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Ways to Soothe a Crying Baby

Young babies have many reasons for crying. This is their only way to communicate to their parents and caregivers that something doesn’t feel right. Today, I will talk about three different developmental reasons young babies cry. I have heard all of these crying-related terms many times as a postpartum doula, and you may have, too. Are there any differences in these, or are they basically all the same? Let’s dive in and take a look at the different terms and ways to soothe your crying baby.

What is The Witching Hour(s) Cry

Most babies experience some level of the witching hour. The witching hour is extreme fussiness and, at times, inconsolable crying in your newborn. It usually begins and ends around the same time each night. The time period is usually between the hours of 5 pm and 11 pm, when you may be trying to prepare and eat your dinner. If you also have older children, then you may be trying to bathe and get them ready for bed during this time. Many strategies that normally soothe your baby may fail miserably during the witching hour(s). The age at which it resolves can vary, but most experts agree that it peaks at 6 to 8 weeks of age, declines over the next few weeks, coming to an end by 12 weeks of age. I’ve had some parents who experience this crying night after night refer to their baby as having colic.

What is Colic

I think everyone has heard the dreaded colic word. The cause of colic is actually not known. Many experts believe it’s caused by gastrointestinal issues due to an immature digestive tract, causing GI spasms. Formally, colic is defined as an otherwise healthy infant who cries more than 3 hours a day, more than 3 days a week, and for more than a 3-week period of time. Colic typically begins during the baby’s second week of life, peaks at 6 weeks, and resolves between 12-16 weeks of age. If you suspect your baby may have colic, call your pediatrician. They may want to evaluate your baby for reflux.

The term colic has become a catchphrase used for normal developmental crying. Colic sounds like a disease or something that’s not normal, which is why Dr. Ronald G. Barr, a developmental pediatrician, came up with a term to describe it. The period of PURPLE crying!

The Period of Purple Crying and Your Baby

Many parents are unaware of this completely normal developmental period in their baby’s life when they cry more than any other time, and they are very hard to soothe. Although there has been an attempt to rename “colic” to “the period of PURPLE crying”, colic is still very widely used. The word purple is not used to imply that your baby is crying so much that they turn purple. It’s an acronym.

P – Peak of crying- your baby may cry more every week beginning in week 2 of their lives. The most crying will be in month 2 of their lives, then tapering off by month 5.

U – Unexpected crying- seems to be for no particular reason

R – Resists comforting- your baby may not stop crying no matter what you try

P – Pain-like face- your baby may look like they’re in pain when they are not

L – Long-lasting crying can last up to 5 hours a day!

E – Evening- Crying is more likely to be in the evening

I want to reiterate that crying is a normal part of a baby’s development. All babies go through this phase to some degree. Some babies will cry more, and some less. However, If you think your baby is crying excessively, please contact your pediatrician.

So, what is a parent or caregiver to do? This is A LOT of crying to handle!

Ways to Soothe Your Crying Baby and Keep Your Sanity

Trying to soothe your crying baby is a challenge during the witching hour, colic, or the period of PURPLE crying. You may try 5 different things, and nothing seems to help. If you know your baby struggles with this time of day, you can try to be proactive by preventing them from becoming overtired. Your baby can get overloaded with stimulation that builds up throughout the day until they can’t handle it anymore. This causes hormones to be released that trigger the fight or flight response, and then the baby can’t fall asleep. Following the age-appropriate wake window times, watching for their sleepy signs, and getting them to sleep when they’re tired may help some. Please keep in mind for some babies, no matter what strategy you try, there will still be a lot of crying. Below are some suggestions for soothing your crying baby and some coping strategies for you:

What to do to Help Soothe a Crying Baby

  • Motion – Babies had a lot of motion in utero. So, walking, rocking, swaying or putting them in an infant swing may help.
  • Change environment – Sometimes, getting outside in the fresh air will help, or going to a quiet room.
  • Skin-to-skin contact – This can be calming for the baby and you.
  • Relax with your baby – Babies can sense their parent’s or caregiver’s stress and frustration. Take a deep breath and then slowly let it out.
  • Use a distracting noise – Try turning a fan on, vacuuming, turning on a blow dryer, or using womb or heartbeat sounds.
  • Cluster feed – cluster feeding is when feedings are bunched together, especially during the evening hours. This can be done with formula, but is more common with breastfed babies.
  • Switch off with your partner and take a break – Sometimes, having someone else hold the baby may help, too.
  • Try going through Dr. Harvey Karp’s 5 S’s with your baby. This link is a YouTube video.
  • Check out Dr. Robert Hamilton’s “The Hold” YouTube video.

New Parents, You Have a Very Hard Job!

Being a new parent can be very challenging and frustrating at times, especially during the first 4 months of your baby’s life. In addition to having a lot of learning to do about how to take care of your baby, you also have to learn that a baby cries a lot, and you can’t always calm them down. Understanding that the crying that babies do is a normal developmental period will, hopefully, make you feel a bit better and that you’re not doing anything wrong.

If you’re struggling with finding a strategy for dealing with your crying baby please reach out to me for some help. Working with a sleep coach gives you the opportunity to talk through strategies to figure out what works best for your new baby.

February 20, 2024


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Trust me: you don’t want your baby to hit this point. If you notice any of these seven signs, it’s time to put your baby to sleep — NOW!

7 Signs Your Baby Is Overtired

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