Recognizing the Period of PURPLE Crying

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November 1, 2018

Newborns going home from LHSC throughout the month of November will once again be sporting handmade purple hats, in recognition of the Period of PURPLE Crying – the time in a baby’s life where they cry for hours, often inconsolably.

The word PURPLE is an acronym which reminds parents in an easy to remember way all of the characteristics of normal infant crying.  The letters in PURPLE stand for:

  • Peak of crying – The baby may cry more each week, peaking at two months, and then less at three to five months.
  • Unexpected – The crying can come and go, with no explanation.
  • Resists soothing – The baby might not stop crying no matter what you try.
  • Pain-like face – It may look like the baby is in pain, even when they are not.
  • Long lasting – The baby might cry 5 hours per day or more.
  • Evening – The baby might cry more in the late afternoon or evening.

“It can be very unsettling to new parents when their child is crying for hours on end for no understandable reason,” said LHSC Injury Prevention Specialist Jennifer Lindsay. “Each new family leaving the hospital receives an information package about the Period of PURPLE Crying, helping them recognize the signs, and understand that it’s entirely natural and – importantly - temporary.”

Through generous support from the Children’s Health Foundation, in 2009, Children’s Hospital was the first hospital in Ontario to adopt the Shaken Baby Syndrome education program in their Mother Baby Care Unit and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. The program is delivered by nurses to each mother/family, and the education includes a take-home booklet and DVD or app code, focusing on positive messages and strategies on coping with infant crying.

LHSC began recognizing the November awareness month with a knitting campaign, asking people to consider knitting tiny purple hats for newborns. There was an overwhelming response to that campaign – so overwhelming, in fact, that the hospital has enough hats to last a decade or more!

“We certainly could never have expected that we would have the response we did to our request for donations,” said Lindsay. “The hats we received were beautiful and our families have just loved receiving them as a keepsake of their time in hospital. Since we have so many hats still in stock, we’re encouraging our knitting friends to consider making items for their local shelters, or agencies that support children and families so that others can benefit from their talent and generosity.”  

Continued Lindsay, “the awareness raised about PURPLE crying is so important for helping parents and caregivers understand that they’re not alone, and that their baby’s crying is something that is entirely normal. The crying can be frustrating, so it’s important that parents have strategies in place to help. If you need a break from the crying, put your baby in a safe place and take a few minutes to yourself before going back to check on the baby. Taking that few minutes can make a world of difference.”