Just when you think you’ve got the hang of it, infant crying increases. It starts at around 2 weeks of age, peaks when the baby is 8 to 9 weeks old, and eases off around 4 or 5 months.
This phase of increased crying is a normal, developmental stage that all infants go through. It is referred to as “PURPLE Crying” and it does end.
The amount of time that infants can cry also varies. It can be as little as 20 min a day or as much as a total of 5 to 6 hours a day. This is also normal and means your baby is developing normally.
Crying, especially inconsolable crying, is the most common trigger for shaking and physical abuse, which can cause long term disabilities or death.
PURPLE crying describes the period of time when babies cry the most. Babies vary widely in the amount, length and timing of crying, but all babies will go through this period. Crying can be distressing and challenging for parents and caregivers. Crying, especially inconsolable crying, is the most common trigger for shaking and physical abuse.
The Period of PURPLE Crying® (PURPLE) is an education intervention program that is delivered to all parents/caregivers of newborns in BC. PURPLE takes a normal child development approach by helping parents and caregivers understand the frustrating features of crying in normal infants that can lead to shaking or abuse. The program has been operating in BC for over 12 years and was developed in consultation with THI-CM/SBS specialists, paediatricians/nurses, and parents/parent advocate focus groups.
The universal delivery of the PURPLE program has been associated with a 35% decrease in Traumatic Head Injury - Child Maltreatment/Shaken Baby Syndrome (THI-CM/SBS) hospitalization rates in British Columbia1. Learn more about our research on our Research page.
Your baby may cry more each week, the most in month 2, then less in months 3-5
Crying can come and go and you don't know why
Your baby may not stop crying no matter what you try
A crying baby may look like they are in pain, even when they are not
Crying can last as much as 5 hours a day, or more
Your baby may cry more in the late afternoon and evening
The program provides information on Infant crying, managing frustration, alternative soothing methods, and coping strategies for parents/caregivers and the dangers of shaking a baby, to increase knowledge, change behaviours, and reduce the incidence of THI-CM/SBS.
PURPLE crying describes the period of time when babies cry the most. 10-15% of babies are considered to be colic criers (high criers).
Colic crying is a term used to describe high levels of crying in an otherwise healthy baby. Colic crying is crying that happens for no apparent reason, lasts for more than 3 hours per day,more than ≥3 days per week, in an otherwise healthy infant under 3 months of age.
Colic crying, although normal, can be especially distressing. It can look like:
This is still normal! Crying is distressing and challenging for parents and caregivers. Not all babies will be colic/high criers, but all babies go through the Period of PURPLE Crying.
Prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome BC (PSBSBC) uses PURPLE materials to deliver educational information about normal but increased infant crying to parents and caregivers. Materials have been designed and approved by pediatricians, public health nurses, and child development experts.
Resources and education are provided to all parents/caregivers of newborn infants in BC in maternity hospitals. Your maternity nurse will talk to you about PURPLE crying and will provide an information booklet on PURPLE crying, soothing, coping strategies that will contain either;
Want to learn more about the PURPLE Crying App? Watch the instructional video.
If you delivered your baby in a maternity hospital or had a home birth in BC, you will likely have already received PURPLE education and materials. If you don’t remember or didn’t receive one, you can contact your local public health/primary care health unit or midwife.
PSBSBC developed an infographic to support second-time parents and those whose first language is not available in PURPLE materials. Development of this resource was done in consultation with maternity/public health nurses. Download the crying infographic PDF and use it as an easy reference for reminders about the key messages about PURPLE.
Being a parent or caregiver to a new infant is amazing! But it can also feel overwhelming, scary, and frustrating.
Experiencing negative emotions because of a crying infant is normal. All parents and caregivers will feel this way at some point, but it is how you manage those feelings that matters.
We have all seen beautiful images online of the well-dressed, sleeping, or smiling infant. But that is not always the reality!
We know that our baby will cry, but believe that we will be able to soothe them when the time comes. What often happens, though, is that soothing only works some of the time, not all of the time. Sometimes your baby will cry and cry and cry and there is nothing you can do. Sometimes your baby can’t stop crying, but it does not mean that they are a “bad” baby, nor does it mean you are a “bad” parent.
You may have any or all of these negative feelings: fear, anxiety, helplessness, frustration, anger, and stress. These feelings are normal.
Knowing and practicing ways to calm yourself will help you through the challenging times now and in the future.
When a baby is fussy and won’t stop crying, you may need to take a break. This is normal. If you can, call someone you can trust to come over to watch your baby while you go for a walk, take a nap, or run an errand. If someone else is not available, it is perfectly OK to put your baby down in a safe place (crib, bassinet etc.) and walk away and take a break in another room for a few minutes.
This encourages caregivers to increase contact with their infant, reduce some of the fussing and attend to their infant’s needs.
The infant may be put in a safe place so that the caregiver can take a few minutes to calm down and then go back and check on the infant again.
There is never a circumstance when it is okay to shake or hurt an infant, no matter how much they’re crying.
Drink plenty of fluids and eat a healthy, balanced diet
Try to eat a variety of whole foods, such as vegetables and fruits (including dark green and orange vegetables), whole grains (like oats, wild rice, whole wheat pasta), and protein-rich food (eggs, nuts and seeds, fish and shellfish, beans, peas, and lentils, lean red meats, including wild game and lower fat dairy products such as milk and yoghurt, fortified soy beverages, tofu, soybeans, and other soy products).
Learn more about nutrition during the postpartum period in Canada’s Food Guide.
It’s important to care for yourself as well as your infant. Engaging in physical activity is a great way to care for your body and your mind. Taking the baby for a walk outside is a great way to get started. Many community centres and studios offer postpartum and baby-friendly fitness classes.
Learn more about physical activity after baby:
Poor sleep quality in both mothers and infants during the postpartum period has been associated with feelings of depression.1 It may be challenging when juggling competing priorities such as caring for your baby, social life, and housework, but try to rest or sleep when your infant sleeps.
For tips on sleep, visit HealthLinkBC.
It might feel impossible, but it is important to make time for yourself. Take breaks for yourself when you can. Do something you enjoy, such as reading, walking, crafting, cooking, or practicing mindfulness techniques. You can do this when baby is sleeping or if you have a trusted person you can ask for help (e.g., partner, family, friends). Not everyone has people readily available to support them. The Nurse-Family Partnership is a free public health program for BC women under 24-years-old who are having their first baby. The program ensures that mom and baby receive support during pregnancy and up to two years of age.
Visit HealthLinkBC for more information on the Nurse-Family Partnership.
All of the soothing techniques can be done when a baby is not yet crying and a great way to bond with your baby.
A lot of times when a baby is crying, it can mean they are hungry, tired, or wet. Breastfeeding, if you are able to, is a good way to feed and bond with your baby. If you have tried to feed your baby, settle them down for a nap, or changed their diaper, and they are still fussy, there are other soothing activities you can try:
This occurs when a sound, sight, or touch is repeated in a rhythmic pattern, similar to when a caregiver exaggerates certain parts of a sentence when speaking to a baby
Going for a walk with your baby in a stroller or carrier, going for a drive, or even swaying gently while holding them can be comforting
Involving Many Sensations
Human Sights, Sounds and Smells
Human interaction is important to human babies. Studies have confirmed that a human voice (compared to non-human sounds) and human figures (compared to objects) are soothing to babies
If you have tried everything you can but your baby continues to cry, and you feel yourself getting frustrated, the best thing you can do is to put the baby down in a safe place and walk away to take a break. Take a few minutes to calm yourself and take a break before you check on your baby.
The safest place for an infant while you take a break is on their back in a Health Canada approved crib or bassinet. Alternative safe sleep environments include baskets/bassinets, drawers, wash tubs, and boxes.
There are a number of things you can do to ensure your baby and you get a good quality night sleep and stay safe while doing so. The following can reduce the risk of sudden and unexpected sleep-related death.
Other examples of other safe sleep surfaces include: a basket, drawer on floor, washtub, box, or carton. More information can be found on Health Canada’s website.
Download our safer sleep tips below as a quick reference for creating a safe sleep environment for infants.
Definition of Bedsharing: bedsharing happens when a baby shares the same sleep surface as a parent or caregiver.
It is normal for babies to feed often during the night. As a result, some parents find themselves bedsharing for easy access or for personal and cultural reasons. If you are thinking about sharing a bed with your baby, there are some things you can do to make it a safe sleep environment.
The safest place for your baby to sleep for the first 6 months is on their own safe sleep surface in your room.
Your health care provider can help you develop a safer sleep plan for your baby.
For more information on Safer Sleep strategies, check out this resource from Healthlink BC