Over-Stimulation & The Period of Purple Crying

In those first few months your baby will cry and it will be almost impossible to soothe him.  He will cry and it will be so unpredictable you’ll be pulling out your hair because you can’t figure him out, and…it could last for the first four months of his life.

The good news is that it’s normal.  All babies go through it to some degree.  It will pass.  That’s the best news.

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Similar to a baby’s biological clock when your child is first born his nervous system hasn’t matured yet.  This can mean that he has a difficult time regulating the amount of stimulation flooding his nervous system and it can take many months for his system to mature enough to begin regulating it.  During this time it can be difficult to calm and soothe an over-stimulated baby even with your help.  Parents need to understand that stimulation for a newborn can include the simplest of acts:

  • Feeding – it is possible to over-feed!
  • Handling – it is possible to over-soothe!
  • Talking to him
  • Making eye contact with him

This normal stage of development in an infant’s life can also be called the Period of Purple Crying.  This is not because the baby turns purple from crying.  This period was named to describe the stage in a baby’s life when they cry more than any other time.  It can begin at 2 weeks and remain until 3-4 months of age.  The crying can be unexpected and can come and go, he will resist your soothing attempts, and the crying spells can be long-lasting and generally occur in the late afternoon and evening.  Because of the timing of this stage, it’s often confused with colic, as this behaviour can escalate to such distressed behaviour that it can be mistaken for pain.  The most important thing to remember during this period is that this is a normal part of every infant’s development.  It will pass.

When he is over-stimulated his risk of becoming overtired increases because he is kept awake for longer, which can add to the crying and struggle.  Your goal is to watch his signs.  As adults we can leave situations that are too busy or too loud, or avoid them all together, but your baby can’t.  He depends on you to pick up on his tired signs and cues and remove him from that disruptive environment.  A few things you can you do to try to soothe your baby and make his environment more appealing to sleep are:

  • Bring him into a low stimulating environment.  Avoid one that encourages wakefulness.  At this point your baby can’t just sleep anywhere anymore and may need a more quiet and calm sleep environment like his own nursery and crib.
  • Dim the lights, lower the volume, and keep minimal activity, all of this can encourage sleep.
  • Watch the length of his awake times.  Dont’ stretch them out too long.

The most important thing to remember my, Good Night parents, is this too shall pass.  It can just be a frustratingly normal stage of development that your baby needs to go through and you will get through on the other side.  Have patience.  It will happen.

Alanna McGinn
Alanna McGinn
Alanna McGinn is Founder and Certified Sleep Expert of Good Night Sleep Site, a global sleep consulting practice. She is host of the ‘This Girl Loves Sleep’ Podcast and author of ‘This Baby Loves Sleep’. Alanna has established the world-wide brand of Good Night Sleep Site as being a #1 sleep resource for families and her and her team of sleep consultants strive in helping families (baby to adults) and corporations overcome their sleep challenges and have well-rested smiles in the morning. You can find out more about Alanna McGinn and how to work with a Good Night Sleep Consultant at www.goodnightsleepsite.com and follow Alanna and all her sleep tips on Instagram - @GNSleepSite.

2 comments on “Over-Stimulation & The Period of Purple Crying

  1. karra on

    This describes my baby and is nice to know it’ll pass. Can I ask why it doesn’t seem like many ppl experience this with their baby? Not one person I know from friends or family have any idea what I’m talking about and how hard it is. They act like it’s me and I’m making things worse. Is this something that’s just rare?


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