It’s difficult to tell how much crying is “normal” for an individual baby, but zoom out enough and the statistics start to congeal into shapes that look an awful lot like countries. Researchers from the University of Warwick attempting to settle on a figure for the typical amount of crying in in an infant’s first three months by charting the howling habits of nearly 9,000 newborns worldwide found that different babies from different countries cry in different ways and with different intensity. Naturally, the results confirm vaguely racist national stereotypes: Italian infants cry while German infants remain stoic.
Published in The Journal Of Pediatrics, the meta-analysis of past studies concerning 8,690 infants in the UK, Germany, Denmark, Japan, Italy, and the Netherlands found that babies around the world cry on average for about two hours a days during their first two weeks, peak at two and 15 minutes at six weeks, and then dip down to one hour and ten minutes by week 12. After that, the crying tends to become less frequent.
But “less frequent” is a relative term. In aggregate, babies from different countries behaved very differently from each other.
Infants in Denmark, Germany, and Japan cried and fussed the least, a fact that seems in keeping with modern danish parenting methods. Babies cried the most in the UK, Italy, Canada, and the Netherlands. Some of those infants were found to cry as much as five hours in a 24-hour period, which only goes to show that a stiff upper lip, pasta, maple syrup, and wooden shoes don’t represent tractable solutions to an infant’s discomfort.
Though amusing, the tear gap shouldn’t be understood in broad cultural terms. Italians are genetically demonstrative. Instead these disparities are mostly due to colic levels, of which the UK (28 percent of infants at 1-2 weeks), Canada (34.1 percent at 3-4 weeks of age), and Italy (20.9 percent at 8-9 weeks of age) have the highest. Canada also had the most crying, it checks out. While the U.S. was rudely snubbed in this global cry-off, with colic rates around 25 percent, it’s safe to say that Americans rank among the fussiest worldwide.