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Canada is literally a nation of crybabies

Canada is literally a nation of crybabies
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That’s according to a British study published Monday in the Journal of Pediatrics, which looks at prevalence rates of colic and the duration of fussiness and crying in infants during their first three months.

Researchers conducted a meta-analysis of existing research from North America, parts of Europe, Australia and Japan, focusing on 28 studies — including six from Canada — that included 8,690 healthy infants. They wanted to know what was normal when it came to babies and crying.

“We’ve got, for example, weight charts, so parents and pediatricians can plot down how a baby grows and know if it’s in the normal range — and that’s quite reassuring for parents,” explained lead author Dieter Wolke , a psychology professor at the University of Warwick. “But for crying, that didn’t exist.”

It does now. And bleary-eyed Canadian parents can take comfort in knowing that while their babies top the crying charts when they’re 3 to 4 weeks old, their rates of colic and fussiness return to normal after that.

The study shows that around the one-month mark, Canadian babies fussed or cried for 150 minutes a day, compared with the overall average of 118 minutes. And about 34 per cent were colicky — defined as crying for more than three hours a day on at least three days in a week — compared with an average of 18 per cent.

“They’ve got their cry peak at three to four weeks, while in most of the other countries it was five to six weeks,” said Wolke in a telephone interview from Coventry, England. “Otherwise, they’re very average in crying.”

The researchers didn’t set out to rank countries. They wanted to know if there was evidence to support the so-called crying curve, which is the belief that crying gradually increases during the first weeks and peaks at five to six weeks. It turns out that babies cry for about two hours a day during their first month and a half, a figure that decreases to about an hour by the time they’re 3 months old.

Other countries that stood out in the study include the Netherlands, whose babies also cry longer than the average, and the United Kingdom and Italy, which also have higher than average rates of colic. By sharp contrast, Danish babies cry the least.

Why the difference? While changes in crying levels are part of a baby’s normal biological adaptation, the paper speculates that genetics, economic conditions, caretaking practices and feeding type may play roles.

In Denmark, said Wolke, a more relaxed approach to parenting, more social support for caregivers, and paternity leave may be key. Plus, he said, Danes tend to wait a minute or two before responding to a baby’s cries, which gives infants a chance to soothe themselves.

But parents of newborns everywhere may find some solace — and sleep-filled nights — in knowing that fussing and crying drop significantly after nine weeks, and colic is rare in infants past that age.

Overall, said Wolke, new parents should have realistic expectations.

“It’s quite normal in the first three months that some babies cry more than others,” he said. “It doesn’t tell you anything about whether you’re a better parent or a worse parent.”
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