Shh...An International Study Found That Danish Babies Cry Less Than Other Babies
Oh, Denmark. It was ranked the world's happiest country, and its citizens have an entire cultural ideology devoted to coziness, but is that enough? No, of course not. It also has some of the quietest babies. A 2017 meta-analysis found that of babies in Europe, North America, and Japan, Danish babies cry the least.
Colic Is As Colic Does
For an article published in The Journal of Pediatrics in March of 2017, Dieter Wolke, Ph.D. and his team performed a systematic review and meta-analysis that crunched the data from 28 studies on infant crying from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Japan, and Denmark. Primarily, the researchers wanted to establish universal standards for how much crying is normal, and how much should be considered colic. The most widely used definition for colic is the Wessel Criteria, a rule defined by pediatrician Dr. Morris Wessel way back in 1954. It says that a baby is considered to have colic if they cry for more than three hours a day, three days a week, for more than three weeks, which is why it's also known as the "rule of threes." As the study points out, lots of new science has taken place since the 1950s, so the researchers wanted to know if that tried-and-true rule still holds. At the same time, they wanted to find out whether crying rates were the same across cultures.
According to a press release, "On average, the study found, babies cry for around two hours a day in the first two weeks. They then cry a little more in the following few weeks until they peak at around two hours 15 minutes a day at six weeks. This then reduces to an average of one hour 10 minutes by the time they are 12 weeks old." How did the different countries fare? Denmark, as we mentioned, had the very lowest rates of colic, though babies in Germany and Japan also cried less than in other countries. At the other end of the spectrum, babies in the United Kingdom, Canada, and Italy cry the most.
A Mysterious Symptom
Unfortunately, that's all the researchers know. As they write in the study, "we can only speculate on the reasons why there are country differences, in particular between Denmark and the rest of Europe and North America. These could range from economic conditions, such as less social inequality, to caretaking patterns such as responsiveness, carrying behavior and management in Denmark that have been shown to differ from the United Kingdom." Genetic differences could also be at play, they add.
Of course, ask a Dane, and you may get a different answer. Jessica Joelle Alexander, author of The Danish Way Of Parenting, told the Guardian, "Danish parents are much less stressed because they get good maternity and paternity leave. The vibe is much calmer and, if mothers are getting more time off, that goes hand in hand with less stress, more contact, good routines and less crying...Oh, and Danish babies sleep outdoors a lot." Another clue could lie in breastfeeding rates, which are among the highest in Denmark and among the lowest in the U.K. and Canada. Still, those are only speculations. Colic is a mysterious thing, and after more than five decades of research we still haven't gotten to the bottom of it.