By Vandita Rajesh
Along with several learning curves in parenting, one of the earliest challenges that mothers and fathers of a new baby may have to endure is the period of crying. Finding out the reason for crying, the nature of the cry, what will soothe the little one, and how to prevent the uncontrollable crying are all part of the journey.
Babies cry for several reasons such as Hunger, Needing a change of diaper, Feeling too hot or cold, Being tired, Overstimulated, Sleepy, Fear or Anxiety. Often there is some need attached to the crying, and learning that will help to reduce your stress and anxiety towards crying. Nevertheless, there are often times when you will notice that the frequency of crying or the duration of crying is longer and any amount of soothing is not working to calm your baby.
Yes, the uncontrollable crying that makes you feel helpless and seems to tell you that, “You are not doing it right,” that which lowers your self-esteem as a mother, is one of the most challenging phases with a baby. These phases of crying often happen at a specific time during the day (usually the late evening) and with certain babies the duration of crying can last for a few hours. This is known as the Period of Purple Crying.
Period of PURPLE Crying
This is a period or time during the early months when babies will cry and the soothing techniques that usually helped to calm them does not work. Often these periods of crying happen late evenings, close to bedtime. This is a very normal phenomenon in normal healthy babies. It is a phase and it will pass usually after 3-4- months.
Peak of crying.
Your baby may cry more each week, the most in month 2, then less in months 3–5.
Crying can come and go and you don't know why.
Your baby may not stop crying no matter what you try.
A crying baby may look like they are in pain, even when they are not.
Crying can last as much as 5 hours a day, or more.
Your baby may cry more in the late afternoon and evening
Parents find it particularly difficult to cope during this phase and perceive it as “colic”. Many parents worry that something is wrong and repeatedly go to the doctor with no clear understanding on what is happening. High levels of crying in the first few months is very common.
Six ways that you could try to help yourself and your baby to cope with this phase
- Pay attention to cues: Often there may be certain events that trigger the crying, and paying attention to the surrounding, reducing stimulation, and cutting out noise may help to reduce the intensity of crying.
Try the the golden S’s
- Shushing or white noise
- Swaying or swinging: Light swaying movements or rocking slowing in a swing could help to soothe your little one. Sometimes a short drive may work to change the mood.
- Sucking: This could be sucking on your breast or a pacifier to calm down , whichever works for you.
- Side hold positions (as mentioned in the magic hold, see below). These are not to be used when sleeping. Always lay your baby flat on the back.
Magic Hold: This a useful tool and often works when no other technique works. It is also referred to as the "monkey on a branch, or"tiger on a tree" hold.
- Hold your baby’s back against your front (baby faces away from your breast). Cradle one arm under the your baby’s left shoulder and the other arm between the legs.
- Lock both your arms in a cradle hold under your baby's body. So your baby can now rest on your arms. Your baby should be held snug towards you with a light pressure on the tummy.
- Hold your baby at a 45 degree angle but never completely vertical. You may place your baby horizontally to rest on your hand, just like holding a football.
- You could gently rock or sway your little one in a slow dance or simply walking around.
- Check the following resources for more information on the holding to calm your baby.
- Change the scenery: Often being in the same room or same environment may not help to cope with the crying. Try taking your baby to a different place like the balcony or the open air to feel the breeze.
- Engage help: Try to hand your baby to another caregiver like a grandparent or spouse who can hold the little one and may find another unique way to calm the baby.
- Evaluate yourself: “Am I tired or feeling exhausted”, “Am I suffering from lack of sleep”, “Am I feeling neglected and isolated”. Often the entire family’s attention shifts to the baby’s needs, and the mother may feel her needs are not valued. This can hamper the emotional health of a mom, who would otherwise be able to cope better with the baby’s crying. Communicating to the spouse or another caregiver one’s own needs and attending to it will help you to cope with the crying period.
Notes for Mothers
Sometimes whatever you have tried may not work. Take a deep breath and tell yourself, "This a phase and it will pass". Because, yes it will pass. As your baby grows in the weeks to come, the changes in development will improve the ability to cope with the environment. You and your baby will feel attuned and better equipped to handle periods of stress and anxiety in the years to come.
No matter how upset you are with the crying,” Never Shake Your Baby”. This is dangerous, as the blood vessels in the baby’s head cannot handle the effects of shaking and it can lead to permanent damage. If you are unable to handle the baby, hand the little one to someone else or keep them in a safe place like the baby bed and walk away.
For more information the Period of Purple Crying please visit
The author is a public health professional with expertise in child development, epidemiology, and behavioral science.