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April 2018Vol. 19, No. 3Period of PURPLE Crying Program

The Period of PURPLE Crying is an evidence-based child abuse prevention program to help educate new parents and caregivers on early and escalating infant crying (a normal stage in a baby's development) and the dangers associated with it. "The PURPLE Period" refers to the developmental stage in early infancy during which a baby can cry for hours, often inconsolably. It is during this time that parents are most at risk of harming their infants or shaking them in frustration. This can result in abusive head trauma or shaken baby syndrome, a serious form of infant abuse that can result in brain damage or even death.

The PURPLE period can start at about 2 weeks of age and continue until 3-4 months of age, often reaching peak intensity in the second month of a baby's life. The P in PURPLE stands for "peak of crying" (a baby's crying often intensifies each week until it peaks toward the end of the second month); U is for "unexpected" as it is often unclear what triggers the crying, which frequently appears to start spontaneously; R is for "resists soothing" because a baby may continue crying regardless of how a caregiver responds; P is for "pain-like face" because a baby will often appear to be in pain even when not; L is for "long-lasting" because the crying can last for 5 hours a day or more; and E is for "evening" because the period of late afternoon into evening is when the crying most often occurs. PURPLE crying often happens when a parent arrives home tired from a day at work and is at greater risk of reacting in frustration.

The program seeks to normalize this time in a baby's life as a healthy stage of infant development and emphasizes that this is in no way a reflection of child well-being or parental or caregiver rejection. Program developers point out that the PURPLE period is often mislabeled as colic, a misunderstanding that can give caregivers the impression there is something wrong with their baby when in fact it is simply part of normal human development. Some babies may cry more, others less, but they all go through a PURPLE period.

The Period of PURPLE Crying program consists of a specific protocol that has been approved by child development experts, parents, pediatricians, and public health advocates. It is a program of the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome website and is based on scientific research on infant crying and SBS. The Period of PURPLE Crying webpage includes useful information for caregivers about the PURPLE period, tips for coping with incessant crying and keeping children safe, information for fathers, child care, parent focus groups, and helpful resources.

Information about the program can be accessed at