Real Life Challenges of Infant Crying

National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome

Will This Crying Ever End: A Mother's Journey

leslie art

When I found out that I was pregnant I was elated. I wanted so much to be a mom. I began preparing in every way…scrubbing walls, cleaning closets and creating the perfect room. I painted the walls in her new room with sky blue paint and white fluffy clouds. The ceiling was a night sky with bright yellow stars. I was having a girl. I loved the idea of being a mom. I knew I would be the perfect mom because I already loved her so much. I kept promising her that when she came I would give her all the love in the world and so many kisses.

Although Jenna arrived about a month early she was a perfectly healthy baby. The moment she arrived I was sure that I had never experienced love like that before. I was emerged in euphoria, but I also felt vulnerable. I now had a great weakness. I suddenly worried that I would not be able to protect her completely and I vowed to do all I could.

For the first two months everyone told me that I had such a good baby. I thought she was a good baby too and I was sure I was the luckiest mommy on the planet. Jenna was my whole world. The first time I gave her a bath I cried because she was so beautiful and perfect….I was overcome by love.

It was about this time that it started. Every evening at about six she would start crying. For hours I would work to console her but she wouldn’t stop. She seemed to be in so much pain. After a few days of this I took her to the doctor because this was not like her and I was sure there was something wrong. They calmed my fears and told me she probably had a virus and that it would pass in a few days. I took her home and tried to get her through it. But after a week she was still screaming every night. Sometimes she would cry herself to sleep in my arms and then wake an hour later and begin again. Weeks passed and I was at the doctor’s office every couple of days. I slept through the night with my arm wrenched through the bars of the cradle. My husband disappeared to the basement, he even slept there and his drinking became more excessive. Don’t worry, we’ve since separated and divorced.

I took her home and tried to get her through it. But after a week she was still screaming every night.

My pediatrician tried to be supportive and helpful. Each time we came in he would tell me that I could call 24 hours a day and come in. After three weeks of crying he suggested that we try drops for gas. After a month he suggested that we try changing the formula. A few appointments later he said that we should be weaning her off the formula as we went on to a new one. Six formulas later and after buying every bottle on the market, I was told that she must have acid reflux and I was given two kinds of medication and a mixture of Maalox and benadryl that I was supposed to give her every couple of hours. She would get drowsy and she was less interactive…and she was still crying. The tension would build in my body when she would scream – I wanted and needed to make her better. After countless reasons and excuses from different doctors as to the reason for the constant crying, they were now under the assumption that my 4-month-old daughter may have a urinary tract infection. Not knowing what else to do, I agreed to let them perform the tests needed. I can’t tell you how horrifying it was watching a 4 month old baby screaming in pain as the nurse inserted the catheter. We later found out that the results were negative, she did not have a urinary tract infection and that too was not the cause of her screaming. No one ever told me that this crying was normal or that it would come to an end, nor did they talk to me about how I was dealing with the stress and frustration of it all.

My mother in law told me it was because I fussed over her too much. She said I was too over protective. I began to wonder if perhaps my mother-in-law was right. My confidence was so low about being a good mother that I was beginning to think that I was the cause, Jenna must be able to sense my tension. I felt so inadequate as a mother because my child cried every night and I could not make her feel better.

I got advice from everyone, friends, family, and the doctors. Friends said give her more baths to help soothe her, run the vacuum, put peppermints in her bottle, and take her for rides. The doctor told me to prop up her crib mattress or let her sleep in her car seat. So Jenna got a peppermint in every bottle and she got two to three baths a day. And Jenna and I went for a ride almost every night and I would sing to her as we drove. I tired everything to calm her but nothing worked.

I got advice from everyone, friends, family, and the doctors. Friends said give her more baths to help soothe her, run the vacuum, put peppermints in her bottle, and take her for rides.

Her crying peaked at three months and that was when I had to return to work. I started to become distraught and weak. My mom took care of her while I worked, but I was still worried about leaving her. I would call 2 or 3 times a day. I would cry to my mom and tell her that I didn’t know what to do. She didn’t know what to tell me. I remember telling my mom that I thought my infant daughter hated me. She gasped and told me I was crazy. I can only imagine if I had told her that I was also thinking that Jadyn might be better off with her all the time because I was failing as a mother. I wanted to hold my daughter and love her every minute of the day, but I had become convinced that my being there only made her worse.

One evening after months of crying, I had had enough. I was frustrated because she seemed to be in so much pain and I couldn’t help her. I knew that I was losing control. Through the tidal wave of mixed emotions, horrible thoughts began to race through my mind. I didn’t know what to do…I was so angry and confused. I remember my mind drifting off to a horrible place…and visions of me screaming at the top of my lungs… grabbing Jadyn…shaking her… At that point, I knew I had to stop thinking this way…step away, and collect myself. I laid her down in the crib, brought the vacuum in the room, and left it running beside her, hoping that the sound would soothe her. I stepped outside the room, and after what seemed like an eternity of crying, though in reality what was probably minutes, I lost it!! Before I could stop myself, I stormed into the room and ran up to the crib, and yelled at the top of my lungs.

leslie art

All of a sudden, it hit me! My horrible vision could become reality. I looked down at my tiny baby and the guilt rushed in. I took her into my arms, and embraced her. I cried and repeated over and over “I am so sorry, I am so sorry.” As I sat there crying, all of the anger turned to sorrow, not only for what I had said, but also for the horrible thoughts that had played out in my mind. Jenna continued to cry. I felt so horrible about it, that I tried to share with my Mother the incidents of the day, but could not fully express what had happened because of shame. I could only say that I had been too harsh with my little baby.

I took her back to the doctor the next day. I was worn, and I found myself begging, pleading and demanding that they figure out what was wrong with her. I was hysterical. The doctor took my daughter and handed her to the nurse. He then pulled me outside the room and told me that I needed to pull myself together. He said that my actions were causing her distress…that it was simply a case of colic. Jenna was a colicky baby. Jenna and I then headed to the library. I did my research and colic was a generalized term when there was no other explanation for the crying.

The next day, shortly after arriving at work, my boss pulled me aside. She told me that I seemed to be dragging myself into work everyday, my overall appearance was poor…basically that I looked like hell. She reminded me that I was a supervisor and that there were people there that would look to my overall appearance and attitude to determine their own. She wasn’t overly rude about it, but she felt it important to stress to me that I needed to keep it together. I never told my boss what I was going through at home, because that would be admitting I wasn’t able to help my daughter and I was cutting it as a mother. A few days later I was on my way to work and for the entire 50-minute drive I was crying. I remember hearing myself and thinking that I sounded like a blubbering baby. I hadn’t cried like that since I was a small child. You know it’s pretty bad when you can hear yourself crying over the music. I pulled into work and tried to gather myself. I was feeling desperate and alone. I was able to collect myself enough to get through the building, do the typical morning cordial “hello’s” and make it to my desk to sit down. Without warning, I began crying again. I kept thinking to myself, ‘I’m losing it’ and obviously everyone else did too. I hid my face as I made my way to the bathroom. I found myself in the farthest stall, on the floor, staring at the dirty tile, and hoping that no one would hear my whimpers. I knew that I was broken. I ended up having to take a medical leave of absence for the next two and a half months to try to put myself back together.

When Jenna was almost 6 months old, 5 if you consider she was born early, I remember watching the clock. It was almost 8 pm and Jenna was not crying. That was the best night that I had with my daughter up to that point. She just seemed to have got past it. After that, I began to enjoy and look forward to the evenings with my baby. You have no idea the joy that brought after being so sure for so long that I would never have that. Though the endless nights of misery seemed to have ended, I was sure that it was not something I’d soon put myself through again. I was certain that I would have no more children. Jenna is 3 and half years old now and she is happy and healthy. Whether I was ready or not, I was pregnant with her little brother less than six months after these incidents had subsided. With Cory, my new son, soon to be born, the fear and worry of reliving the countless nights of crying became more prevalent in my thoughts. Thankfully, those nights never came. Cory was a happy and healthy baby boy…not a crier. Whatever fear I had quickly faded to joy as I now had two babies to love and spend my nights with.

A few months ago, I went into the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome for an interview and I mentioned that I had had a baby that cried all the time and that I understood the frustration of a parent that has a crier…but that I had never physically hurt her. They called me back and gave me something that would have made all the difference in the world to me three and half years ago… an explanation: The Period of PURPLE Crying. I would have not had to have the feeling of being a failure at the one thing I wanted to be the most…A MOM.

A Mother's Story of Surviving a High Cryer


Weeping, Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth: My Story of Surviving a High Crier

It was 4 a.m. and I was on the floor in my living room, sobbing. The rest of my family was asleep, except for me and my 3-month old son. I looked at him, through my veil of tears, and realized I wanted nothing to do with my little baby.

Garrett was born December 9, 2004, at 8:49 p.m., after a very fast 80 minute labor. He was 6lbs. 7 oz., with light brown hair and blue eyes; he appeared to be absolutely perfect... I would like to say this is the text for a joyous birth announcement, but the reality of my story is more akin to a life and death survival guide.

I am a professional woman. I am independent, strong and educated. By all indications, I "should" have been able to handle a baby, especially baby number three, after all, I'd survived the first two with enough desire for another! But this baby was different. This baby cried. Not a little. Not once in a while. Not a sweet little whine. He cried ALL the time. No matter what I did.

Our first few weeks at home were wonderful. I cuddled and kissed my darling little boy, enjoyed the Christmas holiday with our family and tried to figure out what kind of routine we would have when life got back to normal. Little did I know, the new "normal" was not what I had planned.

Journal Entry: "January 9, 2005: Today Garrett is one month old. It is hard to believe he is growing up so quickly. He is such a precious little one and I love being able to cuddle with him. He is fussier than my other babies, but I think it is mostly because he likes to be held. My Mom is here staying with us for a week. It is wonderful to have her. Not only is she giving me a much needed break, but she is amazing with the kids. I don't know what I would do without her..."

Soon, I had to find out what I would do without her, as her visit ended, and still the fussiness continued. We had tried everything we could think of, warm baths, car rides, swaddling, snuggling, bouncing, singing, vacuuming and a variety of indigestion pills for me, just in case something I ate was upsetting his stomach through my breast milk. Still, nothing worked, and now I was at home, alone, in the middle of January, with no prospect of a holiday or break anytime soon. I was the one in charge so there was no choice but to deal with it.

Garrett's crying started in the morning, shortly after he woke up. He fussed much of the morning, then would fall asleep mid to late morning. When he woke up from his nap, he would be better for a while, a little more playful, and I would always hope that his fussy spell was over for the day. But usually, it got worse as the day went on. By the time my husband came home from work, Garrett had been crying for hours straight. I was on the verge of crying myself, and our other little kids were just trying to get some attention from me. Often times, food was burning on the stove while I was trying desperately to get the baby to stop crying before Dad came home. But rarely, if ever, did my tactics work.

After about four weeks of nearly nonstop crying, I honestly thought I was going to lose my mind. The minute the crying began in the morning, the previous hours, days and weeks of crying would come back to my mind and I was tense, upset and frustrated. His pediatrician said it may be gas pains or colic. I tried gas drops, colic drops and any other kind of "drops" or solutions that might work, but all to no avail. I took him to lactation specialists, a chiropractor and on multiple trips to his doctor. I wondered if the doctors were missing something, or perhaps worse, if the problem was really me.

Journal Entry: "February 9, 2005: Today Garrett is 2 months old. It is hard to believe what I was going through on this day just two months ago. It seems so far away now - almost like a dream. Life has certainly changed since then... 3 kids have proved to be a challenge for me. Garrett cries much of the time. I feel guilty when I let him scream, but I can't get anything done if I don't, and it seems no matter what I do, it doesn't seem to make a difference. My nerves are "shot" from his crying after a while, yet at times when he is in my arms, calm and peaceful, he is such a sweetheart.
Oh, the joys and struggles of parenthood."

By this time, I was really starting to become frustrated. I got lectures from people in the store because I couldn't calm my crying baby. I had suggestions from well-meaning strangers who thought maybe I simply hadn't tried the right things, and while grocery shopping I even had an off-duty firefighter scold me for putting my baby down in his car seat while he was crying and obviously in pain or in need of something. I went home and bawled. What in the world was wrong with my baby?

I started asking everyone I knew if they had solutions for me... I heard about reflux and liver problems, genetic diseases and uncommon illnesses, but nothing that helped me with Garrett. One woman told me he was probably allergic to my breast milk or the formula, so I should put him on an all carrot juice diet. After consulting with our physician, the carrot juice idea was out, but I did try a series of different, expensive formulas, none of which seemed to have any impact on the crying. The only differences I could see were in our wallets and in my frustration.

For days and weeks on end, I listened to crying all day long, most days for nearly eight hours, usually in a three-hour crying block and a five-hour crying block. No matter what I did, he would not stop crying and I could not get the crying sound out of my head. He was still waking up frequently in the night; I was sleep deprived, exhausted and truly on the brink of insanity.

I didn't know what depression was really like, but I was beginning to wonder if this was it. I constantly had negative feelings and did not want to listen to one more minute of crying from my baby. For a while, I distanced myself from him, rarely even using his name, calling him "the baby or "that baby" instead of Garrett. I didn't even want to have a baby anymore and I began to regret that he was born.

Journal Entry: "March 6, 2005: I have struggled so much in the last week, it is hard to put into words. Garrett is still fussy, as usual. I just don't know how to deal with a baby who is crying all the time. I feel terrible because the difficulty I am having with Garrett is causing me to resent him. I love him so much, yet I can't deal with him. I feel guilty even writing the words... but he is a very fussy baby. He is screaming now and sometimes I don't know if I can stay sane. Trenten and Libby are feeling the effects, too. All of us have been struggling more with the daily routines of life. I cry everyday and lose my temper
just as often. I am having a hard time even being happy..."

In the early hours of a cold March morning, I sat on my floor, crying and trying unsuccessfully to calm the baby. I decided that I was a failure as a mother. I couldn't figure out what was wrong with my baby, and I certainly couldn't fix it. I was so angry at this innocent little baby that, at times, I didn't even like him anymore. I wanted to get away from the baby and the relentless crying. I was so desperate, I thought I would try anything.

My one saving grace during this time was the small breaks I would get once in a while when a friend or family member would offer to take Garrett for a few hours. I began to count down the hours until those moments, and use the memories of those hours as fuel to keep me going until the next break.

I had never before felt so awful about myself or one of my children. I didn't like myself, my baby or my life. My husband would come home from work and we would talk for hours about what we could do to help me to be happy again, for my happiness was gone. We would toss ideas around, but in the end, I knew none of them would work. My baby, whom I loved so dearly and brought into the world, was causing me so much grief and pain, I couldn't even function. I began to think I would never be the same again. I had terrible thoughts about leaving my family, just to get away from it all. And though the rational part of me know I didn't really want anything to happen to my baby, I found myself running through scenarios in my mind where Garrett became sick and died, or was given up for adoption. I could never bring myself to tell anyone about these feelings because they were just too horrible. That is how I began to think of myself... as a horrible person who would do anything to escape the crying.

Just when I thought I could not survive one more day, things started to get a little better. After several months of daily crying, I noticed Garrett began to improve. He did not stop crying overnight, but slowly, and surely, his bouts of crying lessened in length and decreased in frequency.

By the end of the summer, Garrett was nearly a different child. It was hard to look at him and remember how hard it had really been. But, for five months solid, he cried inconsolably for nearly eight hours a day. By his sixth month, he was crying less and finally, by eight months, he seemed like a normal child.

Only after I had survived Garrett's months of crying did I learn about the Period of PURPLE Crying and find out that my experience was not unusual, that in fact, one in four babies is a high crier and many mothers have felt exactly the way I did. I also learned that infant crying is the number one trigger to shaken baby syndrome and other forms of infant abuse. That night, I prayed and thanked God that during all the frustrating days of crying, no one ever never "lost it" with my baby.

Garrett is now a normal, happy, healthy three-year-old boy. Well, if normal means that he thinks he is Spiderman and is somehow able to convince everyone to lift him up so he can climb the walls and shoot his webs, then he is normal. He has no remaining signs or symptoms from his once fussy days. In fact, he is now a big brother to the fourth child in our family.

On April 23, 2007, another little boy, Taylor was born into our family. Weighing in at 5lbs. 15 oz., with light brown hair and blue eyes; he seemed absolutely perfect. Taylor's days of crying did come, but they were manageable. Whenever he would get particularly fussy, especially in the evenings, my husband would look at me and say, "It's OK, he is having a PURPLE moment, just put him down in his crib. He will be fine." Even having a name to call it helped us to communicate with each other about what the baby was going through and what we were experiencing. But, most importantly, understanding the properties of crying, and knowing that the time of high crying was temporary, made those weeks bearable.

I still didn't like to hear my sweet little baby crying, but this time, I knew he really was going to be just fine, and so was I.

Mother Shares Her Experience with PURPLE Crying

My experience with the Period of PURPLE Crying.

Veronica was an angel in the hospital after she was born. She ate & slept like a pro, hardly ever cried. She continued her angelness for the next three to four weeks and then all of the sudden everything changed, it was like someone switched my happy, content baby with a baby I had never met. Now she cried for hours on end (the crying usually lasted for AT LEAST 3 hours & would stop as suddenly as it started) and most nothing would soothe her...or something would soothe her one day but not the next. And the crying started at the same time every evening, you could set a clock by her. Everyone dreaded 7pm because we all knew what was coming. During this time I would wind up going to be in tears from the stress, it's not easy listening to your newborn cry and not be able to do anything to stop it.

At her month check up, her pediatrician mentioned the word colic. Around the same time, a friend recommended the website "The Period of PURPLE Crying". I did research on both and found my daughter was definitely going through the PURPLE stage! What a relief to finally find something that actually made sense, because colic surely didn' was just a word that seems to be thrown out to help parents feel better. The Period of PURPLE Crying truly helped me get through those 3 months! It made me realize there wasn't anything wrong with my baby and that she wasn't sick or in pain. It made me realize this crying was normal, my baby just did it more than others. The Period of PURPLE Crying saved me and maybe even saved my daughter.

After hours, days, weeks, months of dealing with crying, I can totally understand why a parent may snap and shake a baby. Most parents don't have the support or resources they need to understand what the baby is going through. Maybe if information on The Period of PURPLE Crying were made available to all new parents in the hospital, it would save the life of an infant.

For anyone going through this Period of PURPLE Crying, know that it does end, things do get better and your baby will stop crying. My daughter is now a healthy, happy four month old baby...she giggles, laughs & coos. I never thought these days would come!

Wheeling, WV