New comparison chart sheds light on babies' tears

July 10, 2017, Kingston University, London
Credit: Shutterstock

A chart that enables parents and clinicians to calculate if a baby is crying more than it should in the first three months of its life has been created by a Kingston University London researcher, following a study of colic and crying in babies from across the world.

The data is based on analysis of existing studies of almost 8,700 babies - and has resulted in the first universal chart which shows the average amount of crying in babies during the first three months, plus compares colic and crying in babies from a number of different countries.

The research found that overall, babies in the United Kingdom, Italy, Canada and the Netherlands cry the most, while babies in Denmark, Germany and Japan cry the least. Across the three months, levels of colic – defined as crying for at least three hours a day for three days a week– were highest in Canadian babies (34.1 percent at three to four weeks), UK babies (27 percent in the first two weeks) and Italian babies (20.9 percent at eight to nine weeks). Japanese babies had the lowest levels of colic (2.1 percent at five to six weeks), followed by Danish babies (5.5 percent had colic at three to four weeks).

Muthanna Samara, Professor in Psychology at Kingston University London, said that, not only did the findings help produce the first ever worldwide comparison, but challenged previous theories of peaks in crying.

"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."

He hopes that the evidence garnered by their analysis will provide a real and up to date diagnosis tool that parents and healthcare professionals can use to assess whether their baby is crying more than expected. Currently, the diagnosis for colic is based on the Wessel 3Rs criteria from 60 years ago.

"We've produced a chart based on our figures that clinicians and parents can rely on to see if their babies are crying more than average. If the baby is not crying within the expected range this may indicate that they need to seek an assessment or seek medical advice or support."

Undertaken in partnership with University of Warwick, the research looked at 28 existing studies from countries across Europe, US and Japan. Professor Samara said the data has supported other studies that provide theories on why babies in some countries cry more than others.

"One study that compared Danish and UK babies crying 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."

The analysis also concluded that babies who were breastfed tend to cry more. Professor Samara said this is due to the fact that formula milk takes longer to break down in the stomach so breastfed babies tend to wake up more - and consequently cry more.

Ultimately, Professor Samara would like the universal chart to become widely recognised across the paediatric healthcare system and by children's charities as a tool to help diagnose crying problems in .

"The chart could be included in the diagnostic manuals and used by clinicians and clinical psychologists as one of the criteria to diagnose crying problems in the future, it allows us to recognise whether the baby is excessively crying or fussing according to age," said Professor Samara.

Professor Samara would also like to expand the research to include other countries, such as the Middle East and Asia, to give them a broader picture that takes in different cultures and socio-economic factors.

"There is a need for studies in other countries," said Professor Samara. "So, what's considered high levels of in the countries we've studied may be normal elsewhere. We need to take into account different countries and their cultures."

The research, Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis: Fussing and Crying Durations and Colic Prevalence in Infants is published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Explore further: Babies cry most in UK, Canada, Italy and Netherlands

More information: Dieter Wolke et al. Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis: Fussing and Crying Durations and Prevalence of Colic in Infants, The Journal of Pediatrics (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2017.02.020

Related Stories

Babies cry most in UK, Canada, Italy and Netherlands

April 3, 2017
Babies cry more in Britain, Canada and Italy, than the rest of the world—according to new research by the University of Warwick.

Acupuncture may alleviate babies' excessive crying (infantile colic)

January 16, 2017
Acupuncture may be an effective treatment option for babies with infantile colic—those who cry for more than 3 hours a day on 3 or more days of the week—reveals research published online in Acupuncture in Medicine.

Study examines probiotics to prevent or treat excessive infant crying

October 7, 2013
There still appears to be insufficient evidence to support using probiotics (Lactobacillus reuteri) to manage colic or to prevent crying in infants, especially in formula-fed babies, but it may be an effective treatment for ...

Study links babies' colic to mothers' migraines

February 20, 2012
A study of mothers and their young babies by neurologists at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) has shown that mothers who suffer migraine headaches are more than twice as likely to have babies with colic ...

Mothers' relationship happiness may influence infant fussiness

April 24, 2017
How happy a mother is in her relationship and the social support she receives may affect the risk of infant colic, according to Penn State College of Medicine researchers. The study sheds new light on the factors that may ...

Could baby's tummy bacteria help spur colic?

January 14, 2013
(HealthDay)— Colic is a common problem for babies, and new research may finally provide clues to its cause: A small study found that infants with colic seemed to develop certain intestinal bacteria later than those without ...

Recommended for you

Diagnosing and treating disorders of early sex development

June 19, 2018
Diagnosing, advising on and treating disorders of early sex development represent a huge medical challenge, both for those affected and for treating physicians. In contrast to the earlier view, DSD (Difference of Sex Development) ...

Use of alternative medicines has doubled among kids, especially teens

June 18, 2018
A new study published in JAMA Pediatrics shows that since 2003, the use of alternative medicines, such as herbal products and nutraceuticals, among children has doubled. The University of Illinois at Chicago researchers who ...

Virtual reality headsets significantly reduce children's fear of needles

June 18, 2018
The scenario is all too familiar for the majority of parents. The crying, the screaming and the tantrums as they try to coax their children into the doctor's office for routine immunizations. After all, who can't relate to ...

Both quantity and quality of sleep affect cardiovascular risk factors in adolescents

June 15, 2018
A study from a research team led by a MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC) physician finds that both the quantity and quality of sleep—the amount of time spent sleeping and the percentage of sleep that is undisturbed—in ...

Ingesting honey after swallowing button battery reduces injury and improves outcomes

June 11, 2018
A team of ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialists has demonstrated that eating honey after swallowing a button battery has the potential to reduce serious injuries in small children. Based on findings in laboratory animals, ...

Bifidobacteria supplement colonizes gut of breastfed infants

June 10, 2018
Supplementing breastfed infants with activated Bifidobacterium infantis (B. infantis) bacteria had a positive impact on babies' gut microbes for up to a year, according to a recent study by researchers at the University of ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.