Does your baby cry a lot? New research finds UK babies are amongst the most frequent criers in the world

Most parents have, at some point, begged the question “is this normal?” as their newborn screams the house down.

But now, a researcher at Kingston University has created a chart that enables parents to calculate if their baby is crying more than it should in the first three months of its life.

The chart follows a study of colic and crying in almost 8,700 babies from across the world and allows parents to see the average amount of crying, making it easy for them to identify if their child is crying excessively and in need of medical treatment.

The research by Muthanna Samara, Professor in Psychology at Kingston University challenges a previously held theory that crying in newborns peaks around six weeks.

“We found no statistical evidence for a universal increase in the duration of crying over the first six weeks of life culminating in a peak at five to six weeks of age as proposed previously, although it does show a slight increase,” said Professor Samara. “Overall, cry durations were high across the first six weeks of life and then reduced significantly over the following six weeks.”

The chart, which the Samara hopes will become widely used across paediatric healthcare, also compares how much babies from different parts of the world cry.

Across three months, levels of colic – which is defined as unexplained crying lasting at least three hours a day, at least three days’ a week – were highest in Canadian babies (34.1% at three to four weeks), UK babies (27% in the first two weeks) and Italian babies (20.9% at eight to nine weeks). Japanese babies had the lowest levels of colic (2.1% at five to six weeks), followed by Danish babies (5.5% had colic at three to four weeks).

Working with the University of Warwick, the research looked at 28 existing studies from countries across Europe, US and Japan.

“One study found that Danish parents respond more quickly when the baby cries compared to British parents,” said Professor Samara. “It found that parents in the UK had less physical contact with their infants, including when their baby is crying and also when awake and settled.”

“Also, in Denmark, fathers are given reduced hours to work in order to help support the mother more in those first weeks, so while we can only speculate that these factors contribute to babies crying less in Denmark – our data supports this.”

WORDS: MARTHA ALEXANDER

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