Canada tops list of countries with most crybabies

New research has found that babies cry the most in Canada, the U.K., Italy and the Netherlands.

On average, Canadian babies cried 30 minutes more than babies from other countries

British, Canadian and Italian babies are world leaders when it comes to crying, according to a new study. (Khumthong/Shutterstock )

Babies cry.

It's what they do. It's how they express themselves. And it appears that babies in Canada excel at it.

According to new research from the U.K., babies in Canada, Britain, Italy and the Netherlands cry more than babies in other countries.

Researchers at the University of Warwick conducted a meta-analysis of studies involving about 8,700 infants in countries including Canada, Germany, Denmark, Japan, Italy and the U.K.

I don't want to concern parents in Canada that this is now a particular problem in Canada — which it isn't.- Prof. Dieter Wolke, University of Warwick

They then calculated the average time babies fuss and cry in their first 12 weeks. On average, babies cry for about two hours a day in the first two weeks. Crying peaked at around two hours and 15 minutes per day at six weeks. The crying gradually decreased to an average of just over one hour at 12 weeks.

On average, Canadian babies cried 30 minutes more than babies from other countries.

Part of the reason for that is the "colic percentage" — that is, when a baby cries for more than three hours a day, for more than three days a week. Canadian babies had some of the highest levels (peaking at three to four weeks at 34.1 per cent of infants), followed by the U.K. (peaking at one to two weeks at 28 per cent) and Italy (peaking at eight to nine weeks at 20.9 per cent).

Psychology professor Dieter Wolke, lead author of the study, says Canadian parents need not worry.

"I don't want to concern parents in Canada that this is now a particular problem in Canada — which it isn't," he told CBC News. He pointed out that babies in Canada peaked around the three-four week mark but fell into a more normal range around week six.

'Large but normal variations'

Germany, Japan and Denmark had the least amount of crying and fussing babies. In fact, researchers found Denmark had consistently lower crying rates across a number of studies.

"In Denmark, it seems to be they're more relaxed about it," Wolke said. "They might have a little bit more support because of maternity and paternity laws ... the father in the first few weeks can stay at home, too." It's worth noting that Denmark regularly falls at or near the top of the "best countries to live in" lists. Wolke speculates that this may foster a population that feels good about itself, and those emotions can transfer to the baby.

"Babies are already very different in how much they cry in the first weeks of life," the researchers said. "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."

A new British study that looked at average amounts of crying in babies found that babies cry more in Canada, Britain and Italy than in other countries. Danish and Japanese babies had the lowest crying rates. (George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images)

In looking at crying patterns in babies worldwide, the British psychologists have created the world's first universal benchmarks for the typical ranges of crying in babies during their first three months.

"Parents had very little idea of how much babies would cry," Wolke said. "They would very often say, 'We were so surprised how it changed our lives and how much a baby cries.'"

"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," the researchers said.

For sleep-deprived parents, the Canadian Paediatric Society offers relief, with suggestions on how to help soothe a fussy baby. Some of them include:

  • Check to see if your baby needs something — a diaper change, a feeding, relief from being too hot or too cold, or attention for a fever. 
  • Play soft music or white noise, or make gentle shushing sounds.
  • Hold your baby but be aware that some babies do not like being passed from person to person.
  • Wrap or swaddle your baby in a soft blanket.
  • Many babies are soothed by motion. Try walking with baby in a sling/wrap or in a stroller. Rock or sway with your baby in a gentle, rhythmic motion. Try going for a ride in the car.

The U.K. research is published in the Journal of Pediatrics.


Kas Roussy

Former CBC reporter

Kas Roussy was a senior reporter with the Health unit at CBC News. In her more than 30 years with CBC, Kas’s reporting took her around the globe to cover news in countries including Pakistan and Afghanistan, Chile, Haiti and China, where she was the bureau producer.


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