Bringing home a new baby is a joyous and exciting time for parents, but when that little bundle of joy won’t stop crying those same parents often find themselves sleep deprived, frustrated and wondering what is wrong with their child.
“There is actually a normal time in a baby’s life when they cry much more than any other time,” said Patty Hallam, prevention services program consultant for early childhood development.
“It begins around two weeks of age and continues to around three to four months. Some babies cry more than others but most babies go through it.”
This common stage of infant development has a name—The Period of PURPLE Crying.
The acronym PURPLE is used to describe what parents can expect at this stage:
Peak of crying—the crying peaks at around two months of age and then begins to decrease gradually.
Unexpected—crying can come and go and you don’t know why.
Resists soothing—a baby may not stop crying no matter what you try.
Pain-like face—babies may look like they are in pain even when they are not.
Long lasting—crying can last as much as five hours a day or more.
Evening—crying is more common in the late afternoon or evening.
This stage can be very challenging for parents who don’t understand why their baby won’t stop crying.
Shaken baby syndrome is closely linked to the period of PURPLE crying; it’s a serious and potentially life threatening condition resulting from the brain bouncing back and forth against the skull when a child is shaken.
“There have been incidents where frustrated parents shake their child in an effort to get them to stop crying,” said Hallam.
“It is important to know that this is a very dangerous practice and permanent damage to the baby can occur from as little as five seconds of shaking.”
Maternity and public health nurses within Interior Health, through their involvement with the province-wide Period of PURPLE Crying Prevention Program, have made it their mission to make sure parents and caregivers know the period of PURPLE crying is normal and there are things they can do to cope.
When a baby is born Interior Health maternity nurses and/or midwives provide parents with a DVD that explains this phase.
Public health nurses follow up once parents are home with their newborn to reinforce the message, make sure parents have viewed the DVD and answer any questions they may have.
Their work, and the work of nurses province-wide, is making a difference in eliminating shaken baby syndrome.
In 2010, interim evaluation results from the provincial Period of PURPLE Crying Prevention Program show a 31 per cent reduction in visits to B.C. Children’s Hospital Emergency Room for crying complaints involving infants up to six months of age.
“Knowing PUPRLE crying is a normal stage that will pass can make things a bit easier, said Hallam.
“It also helps to know what you can do in the moment to cope with your emotions and keep your baby safe.”
Hallam stresses it is important for parents to make sure they take a break.
She offers the following suggestions:
• If you have a partner, tag team with them and take turns looking after the child.
• Call on a trusted friend or relative to come and care for baby while you take some time for yourself.
• Place the baby in a safe place, such as their crib, and leave the room for a few moments.
Parents and caregivers can find more information at the website www.purplecrying.info.