Crying jags: normal part of baby’s development
Valley View Hospital
Every baby is different, as any parent with more than one child can attest. What’s fairly ubiquitous, however, is that at some stage in an infant’s development, they’ll enter a phase in which they’re fussy, if not downright inconsolable. Few things cause more worry to a parent or caregiver than a baby who cries frequently, especially when there’s no apparent reason for it.
Pediatric experts now have an acronym for this phase of infant behavior, as a way of educating and reassuring distressed parents that crying jags are a normal part of their baby’s developmental growth. Known as the Period of PURPLE Crying, this period lasts from two weeks of age, through months three to five. Developmental pediatrician Dr. Ronald Barr coined the term PURPLE, to explain the distinctive traits infants display during this time. The use of the word “period” is to signify that this is, indeed, a temporary phenomenon, and it will pass.
According to Barr, PURPLE stands for:
Peak of Crying: Your baby may cry more each week, the most in month two, then less in months three-five.
Unexpected: Crying can come and go and you don’t know why.
Resists soothing: Your baby may not stop crying no matter what you try.
Pain-like face: A crying baby may look like he or she is in pain, even if that’s not the case.
Long-lasting: Crying can last as long as five hours a day, even more.
Evening: Your baby may cry more in the late afternoon or evening.
Previously attributed to “colic” – a term that is now subject to debate within the pediatric community, as the causes of infant crying are many and varied, even when definitively linked to gastrointestinal upset – the Period of PURPLE Crying is distinguishable because it has no actual cause.
“It’s a normal developmental phase, and doesn’t require medications as treatment,” said Mic Zywiec, manager of Women’s Services at Valley View Hospital. “Our goal is to let parents know that they’re not doing anything wrong, nor are they alone, and that this is a phase that will pass.”
According to the PURPLE website, “Scientists decided to look at different animal species to see if they go through this developmental stage. So far, all breast-feeding animals tested do have a similar developmental stage of crying more in the first months of life as human babies do.”
Most frustrating and worrisome to parents is that infants in the midst of this emotional phase appear to resist soothing. Regardless of attempts at consolation by rocking, holding, walking, singing, back-rubbing, or other methods, babies experiencing the PURPLE Period can’t be calmed. While stressful for parents, it’s important to know that this is normal and temporary, according to Zywiec.
As for how to get through this phase of your baby’s early life, PURPLE advocates advise remaining calm.
“We send all families home from Valley View with a copy of a short video from PURPLE Crying and ask them to watch it here prior to discharge,” said Zywiec. “Babies pick up on the parents’ emotional and/or physical distress, which will only escalate the cycle. We advise new parents to soothe their child as they normally would. By staying as relaxed as possible, you’ll help your baby to feel secure and comforted.
“We understand how stressful and frustrating it can be for parents when they have a seemingly inconsolable infant,” said Zywiec. “While it’s important to rule out an existing condition, once you’ve established that your child is healthy, find ways to cope, such as taking your baby outside, which will lessen the intensity of the crying, if only by virtue of having more space, or take a short break after you’ve secured your baby on his or her back in in their crib, or sitting up in a bassinet.”
For more information, visit http://www.purplecrying.info.
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