Why do babies cry?

April 13, 2011 Nicole Roehrig, MSN, RN

Did you know that all babies cry? Some will cry more than others, but parents and caregivers need to have a plan for what to do if the crying becomes too frustrating. On April 19th, Swedish is implementing a new program called The Period of PURPLE Crying to teach families about a normal, developmental phase of increased crying that all babies go through.

“Purple” in The Period of PURPLE Crying stands for:

Peak of crying: babies may cry more each week, peaking around 2 months, and ending around 3-5 months

Unexpected: crying can come and go, and you may not know why

Resists soothing: babies may cry no matter what you do

Pain-like face: babies may look like they’re in pain, even if they’re not

Long lasting: crying can last up to five hours a day or more

Evening: babies may cry more later in the afternoon or evening

Healthy babies can cry from 20 minutes a day to 5 hours a day, and this can be very frustrating, but the good news is that it does end! When your baby cries, check to see if they are hungry, tired, or need changing. If that doesn’t work, it is important to continue to try soothing and comforting techniques such as walking, singing, warm bath, skin to skin contact, soothing sounds, or a car ride.

These interventions may work to calm your baby some of the time, but not always which may make you feel upset or angry. These feelings are normal, but remember to take a break, put your baby in a safe place and walk away for a few minutes to calm yourself down before trying again. Never shake or hurt your baby.

Crying is the number one reason parents or caregivers shake their babies and this can happen when they become so frustrated and angry. Shaking can cause serious, lifelong problems such as seizures, blindness, learning and physical disabilities, and in severe cases even death.

Be sure to tell everyone who will care for your baby about this period of increased crying. Tell them that crying is normal and this can cause frustration. But, also tell them about the dangers of shaking a baby and that it is OK to put the baby in a safe place and take a break. Remember to ask your nurse and healthcare provider about more information at your next hospital or clinic visit.

What are your tips for coping with crying? Share your tips and experiences below.

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