It’s been more than ten years, but I remember it vividly. I was sitting on the living room floor in the middle of the night, rocking back and forth with my newborn baby. She wouldn’t stop crying – oh, why would she not stop crying?!
I rocked there for what felt like hours, and I’m confident that I disassociated at some point, staring off into the distance. I felt helpless, I felt alone, and I felt exhausted. My baby girl cried every night; very little could calm her down.
“Oh, maybe she has colic?” This was the suggestion I heard from most moms, dads, doctors, strangers, Google, and anyone with breath in their lungs.
Great! Colic – at least we “knew” what was making her cry! Now, we had to figure out how to stop it. We tried probiotics, acid reflux medicine, elevated sleep surfaces, and various swaddles. You name it; there wasn’t anything out there we didn’t try! Guess what – none of it worked.
I had a horrible, intrusive thought during that middle-of-the-night cry session on my living room floor. “This must be what it feels like before people shake their babies.”
Now, let me be apparent: at no point did I have the desire or urge to shake my baby girl. Not even a little. I found some wild understanding of how some people can get to the point of no return – feel so helpless, they don’t know what to do, and they just lose their minds. Did I empathize with them? No. But it certainly opened my eyes to the idea that some people lose their sense of reality, especially when they are exhausted by a crying baby.
The next day, after the mental fog had lifted and I had a few hours of sleep under my belt, I decided to Google “Shaken Baby Syndrome.” I went down many rabbit holes: stories of families whose babies had been shaken at the hands of an adult who should have taken care of them. It was devastating, horrifying, and ultimately heartbreaking.
I wondered if others were curious about SBS, so I Googled “Shaken Baby Syndrome Lubbock.” I saw a local nonprofit that had a Shaken Baby Syndrome Prevention class! I took the course, met with the Executive Director, and formed a relationship with this agency that worked toward preventing child abuse.
As my daughter grew up and became a delightful child – who rarely cries anymore – I continued volunteering with the nonprofit. I worked my way up from a volunteer to a member of the Board of Directors, and now, I serve as the Executive Director! Talk about a curious journey.
While working in the “child abuse arena,” I have continued to educate myself on SBS further. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot of helpful things that I wish I had known back when I sat on that living room floor with my crying infant:
- Colic is not a thing – seriously. Don’t get me wrong. Indeed, some babies have medical issues, like acid reflux, that could lead to them being a high crier. However, many babies cry for absolutely no reason. This is not colic; it’s called the Period of Purple Crying. Essentially, it means some babies cry for extended periods for no reason at all. All measures of comfort have been exhausted (diaper change, bottle, etc.), but the baby still cries.
- All babies have this! The Period of Purple crying usually begins around two weeks old and will phase out at about 3 or 4 months. All babies go through this period or phase – some cry more, and others cry less. But they all experience it.
- It will end! No one wants to hear a baby crying – especially not if they are your own. But it is normal for babies to sometimes cry for hours. It is usual for some of them to be inconsolable. Babies going through this period may even appear to be in pain, but they aren’t. This “period” of time is temporary.
- When all else fails, lay baby down and walk away. This is probably the most important thing for parents and caregivers to know – if you cannot handle the crying, lay your baby in a safe, secure area, and walk away for about 5 minutes. Repeat this as many times as you need. It’s better to allow your baby to cry than to do something that would ruin both of your lives.
(Picture of me and my “high crier” back in 2012. She was four months old, and I had fewer wrinkles.)
Let me be the first to say: I am not a doctor. Always consult your doctor to rule out any medical issues and ensure your baby is in tip-top shape. That said, do not beat yourself up as a parent if you can’t soothe your baby. Some of us end up with high criers (God blessed me TWICE with high criers – loved that for me). Some of my dearest friends have babies who rarely cry (jerks). A high-crying baby is not an indication of bad parenting or a “difficult” child. It’s quite the opposite – it indicates that you have a live, breathing baby. Something many people take for granted.
If you are the parent of a high crier and are deep in the thick of this – I see you! I still remember how I physically felt when my baby would cry and cry and cry and cry. Many nights, I would cry right alongside her. But you are doing a great job, and your baby loves you just as much as you love them!
If you would like more information on the Period of Purple Crying, there is a website: www.purplecrying.info.
Family Guidance and Outreach also offers free resources regarding Shaken Baby Syndrome and the Period of Purple Crying. Their website is www.806family.org.