What Is the Period of PURPLE Crying?

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on February 14, 2024
4 min read

PURPLE crying is a phase that many newborns go through where they cry uncontrollably. While it may seem that your baby is crying too much or is inconsolable, this is a normal thing for newborns to go through. This is a developmental stage that your baby will eventually grow out of.

PURPLE crying is a stage that some babies go through when they seem to cry for long periods of time and resist soothing. Your baby may find it hard to settle or calm down no matter what you do for them. The phrase PURPLE crying was coined by the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome. It’s an acronym that helps parents to understand why their newborns are crying so much.

PURPLE crying stands for:

  • Peak of crying. Newborns reach their peak of crying around two months old.
  • Unpredictable. Your newborn may start and stop crying for seemingly no reason.
  • Resistant to soothing. No matter what you try to do to calm your baby, they may continue crying.
  • Pained look on baby’s face. Your baby may have a pained expression, which can be worrisome to parents. However, babies going through PURPLE crying aren’t actually feeling any physical pain.
  • Long bouts of crying. Babies going through PURPLE crying go through long crying spells that can last for up to five hours or more.
  • Evening crying. Your baby will cry more in the afternoon or evening than in the earlier hours of the day.

The period of PURPLE crying is just that: a period. Even though it can be very frustrating for parents, it’s important to remember that your baby will eventually grow out of it.

When does PURPLE crying start? Newborns start going through PURPLE crying at about two weeks old. When it starts, your baby will cry and sob even though they aren’t sick or in pain. It can be a frustrating time for parents since newborns resist soothing and consolation during this period. It’s important to remember that if you can’t get your baby to calm down, it’s okay. Even though it’s tiring and can make you feel guilty as a parent, you aren’t doing anything wrong. This is just a normal stage of growth.

When does PURPLE crying end? Babies reach the peak of purple crying at around two months old. After this, the bouts of crying should start to become fewer and farther between. At around four months, your baby should be out of the period of PURPLE crying and will then cry to communicate their needs to you.

Dr. Ronald Barr, a developmental pediatrician, came up with the acronym for PURPLE crying. He wanted to communicate to parents that this is a normal phase for babies to go through and not to worry too much if their baby is crying a lot.

Crying in newborns. All newborns cry since this is the only form of communication that they know at this stage. This is called the crying curve or distress curve. It doesn’t matter what your parenting style or methods are—all babies experience the crying curve. The crying curve is a time in a baby’s life when crying peaks and then subsides, but not every baby experiences it in the same way. Some babies may go through PURPLE crying and can’t be soothed for hours on end, while others may only experience short bursts of crying.

Dr. Barr categorized crying into three groups: fussing, crying, and inconsolable crying. Babies may go through these crying stages in different ways. Maybe your baby is fussy but can be soothed. Another baby may seem calm until PURPLE crying hits, and then nothing works to calm them down.

Shaken baby syndrome. It’s important for parents and other caregivers to understand the period of PURPLE crying to prevent potential child abuse. When your baby is continually sobbing, it’s not uncommon for you to become upset, too. If you become upset with your baby, you mustn't shake them or move them aggressively, as this is extremely dangerous for newborns. Your baby’s neck muscles are weak and their brains are developing. Shaking a baby can cause their brain to move around in the skull, resulting in swelling and bleeding. This can lead to brain damage, blindness, or even death.

If you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed with your baby’s crying, set them down in a safe place and take a break. Cool down for 10 or 15 minutes to let yourself regroup. Once you’re ready to go back to your baby with a clear head, you can try some different soothing techniques to see if they help. These include:

  • Singing
  • Giving your baby a bath
  • Carrying them in a sling
  • Going for a walk in a stroller or ride in the car
  • Closeness or skin-to-skin contact
  • Rocking or walking with your baby
  • White noise

Remember that babies in the period of PURPLE crying may not be soothed by anything, so don’t worry if you’re doing the best that you can and your baby still cries. They will eventually get past this phase.