My Baby Won’t Stop Crying

Purple crying is no joke but many babies go through it.

I got an email from a very kind woman asking me to write a post on Shaken Baby Syndrome and I thought it was a great idea.

Not that Shaken Baby Syndrome really needs awareness, I mean, we all know you shouldn’t shake babies, but what I did want to raise awareness about is that you may want to shake your baby. Oh man, you may really want to shake your baby.

I remember before I had my first son, I would see some news headline about some woman that had shaken her newborn and think, “How can you do that? How can you shake that helpless little baby? What a monster”. Then I had my son and then I was all, “Oh yeah, I totally see how this happens.”

First you hear their little cry at around 4pm and the hairs on the back or your neck stand up and you think, “Shit. It begins.” you go in and you pick them up. “There, there.” You feed them. Change them. Burp them. Rock them. Drive them around the block. Sing lullabies at the top of your lungs. Plead. Cry. And nothing, NOTHING makes it stop. “Hush, hush little one” quickly turns into “What the hell do you need from me?!?!?!? For the love of Christ, STOP CRYING!!!!”.

Well, it turns out that babies have a Period of Purple Crying (I guess Period of Incessant Fucking Crying was already taken). Have you heard of this? No, me neither and that’s why I’m writing this because I think I would have had a better time of it had I known that this crying is a normal part of a baby’s life and not something that needed fixing.

Turns out this period of sustained crying can happen when a baby is between 2 weeks to 3-4 months and is often mistaken as colic when, in fact, it’s just a normal, yet brain numbing, part of a baby’s development. Not surprisingly, it is also the most common time for a baby to be shaken and that shit isn’t pretty and none of us wants to go there.

So, a Period of Purple Crying campaign has been launched to create awareness about this *trying* time.

They’ve created a website to fill you in on the details and have also started a Click for Babies knitting campaign to recruit knitters and crocheters across North America to make  purple baby caps which will be distributed to parents, along with information on the  Period of Purple Crying. (I suppose purple earplugs are a choking hazard.)

Now, you may be reading this in terror thinking, “Oh great, now I have this horror to look forward to”, but this isn’t meant to frighten you, like my breastfeeding or after birth post, I’m never a fan of hiding the ugly to shelter unsuspecting parents of what *could* happen because if it *does* happen, you don’t feel prepared and you feel like you are the only one this is happening to. I have yet to meet a parent that didn’t have a witching hour in their house so you are not alone.

Obviously, you want to rule out anything physically wrong with your baby in the 8 billion doctors appointments you have when they are a newborn. My friend’s baby didn’t stop crying for a 48 hour period until they figured out that one of her hairs had wrapped around the baby’s toe and was cutting off circulation causing toe tourniquet syndrome. (Yep, someone named it so you can label your guilt). Acid reflux and cranky bellies are also something to look into. But once you know that you’re dealing with a healthy kid, here are my handy tips for making it through this tricky time:

• Put the baby down in a safe place and go pee. Everything seems better when you’re sitting on the toilet.

• Get an Mp3 player and listen to music. Even if you can still hear the baby it drowns out that upper octave that only a 2-month old and Mariah Carey can hit.

• Get earplugs. Again, just enough to take off the edge.

• Try to sing Led Zepplin’s Immigrant Song so it sounds like your baby is taking the “AHhhaahhhhaaa” part.

• Bounce on an exercise ball and watch tv while your baby is strapped to your chest in a carrier. You may as well whittle your ass off while you lose your mind.

• Find one of those little old ladies that stop you in the mall and tell you that these are the best days of your life and give them the screaming baby. Fun fun, Motherfucker.

• Find a slightly deaf relative to just hold the baby while you sit outside and cry.

• Write a nasty email to your spouse (or Gwyneth Paltrow) telling them how much you hate them and how you want to smother them in their sleep. Then don’t send it. No point in burning that bridge.

• Go for a walk with the baby strapped to you somewhere noisy. Babies love it when they are steeped in chaos and your exhaustion. An outdoor market, a busy street, or a college bar should do the trick – you get the gist.

• Do the “Aum” sound that Buddhist Monks do repeatedly while holding your baby on your chest. My Father-in-Law has perfected this sound and put every baby he held out like a light. He seriously should be rented out to new parents.

• Tell your baby your worst secrets ever. Who the hell are they going to tell?

• Draw a moustache with eyeliner on your baby’s upper lip so they look like an angry dandy while they cry.

• Cry right along with them and see who can outlast the other like a Boo Hoo showdown.

• Vacuum. You may as well have a clean house to show for your insanity.

• Have a shower and blow dry your hair. Be fancy and oblivious to the screams like Celine Dion!

• Dress your baby up in a Halloween costume. I shit you not that I did this and it’s pretty hard to get frustrated with a screaming skunk.

Hey, it’s all worth a shot and the idea is to wait them out without drop kicking them off the front lawn.

I remember one dark night when I took my oldest son out for a walk during his witching hour.

It was the middle of February, it was wet and cold and I looked like someone that would have been cast as an old whore coming off a three-week drinking bender in a medieval period piece. My coat was open with him snuggly strapped to my chest and I was just shuffling down a busy street in the seedy neighbourhood we used to live in.

Two homeless guys were sitting in a doorway watching me walk by. They were already pretty drunk so I just kind of ignored them as I shuffled past. The one guy lit a half cigarette he had picked up off the ground and said, “Hey lady, how old is your baby?” I stopped and said, “5 weeks old.” He just shook his head and said, “Man, that’s rough”. And as I stood there looking at this piss soaked drunk guy I said, “Yes! Thank you! It is rough.” Then shuffled off a little happier as they went back to drinking some type of industrial solvent.

He totally got it. It’s rough. Almost every parent goes through it so don’t let it get you down. Drink, cry, scream, and tell telemarketers to go fuck themselves, but whatever you do, don’t shake the damn baby.

Check out The Period of PURPLE Crying for more information about this time in a baby’s life and Clicks for Babies if you, or someone you know, knits or crochets and wants to help spread the word.

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  • We had to meet with a nurse for 30 minutes on the Period of Purple Crying before we were allowed to leave the hospital with our newborn last summer. Good information!

  • I almost peed myself when it got to the drunk homeless guy part. thank you for some humorous perspective. our son has recently started punching me when he cries, so I really needed to read this! ?

  • This is us right now. 3 weeks old and if he is not asleep he is screaming. It is so tough as we aren’t really even able to connect with the little man yet. Thought that this could continue for a further 3 months is brutal and will certainly question our sanity. Brilliant article though thank you 🙂

  • This is fantastic!! When my first little girl arrived we had to watch a video called ‘Period of purple crying’ before leaving the hospital and my husband and I still have times where we are at our end and just said ‘it’s purple time’ and laugh.

  • Perfect timing. It seems our daughter has just started this phase. She just turned three months so maybe this will be short lived. Thanks for answering my pleas of "why are you suddenly doing this?!"

  • Wow. I loved reading this so much. Thank you for bringing laughter to the hardest time in my life. My baby is 6 weeks old and I fear the crying has just begun.

  • Fucking bless you. We’re going through this now and honest to goodness I’m not sure my sanity or marriage is going to survive. Knowing we are not alone and it’s mostly normal really helps.

  • I’m a work from home dad and your post changed my day (4 month old daughter). My wife is in the restaurant biz and she leaves at 2pm, back around 12-2am. The evening time is cray cray and so am I. I will do all the things you suggest.

  • We went through the unstoppable crying for over 4 hours every night. DD had to be walked nonstop in a sling/carrier through the night. Imaging the exahstion and frustration we felt. The doctor said it was normal and it would go away after three month. But at two months, I decided to change to the special formula for colic babies and her crying stopped immediately! I regret to this day to have listened to the experts telling me the nonstop crying babies are normal. The babies need help and they are helpless. Try the colic formula. Walk them in an upright position in a carrier.

    • Oh, that must have been awful!

      I totally agree, non-stop crying is not normal. Purple crying is more of a witching hour that comes then goes. It is a fine line though because it’s hard to tell what is ‘something is wrong’ crying and ‘just normal’ crying. I’m glad you figured it out!

  • This made me happy, my four week old is currently passed out my chest after having cried for 2 hours, I crIed right along with her. Finding humor in these really shitty periods makes it easier!

  • Oh dear God, you don’t know me but you are my new best friend! I needed this sooo much tonight. My 5 wk old has been hitting this purple crying pretty hard and your suggestions are spot on 🙂

  • You have saved me today. I have been crying for the last two hours, along with my almost 4 month old baby daughter. This made me laugh. I feel better thank you so much!!!

  • You wrote all the things I was thinking but had no one to tell because they just wouldn’t understand. I am reading this as my 5 week old screams himself into oblivion, and I’m seriously contemplating drawing a mustache on him, just to keep me from ripping out my hair. Thank you for your post!

  • Omg!!! Yes!!!! I’m going through this right now. My baby is 6 weeks old and has been crazy style crying for no reason since 2weeks old. I’ve done everything!!!! Nothing will settle her!!!

  • Totally loving this. Going to bookmark this and pass this on!

    Thanks for making me laugh till I cry. It was a rough day with our daughter and this made me feel so much better. Will try the moustache thing and write a hate mail to husband or that actress that showed up sometimes on Glee when it happens again.

  • My baby had Purple crying. It sucked. But that’s not why I’m commenting.

    I did not know that song’s name, and I had no idea it was Led Zeppelin. But when I saw your onomatopoeia for it, I thought, "That’s totally the song Snow White sings in Shrek 3."

    Well done. You should get some sort of onomatopoeic award.

  • When my child was going through this period – her incessant crying and my need to keep searching for that "Answer" was what got me to try Elimination Communication. The minute I started this, all the "mystery crying" stopped. Turns out that my little one absolutely detested soiling herself so she was holding it. This led to a lot of discomfort to say the least. It also explains why she’d all of a sudden explode with poo and pee at diaper changes – she was actually holding it and would release when I took off the diaper so as to not soil herself. Once I started offering for her to go in the potty, all that crying stopped and I now offer it regularly. At 4 weeks old, she was using the potty 99% of the time and would have maybe 1 or 2 dirty diapers per 24 hours. To people hearing of this for the first time, it sounds incredulous. But if your baby is miserable like mine was – please look into it. It helped my baby 100%. Before it, I thought colicky baby, high-needs baby, or now this "purple crying" – but it’s not. There actually is a very basic survival need that babies are asking for.

  • Oh My Goodness, ‘all that this is describing here’ —>the symptoms ~~the time of day, the never-stopping crying, the ‘no reason’ for crying etc.etc, etc. ~~~this is COLIC!!! Describes it perfectly! My child had this 24 yrs. ago….’classic symptoms of colic’….never mind calling it ‘Purple Crying’. My friend’s children had this -some of them, ~its Colic –an undeveloped digestive system!

  • Funniest thing I have read in a long time… and honestly, quite practical. Thank you for making a tough situation a little less daunting.

  • I am a labor nurse, childbirth educator, participant in the Period of Purple Crying program, and mother. I have never read a truer, more concise, and screaming hilarious article on the subject. The vast majority of us will never shake our babies, but understanding how many of us will want to helps take a lot of the guilt away. You are not bad parents, you don’t have a bad kid. It’s just the way it is sometimes.

  • I cannot thank you enough for writing this….. sitting here almost drenced in tears… baby is in his bassinet crying.. I’ve done everything.. and my 2 year old is freaking out because I’m crying…. I laughed at this and I laughed hard.. the laugh that makes you laugh. because you are laughing.. and now everything is at peace again.. baby is sleeping.. 2 year old is playing cars and probably thinks mommy is a lunatic.. my neighbors thank you.. it’s been a loooooong afternoon.

  • As of now. My 18 month old is screaming. Her daddy is with her but I’m sick to my teeth of her. Oh don’t get me wrong love her to bits. But after two weeks of constant night wakings due to teething, colds and growth spurts I’m tapped out. I want one night of sleep. I’m seriously considering sleeping in the bath with earplugs.

  • Love this! I was the exact same before I had a baby when I saw those awful shaking baby stories, "How can anyone ever do that?! EVER?!" Then I had a baby, and although I would still never do that, I can completely see how people go off the deep end.

  • As a mother of 3 with one on the way, I have a lot of experience with this time. Let me tell you it does not get any easier- however it did just get a whole hell of a lot funnier! Definitely breaking out the eyeliner this time.

  • I used to hand my husband my screaming 2 month old son as he walked in from work – he then walked said screaming child around town explaining the different makes of car to him. My son can still identify any car at 40 paces (he is 21 now) and I am still married to the fabulous man that saved my sanity!!

  • I’m not sure if I’m crying from exhaustion or because you are so freaking hilarious, but either way YES YES YES! You are amazing! With 1 month old twins that take turns screaming from 6-10pm every night and a wonderful 22 month old that wakes up at 7am on the dot every morning I am feeling this post so hard! Love it!!!

  • I am going through this with my 4 week old son. I love the little bastard but so help me GOD! It is NOT fucking funny!

  • I LOVE LOVE LOVE this! I am done having my babies, but had 4 of them and this is so perfectly hilarious. Thanks for the laugh!

  • You are so right. My son had this period. It was awful. He would cry & cry for no reason, to what I termed "death scream" levels. I would end up crying too.

    I used to work for CPS and I couldn’t understand how anyone could ever shake a baby- until I had one. I would never ever do it, but I had the urge to at times.

  • GENUIS! You are hilarious! I am living this right now with my 4 month old! OMG- the crying!! This was a much needed laugh 🙂

  • "Do the "Aum" sound that Buddhist Monks". This literally was the only thing that worked with our 2 month old daughter during her blessed witching hour. Lucky for me, my husbands monk voice was the only thing that she liked, not the white noise app or my sad attempt at it.

  • Thank you for the article. I am about to be a father and I am terrified of shaken baby syndrome. You gave me great ideas and a few laughs.

  • Thank you for this! So funny! I always pick my 3.5 month old son up from grandma’s after work. I get home around four, and then he screams bloody murder until mommy gets home five hours later. Nothing I do soothes him. Honestly, I don’t externalize my frustration in the same room as him, but oh man it helps! We have a perfect pull up thing in the kitchen, and I do that until I am too tired to care about the trauma of my wonderful, and inconsolable screaming ball of cuteness. So many contradictions! I’ll bookmark this page and return in my moment of need. Thanks!

  • Honestly, only you could make a screaming baby sound humorous. Thank you so much for this hilarious, informative article. Having a new baby is such a difficult transition, and knowing that other moms out there are going through the exact same thing, and it’s normal, is such a relief! As a soon-to-be mom, I will certainly keep this guide handy when the time comes!

  • • Dress your baby up in a Halloween costume. I shit you not that I did this and it’s pretty hard to get frustrated with a screaming skunk.

    This made me nearly die laughing. I will have to remember this one!!

  • I told my sister about the mustache trick and that he’ll "look like an angry dandy" and she responded, "Or an angry Hitler, depending on the mustache." I told her if I do this trick I’m trying the dandy mustache first, just in case it doesn’t come off easily, so I horrify my husband and the in-laws slightly less.

  • I have twins born prematurely and after an already trying NICU time the suckers have now decided tag teaming me with periods of fracking whaling is a great idea.
    This post took my seriously jagged edge off; thanks.

  • Just found this site on Pinterest last night and I am crying from laughing so damn hard. I almost choked on the Pringles I was eating. Please for the love of God, write a book!!!

  • I had to share about the post on my blog (even if its an older post!). I am quite upset they don't have the program in place here in Georgia. They had it with my last one in Kansas and I was glad, even if the video is a little cheesy!

  • Not sure Hope will ever read this, but I went through a similar encounter with DHS. I wish I had known about this "Period of Purple Crying", because my husband and I tried so hard to get the doctors to tell us what was wrong with our baby or that he had colic and they always just said "it's normal" as he screamed bloody murder in their lobbies and waiting rooms for hours. We went through EVERY step – feed him, change his diaper, take him on a walk, take him on a drive, entertain him, etc etc and he was just inconsolable. Well between the normal crying, he also happened to have a brain injury from birth which, yay, manifested itself as shaken baby syndrome when he finally had a seizure from the pressure the old blood was putting on his brain. You can imagine what a nightmare that was, ESPECIALLY since, as a NORMAL set of parents, we totally did the turnaround after my son was born and understood how baby shaking ends up happening (you bet your ass I would have never seen my son again if I admitted something like that). But to take the seriousness away a little bit… Amy, you rock for posting this. You simply do. I thought we were screwing up as parents OR that we were bad parents for placing him in his crib and taking a moment, all while ignoring his cries, or for understanding how "shaken baby" actually happens (but NEVER shaking him). If we ever have another child, I will print out this damn post and blow it up on some of my household walls.

  • I know shaking babies is nothing to laugh about but I thought I'd share… When my 1 year old is acting up I grab both his hands and jiggle him to the left and right and sing this song "Shake him to the right, shake him to the left, shaken baby syndrom ALL DAY LONG". Mind you, I don't shake him but it snaps him out of his funk and makes him smile. It's our little 'dance'. Why those particular words came out of my mouth the first time I'll never know but it stuck.

  • “Bounce on an exercise ball and watch tv while your baby is strapped to your chest in a carrier. You may as well whittle your ass off while you lose your mind.`

    Nice. We did this. More accurately: my husband did this, while playing video games, and I popped in the earplugs and went to sleep.

    WIN. WIN.

  • I wish I had actually watched the "Purple Cry" dvd I was given in the hospital.
    I thought it was for shaken baby syndrome, which didn't apply to me.
    Well goes to show ya, my sweet baby drove me to the edge of insanity over a four month period between 11:30pm-4:30am…everynight!! She would then wake two hours later for a feed, and my oldest child would shuffle into my room @ 8am. I just wanted the whole world to eff-off. Such a period of helplessness and dark emotions. And the advice from the in-laws on what you should do, maddening!

  • i stumbled on your blog…my daughter is now 18months and we went through this phase too. your post made me cry knowing finally someone inderstands…the mustache!!! GENIOUS!

  • I just found this post after reading the 10 things new moms should know, which was the most accurate thing I have read. So good that I sent it on to my sister, due with number one in July.
    Anyhow…I am so glad I found the purple hat project. I was lucky that my bambino was fairly low maintenance as a newborn. (Last night…another story. But he wasn't shaken…I was, when I fell out of the bed and face down on the wood floor in trying to keep the little purple faced 11 month old asleep)
    I have been wondering how to do something good with my little business for a while and this is perfect! A purple hat will be made and sent to put MA on that map.
    I am also going to post this on some boards to get some more crafters involved.
    Thanks for great posts back in my preggo days to help me keep the humor.

  • Not enough people speak about the relentless crying…and how you feel like a failure parent somehow when you can't fix it.
    Its comforting to know that many parents out there are suffering like I did…good news is they do stop. You would never know by looking at my bouncing, happy, easy-going 9 month old that he was the devil from birth to 4 months (to the day).

  • Thank you for this. My kid almost suffered from throw him across the room syndrome. I am good at hitting melting point, flipping on a hair dryer, then walking away usually. Though tonight he has cried 5 straight hours even with hair dryer on. I needed this…..I am buying the cute little shit a purple cap tomorrow in your honor. I also recorded the past 2 hours OF SCREAMING and ad-libbed some parts for fun to show him what he was like as a baby! Maybe then he'll change my diapers when I am 80…..uh oh round 6 of screaming…….wheres my iPod? Gotta go!

  • I am laughing so hard I'm crying…this is sooo true! I'm a childbirth educator and I like your funny spin on a difficult subject.

  • Thank God our 3 month old can't repeat the words he's heard during his period. Just as well that he won't remember. You didn't say it in your post, but you implied it… swearing helps, ALOT. Thanks for helping us realize our baby really is normal.

  • I remember vividly these days with our now 17 yr old son. He would cry for 3 hours in the evening & nothing we tried could stop it. My husband, the wonderful man that he is, would take him from me & sing every children's or folk song he could think of at the top of his lungs (he's a music teacher). It lasted about 2 months. Most of the time, I would leave the house & go for a walk for part of that time. As soon as he was done with his crying jag, he'd be fine & I'd feed him & put him in his crib. Thank goodness my husband is a patient man!

  • I wish I could have found information like this three years ago, when DHS investigated me because I told them "I had a bad night" with my month old son who had just come home from the hospital a week ago. (He had lung problems.) I wouldn't explain what "had a bad night" meant, because I didn't want to explain that he wouldn't stop crying and that I had an overwhelming urge to chunk him across the room like a quarterback going for a hail mary. Of course, I resisted, and we made it through the night just fine. However, DHS decided that I was at risk for hurting my son… I wish they and I had this information and then maybe my story would have ended differently. The thing I have said the most since then is that the reason mothers actually do hurt their children is because they get punished for talking about having the "thought" of it. Thank you for saying outloud what other women feel but are afraid to say.

  • Go to my own website & read what I think of this situation….Hope it helps a little & if anything, makes you giggle & know that you are NOT alone…. GOOD-LUCK!! ;/)

  • This is simply brilliant. I wish I had thought of the drawing the mustache thing wtih my last baby. I hope a bazillion people read this.

  • I wrote about this same thing recently – not the purple crying but the frustration and sense of helplessness that we new mothers feel. It's so difficult sometimes! Every wonderful, confident woman I know is completely devastated in the face of a crying infant.

    Thanks for posting this! I'll pass it along as well to all the new mothers I know.

  • Try finding a chiropractor that specializes in newborns. It has helped a lot of babies I know that cry for gas/poop related pain and car seat haters. The treatment doesn't hurt them in anyway, and is worth the cost for the resulting calm, quiet baby.

  • Right this second, as I type, my sweet beloved daughter is cradled on my lap, screaming like I have a car battery clamped to her nipples (I don't, just for the record). She's not doing the Purple Crying, she just needs to poop (I'm sorry to tell you), but she can't. Or won't – I suspect an element of willfulness on her part. Just so you don't think I'm heartless, checking blogs while she attempts to alert the neighbors to her diaper dilemma, she does this at least once a day, sometimes for 30 minutes, and there's not much I can do about it. I felt positively awful for listening to my Mp3 player last week (and for being cheered up by dancing to the music while she bawled), until I read this – so thank you!!! "Shake your booty, not the baby" is my new motto!

  • AMEN.
    I walked/stumbled countless miles in the freezing cold through three kids worth of witching hours and I only wish I'd had this post back then. I'm thinking a crying infant may have been what set those two empathetic gentlemen you met that day on their path. What? I can totally see it happening.

    • Oh, thank you for giving it a name.

      "I was perfectly happy a second ago but now I’m hollering at everyone because my gums hurt. Please let me chew on your shoulder."

  • I have posted to all I know who are expecting. We went through this exact thing with my first, not as much with my second. But awesome tips and I totally wish I had known this with my first child.

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