Jun 24, 2019

Dr. Gellner: All new parents expect their new baby to cry, but sometimes it's shocking how much. There's something called the Period of PURPLE Crying, and I'll tell you about it on today's Scope.

Announcer: Keep your kids healthy and happy. You are now entering "The Healthy Kid Zone" with Dr. Cindy Gellner on The Scope.

Dr. Gellner: Babies can't talk, so they communicate through cooing and crying. Happy babies coo and smile. Hungry babies have a "neh" cry, and cranky babies have a "waa"; cry. I learned to distinguish these two, thanks to one of my lactation consultants I worked with in residency. But there's an increasing intensity to crying that starts about two weeks old. That's when the period of PURPLE Crying begins, and it doesn't end until about three to six months old.

A developmental pediatrician named Dr. Ronald Barr came up with that phrase. He's sort of a specialist in baby crying. He calls it a period because, like a sentence, it has a beginning and an end. The word PURPLE doesn't just refer to the color babies sometimes turn after they've been screaming their little lungs out, but it also spells out the characteristics of this crying period.

P stands for peak of crying. It starts shortly after birth, peaks around two months, and then gets better between three to five months old. U stands for unexpected. Babies can start crying at any time for any reason, and crying will come and go and you'll have no clue why. My husband says I'm sort of the same way.

R stands for resists soothing. No matter what you do, your baby may just keep crying. Yes, it makes you feel helpless, and that's one reason to recognize this because then you can understand it's not you. It's a normal baby thing, and you need to be able to take care of yourself too. Put your baby down somewhere safe, step away, and take a moment for yourself. That will help you keep your sanity.

The second P is for pain-like face. Babies may look like they're in severe pain even when they're not. Now, if your child has other symptoms, like blood in their stool or vomiting, this is not part of the period of PURPLE Crying and they may be in pain, and then you should definitely have them seen.

L stands for a long lasting. Crying can come and go and last up to five hours a day. E stands for evening. Most PURPLE Crying episodes happen late afternoon or evening.

Now, if this sounds like colic to you, you're right, but the difference is in the degree of crying. Colic is an intense crying starting from two weeks and lasting until three months of age, usually the same time of day, at least three days a week for up to three hours. It's kind of like PURPLE Crying on steroids, and as the mom of a baby who's had colic, I can totally agree. The good news is that gets better too.

If your baby cries excessively and you're not sure if it is colic or PURPLE Crying, please take your baby in to see their pediatrician right away. And remember, never ever shake a baby. If the crying is too much for you and you're not able to take it anymore, talk to your own provider to see if you're experiencing postpartum depression.

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