What is a baby’s Period of PURPLE Crying?

You have probably heard the name ‘colic’ being used to explain a baby’s period of persistent, inconsolable crying. If your own otherwise healthy baby has been labelled as ‘colicky’, you would have been told that it’s normal, there are no known causes, and they’ll simply grow out of it.

But, it’s heartbreaking to watch a baby cry without really understanding why or how best to help them, isn’t it? What makes it more confusing is that colic sounds like it’s a condition in which parents are then being advised to give their baby medications to treat it, which only reinforces the idea that there is something medically wrong.

Thankfully, there is another way to help parents understand this stage of their baby’s development. Dr Ronald Barr, a developmental paediatrician, who has probably done more studies on infant crying than anyone else in the world, came up with the ‘Period of PURPLE Crying’.

What is a baby’s Period of PURPLE Crying?

PURPLE is an acronym to describe the specific characteristics of an infant’s crying during this phase. It’s not named as such because a baby turns purple when they cry!

The acronym is memorable and meaningful, and the purpose of it is to reassure parents and caregivers that what they’re experiencing is normal, and that it is a phase that will pass. This is why the word ‘Period’ is significant because it reminds parents that it’s temporary and will come to an end.

The Period of PURPLE Crying begins at about 2 weeks of age, and continues until about 3-4 months of age. All babies go through this stage, some babies more so than others.

Let’s look at what the letters in PURPLE stand for:


P Peak of crying: Your baby may cry more each week, the most in month 2, then less in months 3-5.


U Unexpected: Crying can come and go, and you don’t know why.


R Resists soothing: Your baby may not stop 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 can last as much as 5 hours a day, or more.


E Evening: Your baby may cry more in the late afternoon and evening.

How do you know it’s PURPLE crying and not something else?

It’s hard to comprehend that there’s not something wrong with a baby who cries for hours a day, nothing seems to soothe them, and they can look like they’re in pain. It’s so hard to watch them like that as well. As the caregiver, you can feel so helpless and worried.

However, even with all of this crying, your baby can still be perfectly healthy and normal. To rule out any medical causes, get your maternal and child health nurse and/or your GP to check over your baby. You may also choose to see a baby chiropractor or osteopath to check for any potential issues causing them discomfort.

If your baby is gaining weight, is content at other times during the day, and you can see a pattern of when your baby starts the crying episodes, it’s more than likely that your baby is going through the developmental Period of PURPLE Crying. 

To help you cope during the Period of PURPLE Crying

Knowing that your baby is healthy, that this period is normal, and will end doesn’t necessarily help parents. It’s an exhausting, frustrating, and challenging stage, so here are some tips to help you cope:

  • Understand that some soothing techniques, like feeding, work some of the time, but not all of the time. Take each day or each crying session as it comes, and try different calming strategies such as babywearing, going for walks, a bath, try a dummy, swaddling, white noise, a massage, skin-to-skin time, or reducing stimulation.
  • Realise that you’re not failing as a parent because you can’t soothe your baby. For some of the crying periods, you won’t be able to calm your baby no matter what you try. This is the nature of this stage.
  • Crying does not always indicate pain. Babies can cry for many reasons, and if you read about the fourth trimester from your baby’s perspective, you’ll understand why they’ve got a lot to cry about.
  • If your baby has started clustering their crying episodes later in the day, otherwise known as the ‘witching hour’ (which is often a LOT longer than an hour), read our strategies to help manage this time of day.
  • Get some support if you can. If you can’t console your baby, and you’re struggling, then it’s time to get help for yourself. Hand your baby over to your partner if you have one, look into some in-home newborn support if possible, or speak to your GP. You may be eligible for counselling services under Medicare.
  • You’re not alone, mumma. We know this time is unbelievably hard. Reach out to other parents to talk about it, or ask us a question via our Facebook page. Support is critical right now.


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