“This baby just won’t stop crying! I have tried everything to no avail – fed, burped, changed, cuddled, swaddled, rocked. Nothing works. It must be me! The baby must hate me. Why won’t he/she just stop crying!?” – almost every parent ever.
If there is a code among babies, it is crying. All healthy babies cry. Some cry only when they have a need – a dirty diaper, hunger, cold or hot, tired, sick or just needs to be cuddled. Some cry a lot for seemingly no reason at all through all hours of the day and night.
All the crying can leave tired, stressed parents in a very frustrating place. Having knowledge about what normal crying is and a plan on how to respond can help. It is also important to understand the dangers that come with shaking a baby and why you should never shake your baby.
Shaken Baby Syndrome is a large contributor to young children dying from child abuse.
It only takes a few seconds of shaking to permanently damage a fragile baby’s brain. It is estimated that 1,000 to 3,000 children are victims of Shaken Baby Syndrome each year in the United States. One-fourth of victims die and 80 percent of the survivors are left with permanent damage. Of all child abuse fatalities, 81 percent are children under 4 and 46.5 percent are children under 1.
Simply knowing how and when your baby cries can help you remain calm and safely care for your crying child. The “Period of PURPLE Crying” is an acronym that has been developed to help parents understand that this is just a period, or phase. It begins at about two weeks of age and can last until three to four months old.
P – Peak of Crying – Your baby may cry more each week, the most in month 2 and then less in month 3-5.
U – Unexpected – Crying can come and go and you don’t know why.
R – Resists Soothing – Your baby may not strop crying no matter what you try.
P – Pain-like Face – A crying baby may look like they are in pain even when they are not.
L – Long Lasting – Crying may last as long as 5 hours a day or more.
E – Evening – Your baby may cry in the late afternoon and evening.
It may sound easy to simply never shake your baby. But as a frazzled, exhausted caregiver, frustrated reactions can happen quickly. Here are a few tips to help you comfort your crying baby:
- Be sure all basic needs are met – hunger, diaper, burp, gas, sleepy, holding, sick or temperature.
- Soothe your baby with rhythmic motion or sound like rocking and shushing.
- Try a warm bath, skin-to-skin contact or a gentle baby massage.
- Stay calm. Babies can sense your frustration, tension and anxiety and often respond to it.
- Before you get angry, upset or frustrated, it is ok to safely lay your baby in the crib and walk to a room nearby for a few minutes. This may prevent you from losing control and shaking your baby.
During the Period of PURPLE Crying, try to take care of yourself. Be proactive during pregnancy to develop a support system of friends or family. You will need people to rely on to help give you a break when needed. Calling a trusted friend or family member to give you a short break can save your sanity, possibly soothe your baby and keep everyone safe.