In the Filipino setting, baby’s cries are automatically because “gutom na yan.” But what happens if she still doesn’t stop? It’s easy to be rattled because there is nothing harder for a parent than to hear her child in pain, but mom Sharon Agoncillo-Galang, a former preschool teacher and an independent certified instructor of the Baby Signs Program, remind us there are a lot of reasons why babies cry.
“Crying is a form of communication for babies,” Agoncillo-Galang shared during SmartParenting.com.ph’s "All About Babies" workshop, held last September 23 at the Makati Diamond Residences. "They might be hungry. They need to cuddle, to burp or to sleep. Maybe they’re experiencing colic or gas, or they just need their diaper changed. Other times, they’re not feeling well. Something painful is bothering them."
If your baby is crying and it's none of the above, Agoncillo-Galang says parents might find the "PURPLE" concept helpful. It's a term coined by Dr. Ronald Barr, a developmental pediatrician, to describe a crying phase that almost all babies go through. Each letter stands for a particular characteristic of crying behavior (again, not caused by any of the reasons stated above).
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P is for the peak of crying. It usually happens when the baby is around 2 to 5 months old. Your baby may cry more each week, probably reaching a peak when he is 2 months old. Then it gradually lessens as she gets older, up to five months.
U is for unexpected. Crying can come and go, and you won’t know why. The baby just starts crying spontaneously and stops by herself no matter what the mother or father may do to soothe her.
R is when a baby is resistant to soothing. It can be incredibly frustrating to parents because no matter what they do, the crying just won’t stop. The baby can cry up to 40 minutes without stopping.
P is for a baby’s pain-like face. A baby's facial expressions and the sounds she makes seem to suggest she’s in real pain. When this happens, Agoncillo-Galang reminds us not to panic. “When we start panicking, the baby will also panic because they know that we don’t know what to do.”
L is for long-lasting. Crying bouts can last up to five hours a day or more, with an average of 35 to 40 minutes per bout.
E is to remind parents that the PURPLE phase of crying is more likely to occur during the late afternoon to evening. Knowing this will help you prepare what you need to do in anticipate (like condition yourself to be calm).
While the babies may be inconsolable at the PURPLE stage, they may be crying because they want to be soothed and cared for, and it's perfectly okay for parents to do so.
In an article published in Psychology Today, Dr. Darcia Navaez, Ph.D., provides another acronym that can help deal with the PURPLE phase: CRY.
C is to try and calm the baby with touch (skin-to-skin may be needed), gentle movement and quiet voice. You can also try singing softly to her.
R is for remember. Babies undergo rapid growth, and it requires your constant support. Let your baby know you're physically close.
Y is for you. Keep yourself calm and make sure that you have a support system that will help you with the baby when you feel overwhelmed. They should be able to help you stay calm and take over caring for the baby when you are unable to do so.
Observe your baby closely so you can decipher what makes her fussy or upset. Feed her, keep her close or in your arms (as opposed to only picking her up after she cries), be sensitive to her cues (is she grimacing or gesturing something?), and learn what type of rocking movement is needed to calm her. The PURPLE period may soon pass, but it shouldn't mean you ignore her cries. Instead, it is the perfect time to develop a closer relationship with your baby -- one that doesn’t need words but affection. And we should also keep in mind: this phase shall pass.