Some things, like cute babies, are pretty much universal. Others, like the amount of time they keep their parents up at night, may not be. New research published in the Journal of Pediatrics, found that rates of crying and colic were higher in the United Kingdom, Canada, Italy, and the Netherlands than they were in the United States, Germany, Denmark, and Japan.
The word “colic” doesn’t refer to any pediatric medical issue in particular; it’s essentially doctor shorthand for “we do not know why your baby is crying so much.” We don’t know what causes colic or how to make it go away. We just know that colicky babies cry—a lot—and that it almost always passes after a few months.
Those few months can feel like a very long time for new parents.
To better understand what goes on during that time, a team of researchers in London compiled data from colic studies on about 8700 babies in eight countries. They compared the incidence of colic and crying, as well as the ages of the wailing infants and how long each child’s issues lasted.
On average, they found, parents dealt with two hours of crying per day in their babies’ first two weeks of life. That number rose until about week six, maxing out at two hours and 15 minutes, then gradually declined. By the time infants were 12 weeks old, they were crying about an hour and 10 minutes per night.
But these are overall averages; the results actually showed significant differences between countries. British, Canadian, Italian, and Dutch babies had more colic than those in Germany, Denmark, and Japan. American babies were somewhere in the middle.
"There are large but normal variations” in the amount of time babies spend crying, lead author Dieter Wolke said in a statement. “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.”
Because each country’s babies are different, Wolke says his team’s chart “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."