Just like adults use words to communicate, babies use crying to communicate. At first, your newborn’s cries may seem like a foreign language. But before you know it, you’ll learn your baby’s language.
Contrary to what many people might tell you, babies cannot be spoiled by holding, cuddling, and rocking them, or by talking and singing to them. Responding quickly to your baby’s cry will not spoil them, but it will teach your baby that they are cared for.
It is important to respond to your baby’s crying now because it will actually decrease clingy behavior later on, which is commonly associated with the term “spoiled child.” Responding to your baby’s cries helps to build a sense of trust between you and them.
Don’t assume your baby is hungry every time they cry. By the time a baby is 2 months old, the way they cry can identify a specific need. For example, the “I’m hungry” cry may be short and low-pitched, while “I’m upset” may sound choppy.
Other common reasons babies cry include being tired, having an uncomfortable diaper or simply needing to be held. Your baby may also cry due to being overwhelmed by all of the sights and sounds of the world. Crying is one way babies shut out stimuli when they’re overloaded.
Fussiness can be a sign your baby is not feeling well or experiencing some pain. Contact your doctor if your baby appears to be exhibiting signs of being sick and crying is persistent.
Why it’s called ‘purple’ crying
Sometimes babies cry for no reason. It’s common for some babies to have a fussy period at the same time every night, generally between early evening and midnight. Most babies outgrow this type of crying at about 3 months of age.
It is also known that there is a normal developmental period in which a baby’s crying increases. This phase can begin as early as 2 weeks and can continue until about 3 to 4 months of age. This is known as the Period of PURPLE Crying.
The word “purple” helps parents remember a few facts about this stage of infant life:
- Peak of crying: New babies may cry more each week. The most is at 2 months, then less at 3 to 4 months.
- Unexpected: Crying can come and go and parents don’t know why.
- Resists soothing: A baby may not stop crying no matter what a parent tries.
- Pain-like face: A crying baby may look like they are in pain, even when they are not.
- Long-lasting: Crying can last as much as five hours a day, or more.
- Evening: The baby may cry more in the late afternoon and evening.
For additional information on crying, check out the Period of PURPLE Crying website, purplecrying.info.
Calming your crying baby
The first step to calming your crying baby is to make sure you are calm. Your baby will sense your stress, and this may cause them to cry more.
Common techniques to calm a crying baby include gentle rocking, walking and talking, softly singing to baby or creating white noise by things such as the hum of a vacuum cleaner.
Sometimes you will need a break from the crying to recharge your patience level to deal with your baby’s crying. Place your baby on their back in the crib and walk out of the room. Take some deep breaths. Remember your baby is not intentionally trying to upset you.
Once you feel your body relax, continue soothing your baby if they are still crying.
- How to know if it’s colic or normal crying
- Why your baby may be crying, and tips for soothing
- Reading the signs: Decoding your baby’s cues