How to cope with a crying baby

The understanding and helpful tips you need to help you through

How to cope with a crying baby

Crying is your baby's way of telling you they need something, but what if you've tried everything and they still continue to cry? We explain the period of PURPLE crying that all babies go through

How to cope with a crying baby

Soothing your baby when they cry is a natural instinct for mums, but it's not always a straightforward task. If you have tried feeding, winding, changing your little one's nappy and trying to settle them to sleep but they are still crying, what's next?

We explain the period of PURPLE crying to help you understand why your baby may continue crying and what you can do to help.

What is PURPLE crying?

The period of PURPLE crying is a new concept from experts to help parents understand this stage in their baby's life. PURPLE is an acronym that is a memorable way to describe what parents and their babies are going through.

What does PURPLE stand for?

Peak of crying. Your baby may cry more each week, most at 2 months old, then less at between three months and five months.
Unexpected crying. It can start and stop and you don't understand why.
Resists soothing. No matter what you try, sometimes your baby just continues crying.
Pain-like face. Your baby may appear to be in pain, but it's unlikely that they are.
Long-lasting periods of crying. It can last for several hours a day.
Evening. Your baby tends to cry more in the late afternoon and evening.

At what stage does PURPLE crying occur?

The Period of PURPLE Crying begins at about 2 weeks old and continues until about 3-4 months of age.

What the experts say about the period of PURPLE crying

Dr. Ronald Barr, a developmental pediatrician who has studied infant crying came up with the phrase the Period of PURPLE Crying. The idea was to explain this phase to parents of new babies so they would know it was normal and they would be encouraged that it would come to an end. He maintains that all babies go through this period. It is during this time that some babies can cry a lot and some far less, but they all go through it and it does end as your baby heads towards 6 months old.

Ways to help you cope with the period of PURPLE crying

Share the load

Make sure you don't try and cope on your own, share the responsibility with your partner or family members and take turns to try and comfort your little one. Remember, you are in this together, try not to take it out on each other and work together as a team. An already unsettled baby will sense the tension, and may unsettle them further.                

Alternatively, take a well-earned break and rope in eager to help family members and close friends to take over for an hour. If you’re not confident about totally walking away, take solace upstairs while your baby and friends are downstairs.

Get outside

The thought of staying at home in your PJs and watching TV in between your baby’s crying episodes may seem like a good option, but getting out and about may help calm your little one down. Rocking or pushing your baby in a pram can sometimes help with soothing, or if they want to be close to you invest in a sling, which is also great for carrying your little one around the house when you need to get things done.

It’s just noise…White noise

Some mums swear certain music genres calm their babies down. Experts also believe that certain sounds go some way to helping calm a baby down. This includes anything from ‘white noise’ to the sound of the vacuum cleaner.

There are a range of apps which offer such noises so download them onto your mobile or tablet on loudspeaker. Teddies echoing the sound of the placenta or heartbeat are also available to make your baby feel as though they are back in your womb.

Run a bath

Baths are great way to relax so use this as a time to settle both yourself and your baby. Dim the lights and sit behind your little one so their back is on your tummy. Gently massage your baby’s belly and toes to try and relax them. 

What if my baby has colic?

Colic is a condition rather than an illness and the actual cause is unproven. It's characterised by babies crying uncontrollably when they're otherwise healthy.

You may find that if your little one has colic they’ll display the symptoms – a red flushed face, clenched fists, drawing their knees to their tummy and arching their back – usually in the late afternoon or evening.

However, it’s a really common condition and can affect up to one in five babies, starting within the first few weeks of your little one’s life. The good news is that it will usually stop by the time they hit the four to six month stage and this period of their life won’t affect them in the future. 

Crying out for help?

It’s not uncommon to feel like you are struggling if you have a baby that cries all the time. There is support out there; ask your health visitor if there is any local support for parents of crying babies. Some areas also run a telephone helpline, while forums are also a great place to speak to mums in the same boat.

CRY-SIS is an organisation, which offers support through a helpline 0800 448 0737. Here you can talk to mums who have had crying babies themselves, and know just what you’re going through. 

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