Newborns cry a lot because that’s what newborns do, right? And even though you know newborns cry, it’s still stressful when your baby cries. As a new parent, how do you know if your baby is crying the normal amount, or crying so much that maybe something is really wrong?
Researchers at the University of Warwick in the U.K. have put together the world’s first universal chart of what is considered the "normal" amount of crying for the first three months of an infant’s life—and SURPRISE!—that norm varies from country to country.
This universal cry chart came about after psychology professor Dr. Dieter Wolke analyzed the crying data of 8,700 infants from across the world. He recorded how long babies fussed and cried over a 24-hour period across different countries in the first 12 weeks of life.
What he found is that globally, on average, babies cry for a total of two hours per day in the first two weeks of life. Cry time peaks at an average of two hours and 15 minutes per day at six weeks. After the six-week peak, cry time begins to decline and the average goes down to one hour and 10 minutes per day when babies hit the 12-week mark.
OK, so those are the average times, but when looked at individually some of the babies studied cried as little as 30 minutes a day, while others could wail for up to five hours a day. FIVE. HOURS. So not fair!
So what countries have the biggest crybabies? Dr. Wolke found that Canada, the U.K. and Italy took the top crybaby honors; whereas Germany, Denmark and Japan had the least amount of crybabies.
Dr. Wolke cites previous studies that might explain why Danish babies on average cry so much less than, say, babies from the U.K.
"They found Danish parents are a little bit more relaxed in their behavior and less likely to respond to babies immediately, encouraging the baby to calm itself," Dr. Wolke told the Daily Mail. "They have more bodily, skin-to-skin contact than parents in the UK, which might help soothe infants. Danish parents may have more social support due to different shared parental leave arrangements."
Whatever the reasons that babies in some countries cry less than babies elsewhere, Dr. Wolke reminds parents to let go of guilt over their baby’s crying norm.
"Parents do need to realize, however, that over the first three months they have less influence on crying duration than they think. About 40 percent of babies’ crying in the first three months is hard to soothe and won’t change no matter what strategies they try. It is important parents know that to relieve the blame they often feel about their baby’s crying,” he said.
The great thing about these findings is that now parents can have a better idea of whether their child is within the normal crying range in terms of country.
"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," Wolke said.
If you’re wondering how the United States ranked, you’ll have to wait until the study is published in the journal Pediatrics. For now, we know the U.S. isn’t on the top or bottom of the list. Could that mean our babies cry just the right amount of time?
Now if only we could all take a page from the Dutch parenting books and also have the happiest kids, maybe they'd cry less.