These Countries Have the Fewest Crying Babies

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The amount a baby cries in the first weeks of life may depend on which country he or she calls home.

Babies in Canada, England and Italy cry more than babies in other countries, shows a new study appearing in The Journal of Pediatrics

Credit: Toshimasa Ishibashi/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

On the other hand, babies in Denmark, Japan and Germany cry the least over the first 12 weeks of life, the study says.

“Babies are already very different in how much they cry in the first weeks of life – there are large but normal variations,” said lead author Dieter Wolke, professor of Psychology at the University of Warwick in England.

“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,” Wolke added.

Reviewing prior studies covering nearly 9,000 infants, the research team assessed how often babies fussed and cried over the first three months of life. Babies that cried for at least three hours per day for a week were considered colicky, a condition that may affect up to 40 percent of infants and is characterized by “fussiness, high-pitched crying and difficulty being comforted.”

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Overall, the prevalence of colic ranged from 17 percent to 25 percent of the infants studied in the first six weeks. Some countries, however, experienced far less crying than others. For instance, just two percent of Japanese infants and six percent of Danish infants before six weeks were considered colicky. That compares to the United Kingdom, which saw up to a 47 percent colic rate in infants.

‘Universal Crying Curve’ Wanes After Six Weeks

While the rates of fussiness varied among countries over the first six weeks, the researchers noted a cross-country decrease in crying in week seven and beyond. “All studies found a ‘universal’ reduction in fuss/cry reduction between 6 and 12 weeks of age,” report the researchers.

Credit: Donnie Ray Jones/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

But the unique fussing patterns among infants in different countries have researchers only guessing on the reasons for the discrepancy. “These could range from economic conditions, such as less social inequality, to caretaking patterns such as responsiveness, carrying behavior and management in Denmark that have been shown to differ from the United Kingdom,” they speculate.

Whatever the reason, they believe that the new evidence should help prepare new parents as they adapt to some of the rigors of caring for a new baby.

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

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Should crying and fussing continue after 12 weeks, the new study may help parents and their caregivers identify a threshold of sorts requiring more formal intervention. “If excessive fuss/cry persists beyond the first three months, there is increasing evidence that this may indicate regulatory problems with adverse consequences for future development and may require treatment,” they report.

While no single treatment has shown to cure colic, you can take steps, such as playing music or taking your baby for a car ride, to help ease the fussing.

Richard Scott
Richard Scott is a health care reporter focusing on health policy and public health. Richard keeps tabs on national health trends from his Philadelphia location and is an active member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.