As a postpartum doula, I love to help normalize all the strange, and wonderful behaviors that your newborn may exhibit. A few common questions I get are, “Is it normal for my baby to be noisy when they sleep? My baby looks away when I talk to him/her, is that normal? My baby cries a lot, or a little, is that normal?” Normalizing this new experience of parenting is a powerful part of my support as a postpartum doula. I believe all babies are “good babies” no matter how much they sleep or cry. I also believe that knowing what is ‘normal’ or average can be helpful for parents to have realistic expectations.
A massive meta-analysis involving nearly 8700 babies shows that babies cry more in certain countries than in other regions around the globe. As it turns out, British babies, Canadian babies, and Italian babies cry more than babies in other areas of the world. Though Professor Dieter Wolke from the Department of Psychology at the University of Warwick didn’t explain why, he did manage to formulate the world’s very first universal charts for the so-called “normal amount” of crying that babies exhibit during their first 12 weeks of life.
The meta-analysis also included babies from Germany, Denmark, Japan, and the Netherlands.
Wolke was able to calculate the average length of time that babies cried and fussed during each twenty-four hour period of the first twelve weeks of their lives in different countries around the world.
As it turns out, of the countries sampled, the average length of time that babies spend crying each day during the first two years after birth was two hours! (Of course, I’d like to think that with increased postpartum doula assistance, that global average could one day be lower.) The amount that babies cry is the highest when babies are six-weeks old. Eventually the crying wanes to an average of one hour and ten minutes each day when babies are twelve-weeks old.
Remember though, this is just an average. Some babies, believe it or not, cried as little as one-half-hour per day, according to the meta-analysis. Meanwhile, other babies cried over five hours each day.
Wolke reported that babies from Germany, Denmark and Japan cried the least. Science Daily broke down the results:
“Babies cry the most in the UK, Italy, Canada, and the Netherlands — and the lowest levels of crying were found in Denmark, Germany and Japan.
“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 the UK (28% of infants at 1-2 weeks), Canada (34.1% at 3-4 weeks of age) and Italy (20.9% at 8-9 weeks of age).
“In contrast, lowest colic rates were reported in Denmark (5.5% at 3-4 weeks) and Germany (6.7% at 3-4 weeks).”
Until now, the definition of colic and excessive crying was gauged against data from the middle of last century. With all of the changes of modern life though, Professor Wolke set out to discover the new normal. He also stressed that we might be able to examine the countries where crying is less frequent and determine what we might change to reduce the amount of time babies spend unhappy.
“Babies are already very different in how much they cry in the first weeks of life — 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,” he said.
The meta-analysis was completed by searching literature published in Medline, PsycINFO, and Embase. In all, 5687 articles were reviewed and 28 diary studies were deemed suitable for inclusion in this meta-analysis.
How do you feel about redefining how much crying is normal for babies?
Does your baby cry a lot? If you would like some help with your baby’s fussiness, consider contacting a postpartum doula in your area. If you live in Birmingham, Troy or other areas around Metro Detroit, Michigan, and would like some help, please complete this contact form. Postpartum Doula services include helping you learn soothing techniques, newborn cues, babywearing education, and breastfeeding/feeding help.
What an amazing article! I learned so much. My middle child had colic and it was a hard thing to handle as a busy mom of a three year old.
I think you hit the nail on the head when you said there is a “large but normal variation” in what is normal. All three of my kids had different levels of crying. My first had some colic and terrible tummy problems. My second two practically never cried. I am pregnant with number four and I am sure he will be just as unique. I personally believe the difference had to do with my feeding choices. My first was formula-fed, I was a young mother and was in college and just did what I thought would be easiest. With number 2 and 3, I breastfed and they did not have the same issues.