this helps answer some of your concerns. As I mentioned earlier, we would never want something overlooked. Our goal is to educate caregivers that infants may go through this normal crying stage. With this education they will be less likely to get frustrated and in turn less likely to abuse their children.

Please feel free to contact us directly with any concerns at PURPLE@dontshake.org.

November 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPeriod of PURPLE Crying

Michelle, Here is a good synopsis of the published research surrounding crying as part of normal crying behavior. http://www.dontshake.org/pdf/What-Is-All-That-Crying-About.pdf

The crying starts around 2 weeks and peaks around 8 to 10 weeks. This is around the same time that most infants in N. American receive immunizations but the two are not linked. I hope this information helps some!

November 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPeriod of PURPLE Crying

I can definitely see where you're coming from, Kathy. Any factual information can be helpful when you're a new parent at a loss. I guess I chimed in because I worry that reading Weissbluth when in a state of desperation regarding sleep might desensitize parents to the idea of letting baby cry it out. I haven't analyzed his research yet, but the way he talks about children, using words like "bratty," etc made me suspect there may be some research bias at work.

I'm thankful for the link, Annie, as this is on my mind lately and I'm preparing to write a post on sleep books, including Weissbluth's, myself. I'm sure I'll be linking to you.

Didn't mean to take things on such a tangent!

November 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

Hi Melissa - Hey no problem! It's great chatting with you! You are perfectly reasonable and definetly know where you are coming from! :-)
I know, the CIO is personally tough for me, too. I just do run into alot of different types of ppl in my office who parent generally in a range of accepted normal behaviors...(of course abuse is out) And most ppl (the ones I meet anyway - of course there are others ) do the CIO thing in a very moderate way, kindly, using sort of the Pantley method..patting, sitting near by, etc. So I really dont run into the heavy duty CIO ppl too much.... But I hear where you're coming from....have a happy evening! take care, Kathy

November 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKathy Morelli

Purple Crying is different than colic in most cases. Purple crying can be the result of the "stress of the day" wearing on some babies and fragile nervous systems. Colicky babies are often prone to crying at all times of the day, but the "purple period" can be even more intense in infants that do have colic. In my experience, purple crying is most prevalent between 2 and 10 weeks of age. By the time infants are 2 1/2 months, it usually settles down. When infants feed off of our own distress, it can often make the entire situation worse. If parents can HOLD a crying infant without becoming distressed themselves, then it may be best. Sometimes, just a moments reprieve from the crying by lying the infant down, will be enough for parents to "regroup" and gain composure. Thank you so much for the post as it IS a very difficult thing for parents, esp. first time parents. The MORE information we, as parents, have, the less likely it is that we feel isolated and confused by challenging situations.

November 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDarla Hutson

I've never jeard of "purple crying" so I suppose it isn't used in New Zealand. We tend to us the word "colic" for this kind of thing. I think Plunket define colic as ceaseless crying for over three hours, for more than three days for more than three weeks.

My second baby started to scream around 6pm for hours from the ages of 5 weeks or so. It was awful, nothing would soothe her. With this baby I was following a "sleep training" and routine advisor. Her view is that this kind of behaviour (what people call "colic") is caused by a build up of wind over the course of the day, which causes the baby's discomfort to peak at the end of the day so baby screams her head off. Her advice for how to prevent it was to burp the baby religiously every 3 mins during every feed (breast or bottle) to stop the build up of wind over the day. (she would never advise people to ignore a baby in obvious discomfort, like some other people appear to)

I did this and it helped a bit. I also used Infacol to help baby bring the wind up, which also helped a bit, but not enough. Pretty quickly I took her to a sacri-cranial osteopath and after two sessions the "colic" was over. (My first baby had the same treatment for bowel spasms). I have no idea how this therapy work, but it seemed to!

We'll never know whether the colic would have stopped on its own at the same time but considering how bad it was I wasn't going to risk waiting. I also appreciate that this kind of treatment is expensive so not everyone has the option to get it.

I think it's worth considering this "super-winding" approach (which is hard work) before concluding that nothing can be done to prevent the crying in the first place.

November 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTamara in NZ

edit, line three should read "more than three days a week...".

November 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTamara in NZ

My dd had colic and what I now know was brain irritation from vaccine reactions. She cried forever, at least the first 12 weeks. Is there a push for awareness about cry encephalique (from vaccines?).

November 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKateBnM

I am so grateful I did not have to go through this, and my heart breaks for those of you who do. Have you read Happiest Baby on the Block? Perhaps that would help?


November 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJenna@CallHerHappy

Two of my three children had the 'witching' hour. I don't believe in letting my kiddos cry alone but rather in arms only unless I need a minute or two to calm myself down. Sounds like a lot of us have dealt with this and here are two things that have worked for us. My oldest daughter - taking a walk outside (thankfully she was a May baby so weather was nice). It would take her about 1/2 mile to calm down and then another 1/2 mile to fall asleep. My son, who is just over a month now, -taking a bath together. I just fill up the bath tub with warm water that is comfortable to both of us. Seems to calm him right down, when he fusses I just nurse him. I get us both out (hubby helps) when he either gets agitated or heavy-eyed.

November 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCassie

Am I the only one who DOESN'T think prolonged crying is EVER okay? Excessive crying does brain damage, so it definitely isn't normal. Yes, the witching hour exists-- for babies it's when the baby is ready to go down for the night because s/he is at the end of a cycle (daytime) where s/he gets little sleep. Sundowning is what it's called in a mental institute: extra staff are hired for this occasion every evening. We adults feel pain and sickness more in the evening than any other. This phenomenon truly exists, but a passive approach isn't healthy. If things are going to go wrong, be bad, unpredictable and exhausting it's likely to happen at this time, but not at all "acceptable." There's still a reason. You just have to figure out what it is. I can tell you as an infant mental health provider, a baby always, always, always has a reason for crying. I've only met one baby (out of hundreds) for whom I could not soothe (eventually, might take hours of trying) and I am certain this baby actually had colic. Colic is a terrible DIGESTIVE disorder, for which parent can do little. It's not more likely to occur at a certain time of the day. Unfortunately, doctors have used this as an easy out for the past few decades, making the current diagnosis not related to digestion at all, but to the number of hours crying: If your baby cries X number of times a day for X hours at a time for X weeks, he has colic. Does anyone else see how illogical that is? Doctors need to stop giving up on parents by doling out this phony diagnosis and start refer them to someone who can actually help. Many people don't realize pediatricians' training does not extend to infant psychology and mental health. There is someone who can help your child stop crying. This person could be a pediatrician, but also a nurse, therapist, nanny, well-seasoned mother, childcare worker, or friend.
Women were never meant to care for infants alone. It truly takes a village to raise a child. In some cultures babies NEVER CRY. In my nannying days, I took care of a fortunate infant girl who didn't cry until she was 6 months old and it was because she got sick (a cold). She had two parents, two grandmothers and two nannies- someone fresh could be found easily. This trade-off did not suffice as she got older, so I'm in not way recommending it long-term. For a newborn- very acceptable.
My main point is: how little faith doctors must have in their patients to shrug and say, "Sometimes there's nothing you can do," when experts in the field of infant mental health do not believe that, nor have we experienced it. I hope I don't sound arrogant about never having met a baby I couldn't soothe (except for THE one who had colic), but instead give you some hope and a sigh of relief. A sigh of relief for "whew, it's not me," but "whew, someone can actually help my baby and me." I consider the latter to be far more desirable.

November 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterannalisa

Hi annalisa, you said "Colic is a terrible DIGESTIVE disorder, for which parent can do little." Can you please give me more information on this? Are you saying there is a diagnosed disorder called colic?

November 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTamara in NZ

Thank you for writing this - you are definitely not the only one who feels this way (see my previous comment, #33, above). I hated being told that my daughters hours of daily crying for months on end "wouldn't hurt her." Her constant crying told me that she was suffering in some way, physical or otherwise - we just couldn't figure out the cause, and I was constantly written off by the pediatrician as a "new mom."

I think there's always a reason for a baby's cries - and calling it colic or purple crying or whatever is just a label, and does nothing to help find the root of the problem or cause of the child's suffering. It If my next baby (due in a few months) is as unhappy as my first, I'm going to push harder to find a cause, and not let myself be brushed off by GPs and pediatricians who simply say that "babies cry."

November 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAcia

Tamara- A basic google search is giving me, no surprise, the latest diagnosis with behavioral symptoms. I'll have to dig deeper to find a path from the actual medical condition to a behavioral one. However, logically... "colic" anything refers to the digestive system. Only when describing babies crying for no known reason is the word "colic" related to behavior. I encourage you to read the information readily available keeping that in mind. It makes a lot more sense. I believe the PURPLE campaign is a way of reducing SBS: don't get angry at yourself, sometimes babies will do this. In the heat of the moment, a better thought might be: don't get angry at yourself, you will figure it out eventually. Take a break away from the baby to regain composure before going back at it again. Sometimes I tell moms that it takes professionals even several hours or days with a baby to pinpoint what's going on. Sometimes we (the professionals) never even find out what we did to make it "better" because the baby was just worked up and there was ONE thing, in ONE way, at ONE time that worked-- trial and error gets you there.

November 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterannalisa

Hi there - Good points. There are actually quite a few experts in the infant (mental) health field who believe that there are ways to calm a crying baby in this period life. Dr Harvey Karp is one that is a very public figure, and I have met him and actually discussed the PC stance with him, he does not believe that the message is acsurate. And there are many who are private practitioners who are not public who have their private methods of helping their clients and patients. And yes, women are not meant to raise families alone, but that is the reality unfortunately today. And sometimes a woman alone cannot soothe her baby. Even with (if there is one) a partner's help. And there is a segment of the population of families today dont have much experience with babies, but have an idea of healthy family dynamics. The PC campaign is meant to help women of this population realize that it is normal for babies to sometimes cry alot (and there are stats available by sleep experts abt the amt of babies that have temperaments that create such conditions), so they don't feel so incompetent (as a few moms pointed out here, of course get the problem checked out medically) and also to prevent shaken baby syndrome. And there is a segment of population who do n know much abt babies, and who have not been exposed to healthy family dynamics in any way, there are many ppl who use the words "if I grow up" all of their lives as they live in dangerous areas. This population needs guidelines that are clear and boundaried, as they have complex needs. It w/b great if there was money and people available to create programs to go into such areas and teach infant health in these areas. There are some pgsm, and one such on is the NJ Maternal Child Health Consortia, which does get grants to work in such areas.

November 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKathy Morelli

Hi annalisa. Don't worry, as you will see from my comment no 38 I also believe that 'colic' is a biological condition. However, you described it as a "serious digestive disorder" so I was keen to get more info on what that meant.

November 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTamara in NZ

But what I'm saying is that doctors need to be educated to actually investigate the cause of crying. I'm telling you they often don't. They brush it off as PURPLE. The infant does NOT get "a clean bill of health."

If you are going to run an education campaign about crying, massive amounts of that must be towards family physicians -- about reflux.

Joyce -- thanks for that insight. Interesting.

November 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCin

Re food intolerances (and reflux mentioned by other commenters), I think this is a key issue. I know anecdotes are not data. However, almost every mum I know who had a colicky baby eventually discovered that there was a reason for it. At least a couple with silent reflux. One baby who was allergic to the egg proteins coming through in her mother's milk. It took months to get the baby seen by an allergy specialist. One baby intolerant to the dairy milk proteins his mother was eating (must be more sensitive than yours Kayris) - as soon as she dropped eating dairy he stopped crying. Every time she tests to see if he has gotten over it (have some pizza yay!) back to the crying. That baby's Dad is an asthmatic who is dairy intolerant. One baby just not getting enough milk.

Surely it must be pretty rare to find excessive crying that has no biological cause? I must say I struggle with the Ronald Barr article linked to below. "Organic disturbances are rare" page 3?? Seriously?

November 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTamara in NZ

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