A Little More Wisdom

Did you know: newborns cry on average for two hours a day and then after six weeks, it goes up to three hours a day.

A Crying Baby is a Normal Baby

Written by Cathy Hale on October 12th, 2018

It goes without saying: crying is your baby’s number one form of communication. Babies cry. Everyone knows that. But when you’re a mom programmed to keep your baby happy and content, crying can unravel your nerves and your sanity. New moms worry baby is in pain or sad or something is wrong. That’s typically not why your baby cries.

First of all, rest assured your response to your baby’s cries is totally normal. It’s in your DNA as science has proven. Your brain is programmed with a hormone called oxytocin and its job is to help you stay keenly aware of your infant. Think of it as a survival mechanism.

Oxytocin is working overtime when it comes to motherhood for things like pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and social bonding. When your baby cries, the oxytocin makes you especially sensitive to those cries. In nature, that ensures babies are heard and cared for when they need something.

Now that we understand your physiological reaction to crying, let’s take a look at how you can better understand your baby’s cries.

There’s an interesting theory that could be more helpful than simply referring to bouts of crying as colic. This is called the PURPLE period of crying. It’s an acronym for the following:

    P = Peak of crying

    U = Unexpected

    R = Resists soothing

    P = Pain-like face

    L = Long lasting

    E = Evening

As a mother myself, I found the concept of the PURPLE period of crying fascinating. If you’ve ever wished your baby came with instructions, this is about as close to fulfilling that wish as you can get.

The idea is that crying indicates your baby is going through normal stages of development.

While every baby is different, they tend to share similar characteristics as it relates to crying. If you can observe and react to crying without being alarmed by it, it’s easier to meet your baby’s ever-changing needs.

Recognizing patterns of crying

Yes, infants cry, but most of us are shocked by how much crying actually occurs in a day. And each day it can get worse! The PURPLE period of crying is reassuring because it identifies a predictable pattern of crying that has a definite end. Crying is divided into categories like fussing, crying and inconsolable crying. Inconsolable crying is also known as colic. Each type of crying you experience with your baby sheds light on where they are developmentally and what you can do to soothe them.

It may sound odd, but looking at a chart where you can see you have a 2-month-old “high crier” is helpful. If you’re sleep deprived and haven’t changed out of your pajamas in days, it might not be crystal clear, but it’s still comforting. The good news is if you know the crying gets worse before it gets better, that makes it more manageable.

Debunking sleeping through the night myths

The theory breaks down infant sleep patterns and baby’s sleeping behaviors as they grow. It debunks some of the “sleeping through the night” myths that can be very troubling for new moms. For example, infant crying tends to peak at 4-6 weeks, occurring in the late afternoon or evening.

Conversely, infants who have problems sleeping tend to start waking up during the night at 3 months, instead of sleeping for longer periods of time. Then there are babies who keep waking up during the night, while other babies the same age have stopped. The PURPLE period of crying refers to these babies as night-time ‘signalers’ and offers insight as to potential causes for this behavior.  

Just keep loving your baby

At the end of the day, life with a baby involves crying. Even if it’s predictable or explainable, that doesn’t make it go away. Your healthy baby wants to communicate with you and until she’s bigger, this is her way of having a conversation, even if it’s one-sided. The best thing you can do is soothe, protect and love her through the tears and the long nights. The crying may seem like it will never end, but it will.

Have you read an interesting theory or article about crying that helped you stay positive? If so, let us know in the comments section on our Facebook page.