This is where babies cry the most

tired baby
© Vasiuk Iryna

Looking to chart out average crying times for parents and health officials to assess their babies, a researcher found that infants in some countries cry a lot more than those in others.

Determining which countries play home to the longest bouts of crying might seem like a strange topic of exploration for a researcher to undertake. But anyone who has listened to their new baby cry (and cry and cry and cry) will likely appreciate the motivation: To create new universal guidelines for parents and health professionals to assess normal and excessive levels of crying.

I would hazard a guess that the most frequently pondered question amongst new parents is: "Is this normal?" Now, when it comes to crying at least, there is a chart with which to measure against.

Professor Dieter Wolke in University of Warwick’s Department of Psychology did a meta-analysis of studies involving almost 8700 infants from different cultures and calculated the average of how long babies fuss and cry in 24 hours during their first 12 weeks. The last standard chart was devised in the 1950s.

"The new chart of normal fuss/cry amounts in babies across industrialised countries," Wolke says, "will help health professionals to reassure parents whether a baby is crying within the normal expected range in the first 3 months or shows excessive crying which may require further evaluation and extra support for the parents."

And in the course of finding out how long babies cry, he discovered that babies in some countries cry more than others. Specifically, the wee ones in Britain, Canada, Italy and Netherlands cry the most; meanwhile, lucky parents in Denmark, Germany and Japan are treated to the least amount of wailing babes.

The colic crowns – colic being defined as crying more than three hours a day for at least three days a week – were awarded to the babies in the UK with 28 percent of infants at 1 to 2 weeks having colic, Canada with 34.1 percent at 3 to 4 weeks of age, and Italy with 20.9 percent at 8 to 9 weeks of age having colic. Meanwhile, only 5.5 percent of 3- to 6-week old babies in Denmark were reported as having colic, with Germany having 6.7 percent of colic babies of the same age.

Crunching the numbers, Wolke arrived at these averages:

First two weeks of age: 2 hours per day
At six weeks: 2 hours and 15 minutes per day
At 12 weeks: 1 hour and 10 minutes per day

That said, some infants cry for as little as 30 minutes while others cry for more than five hours during the course of a day.

The differences between countries are pretty dramatic … and the reason why has yet to be determined, though knowing surely could prove helpful.

"Babies are already very different in how much they cry in the first weeks of life," says Wolke, "there are large but normal variations. We may learn more from looking at cultures where there is less crying and whether this may be due to parenting or other factors relating to pregnancy experiences or genetics."

The research, "Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis: Fussing and Crying Durations and Colic Prevalence in Infants" is published in The Journal of Pediatrics.

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