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Helping prepare new parents for fussy and frustrating times

Posted on May. 9, 2016 ( comments)
baby crying

Babies cry. Some babies cry because they are hungry or tired — and some babies cry just because.

Experts say crying is a normal part of development for infants. But for any parent who has unsuccessfully tried to soothe a fussy baby, normal doesn't offer much comfort during long periods of seemingly unending crying. 

In fact, it can be frustrating. 

"Some people feel like a failure when they can't calm a baby. That increases the frustration they feel and that's the tipping point for when they could harm their baby," says Amy Scanlon, program coordinator at the Children's Advocacy Center of Pierce County

The Period of PURPLE Crying is a program developed by the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome designed to help parents before they reach that tipping point. 
The Period of PURPLE Crying materials are given to every family at MultiCare Family Birth Centers. Through a DVD and a smartphone application, the program educates parents about the normalcy of crying and teaches coping strategies to help get through those frustrating and fussy times. 

"The program reinforces crying is normal, I'm normal, my baby is normal, this is just a phase and we're going to get through it," Scanlon says.

baby Claire swaddledCarrie Tennison had her daughter Clara at MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital in July 2015.

She experienced a few weeks of extra fussiness with her first daughter and found comfort in what she learned from the Period of PURPLE Crying as she prepared for round two of caring for a newborn. 

"It was nice to have that message that it's okay if the baby cries and it won't damage them to put them down and walk away," Tennison says.

"Going home from the hospital with those tips and techniques for calming down the baby helped."

The word PURPLE is an acronym that describes the nature of infant's crying. Experts refer to this time in development as a period because it has a beginning and an end. 

When baby Clara experienced an exceptionally fussy week, Tennison kept her cool.

"It was nice to know it wouldn’t go on forever," she says. 

The app and DVD include segments such as "Why shaking a baby is dangerous" and "Consequences of shaking a baby."

The information in the video is based on more than 25 years of research on infant crying and normal infant development conducted by Dr. Ronald G. Barr, who developed the concept, and other scientists. Barr is a professor of pediatrics at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

To learn more about the Period of PURPLE Crying program, go to

Posted in: General Vitals

About The Author

Jen Rittenhouse Jen Rittenhouse
Jen Rittenhouse is the social media manager for MultiCare and Mary Bridge Children's Hospital. She writes stories that connect people with hospitals, health care and each other. You can reach her at [email protected].
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