4th April 2017 – If you're driven to distraction by your crying baby, you may take some comfort from the fact you're far from alone. Babies in the UK cry more than those in a number of comparable countries, say psychologists.
The findings emerge from a review of 28 studies on the subject involving 8,690 infants that aimed to establish the prevalence of colic – a harmless condition which causes inconsolable crying and which can be distressing for parents.
A research team led by the University of Warwick calculated the average of how long babies fuss and cry over 24-hour periods in their first 12 weeks in different countries.
They found that, on average, babies cry for around 2 hours each day (117-133 minutes) in the first 6 weeks. This drops to an average of 68 minutes by the time they are 10 to 12 weeks old.
Babies cry the most in the UK, Italy, Canada and the Netherlands. The lowest levels of crying were found in Denmark, Germany and Japan.
There was significant correlation between these extremes of crying and levels of colic. The highest levels of colic – defined as crying more than 3 hours a day for at least 3 days a week in a baby – were found in:
Canada (34.1% at 3-4 weeks of age)
The UK (28% of infants at 1-2 weeks)
Italy (20.9% at 8-9 weeks of age).
In contrast, the lowest colic rates were found in Denmark (5.5% at 3-4 weeks) and Germany (6.7% at 3-4 weeks).
The authors of the study, in The Journal of Pediatrics, say they can only speculate on why crying rates vary, particularly between Denmark and the rest of Europe and North America. "These could range from economic conditions, such as less social inequality, to caretaking patterns such as responsiveness, carrying behaviour and management in Denmark that have been shown to differ from the United Kingdom," they say.
One drawback to the research is the unequal number of studies from different countries.
'A complex issue'
Dr Tim Ubhi from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, comments by email: "The amount of crying varies between babies and in most cases is entirely normal. Some babies simply cry more than others.
"This study shows clear geographical differences across countries in terms of crying pattern and that cannot be simply explained on cultural grounds. It is a much more complex issue and may in part be due to how the data was collected."
Dr Ubhi adds: "It's natural for parents to worry about how much their baby is crying - particularly if they seem to be crying for a long time, or more than other babies. Unfortunately, crying is very common; it's the only way very young babies can express themselves and call upon their parents."
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