crying newborn in mom's arms my newborn won't stop crying

All newborn babies cry. Babies cry when they are hungry or wet or tired. Those reasons make sense to us as parents. We know to feed our baby or change her or rock her to sleep. But what do you do when your newborn won’t stop crying and she isn’t hungry or wet or tired?

It’s important to understand that newborn babies are supposed to cry. It’s a developmental thing. A truly frustrating but normal developmental thing. It even has a name…Purple Crying.

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P.U.R.P.L.E. Crying

Before I tell you anything else about Purple Crying you need to know that it ends. It does. I swear it. Just keep repeating that to yourself when you are loosing your ever loving mind while your newborn won’t stop crying and won’t be soothed. It will end.

Purple Crying refers to when your baby is between 2 weeks and 3-4 months old and they cry, for hours, for no apparent reason. They are inconsolable. Your soothing tricks don’t work. They aren’t in pain. There is nothing wrong. They just cry and cry and cry.

What does P.U.R.P.L.E. Stand For?

P is for “Peak of Crying”

Ever climbed a mountain? Or a small hill? The top of the mountain is the peak. It’s where you reach as high as you can go. Time to look out and see the view. Its also time to start back down.

Purple crying has a peak too. At around 2 months you child will have escalated to the most prolonged periods of inconsolable crying. Now its going to get better! Hooray!!!

U is for “Unexpected”

Do you hate not being in control? Do you love having a plan and sticking too it? Purple crying is going to make you nuts. I love having a schedule. I was an elementary librarian for 13 years and lived on a schedule from 7:30-3:00 pm 180 days a year.

My daughter’s purple crying usually happened in the evening. But not always. It often started around 3 pm. But not always. It lasted for 2 or 3 hours. But not always.

R is for “Resists Soothing”

This part is awful. Its horrible. It totally sucks. You can rock and sway and shush and pat and sing until you drop from exhaustion. The kid will still be crying.

This lovely facet of purple crying is why purple crying got named and publicized. Uncontrollable, non-soothable crying leads to shaken baby syndrome.

You are probably thinking to yourself “I would never ever shake my child to get him to stop crying.” Rational you with plenty of sleep never would. That’s not the you we’re talking about right now.

Let me finish defining the letters in P.U.R.P.L.E then we’ll dive into how you survive.

P is for “Pain Like Face”

Your child is going to look like they are in pain. They are not.

At this point you’ve probably taken your child for his first shots. Remember the face he made? The horrible shrieking cry that told you he hurt? If he’s not making that noise, he’s not really hurt. He’s just purple crying.

L is for “Long Lasting”

Take a deep breath before you read this next part. Ready?

Purple crying can last up to 5 hours or more.

Oh. Dear. God.

E is for “Evening”

Yup. Right as you’re becoming a zombie from a long day of baby care your newborn won’t stop crying. I found it to be one of its most obnoxious traits. This was my daughter.

How Do You Survive This Horror?

crying newborn on mattress my newborn won't stop crying

Remember how you were so scared of labor? And when you were in the midst of contractions and pushing you thought “I will never forget this torture. Every minute is seared into my brain for the rest of my life and probably the afterlife too.”

You forget. It seems unlikely, but you do. You’ll live through purple crying and forget how bad it was too.

Try Everything, Something May Work

For my daughter it was walking while strapped into a soft carrier. This one in particular. I’m glad I didn’t cheap out on the soft carrier. This one is easy to adjust and places the bulk of the baby weight on your hips. My legs got sore from all the walking, but my back felt fine.

Oh and she only wanted outside on the streets walking. Being in the house and walking in circles was no where near as effective. It was November and December in the northeast people. I saw a lot of Christmas lights.

I walked several miles every afternoon/evening. She wouldn’t go to sleep in the carrier, but she did stop crying for the most part. If we couldn’t get out because of driving rain, I put on music, popped her in the carrier and danced. Still not as good as walking, but better than anything else. If I was really desperate, I walked in the mall.

Keep trying things. Something may work.

  • Drive the baby around in the car
  • Bounce baby in the bathroom with the lights off, door closed and fan on
  • Dance with them in your arms or a carrier
  • Put them in an infant swing. This one we had swings side to side and front to back. Options are key right now.
  • If its too hot or too cold, walk them in the mall
  • Swaddle
  • Play different kinds of music
  • Rock in a rocking chair

Get Helpers

My husband was really good at taking turns with what came to be known as the forced march. None of our family lives close by so it was pretty much the two of us.

When your newborn won’t stop crying it is time to take advantage of all the people who have offered to help. Friends, family, church members, neighbors, teenagers who want to coo over your baby. Ask them to come over for a visit and baby holding. Don’t feel bad about asking them to hold your screaming infant for an hour or two. They get to go home to a full nights sleep.

Even better, hand over your baby and get out of the house. The coffee shop, grocery store, just a drive in the car will clear your head and help you keep going.

Its Okay to Step Away

I mean it.

Say it out loud.

Nothing bad will happen to your baby if you put her down and walk away.

Go make a cup of tea or coffee. Take a shower. You won’t be able to hear the crying over the shower. Leave the baby upstairs and go downstairs for 10 minutes. Sit in the bathroom with the fan on to tune out the crying.

Call or text a friend. Join a mom’s group on Facebook and write a long venting post. I found my local group by searching for my county’s name – moms – and the year.

You Will Make It Through

For real. It won’t last forever.

To read more about purple crying from the people who named it and researched it click here.

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