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Being a new parent can be overwhelming and dealing with a crying baby can be stressful. It’s important to understand that these feelings are normal.
crying, newborn, PURPLE crying
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The truth about newborn crying

By Stefanie Rogers, M.D., medical director, Providence St. Vincent Medical Center Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

My baby cries for several hours each day. It’s more than I expected. I can’t seem to get the crying to stop. This is so much harder than I thought. Am I a bad parent?

These are things I hear from parents. Being a new parent can be overwhelming and dealing with a crying baby can be stressful. It’s important to understand that these feelings are normal. More important is how parents and caregivers handle these feelings; crying is the number one reason babies are shaken and injured.

What to expect

Healthy babies can cry a lot in their first five months of life. Their crying may intensify and you may not be able to stop it. This period of time is called the period of PURPLE crying and is completely normal.

PURPLE stands for:

  • Peak of crying: Your baby may start to cry more each week, intensifying in month two and decreasing in months 3-5.
  • Unexpected: Your baby may cry off and on and you won’t always know why.
  • Resists soothing: Sometimes, your baby’s crying may be inconsolable – no matter what you try.
  • Pain-like face: Your baby may look like they are in pain even when they are not.
  • Long lasting: Some babies may cry for up to five hours a day or more.
  • Evening: Some babies cry more in the late afternoon and evening.

Tips for soothing a crying baby

Remember that crying is completely normal and it’s not your fault. Try the following tips to comfort your baby:

  • Check to see if your baby has a wet or soiled diaper
  • Feed your baby
  • Hold, walk, talk or sing to your baby
  • Go for a walk or drive
  • Give your baby a warm bath
  • Try skin-to-skin contact with your baby

While crying may last for hours, remember that it will pass. Sometimes you will be able to stop the crying, but not always. If you need to take a break, place your baby in a safe place and walk away. Whatever you do, never shake a baby.

When to call your doctor

If you are worried, check with your doctor. Call your doctor if your baby has other symptoms with the crying (a temperature of > 100.4, projectile vomiting or abnormal movements could indicate a more serious problem).

How you can help raise awareness for shaken baby syndrome

All parents who have their baby at an Oregon Providence hospital receive education about the period of PURPLE crying and ways to comfort a crying baby.

To support this effort, the public is invited to help make purple caps for babies. The donated caps will go home with parents at the birth of their baby during the month of November to raise awareness for shaken baby syndrome prevention.

If you live in the Portland area, your purple baby cap can be dropped off at several locations, including:

  • Providence St. Vincent Medical Center - The information desk at the main entrance.
  • The Knitting Bee (10934 SW Barnes Rd., Portland) - This location also offers a discount if you mention the materials you’re purchasing are for purple caps.

To get more information about donating purple caps, visit providenceoregon.org/purple.

If you’re concerned about your baby’s crying, be sure to talk to your child’s provider.  You can find a Providence provider in your area.

About Dr. Rogers

Stefanie Rogers, M.D., is the NICU medical director at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center. She helped lead an Oregon initiative for Providence Health & Services to become part of a collaborative effort with other health systems to raise awareness for the period of PURPLE crying and prevent shaken baby syndrome.

Being a new parent can be overwhelming and dealing with a crying baby can be stressful. It’s important to understand that these feelings are normal.

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