New research shows babies’ crying doesn’t peak after 6 weeks

(ORDO NEWS) — If you’re a parent, you’re probably familiar with searching the internet for explanations of everything from sleep patterns to weird breakouts, and one of the queries you might have searched is “When do babies stop crying so much?”.

So far, the most authoritative study on the subject, from 1962, suggested that crying peaked at 6 weeks, then faded and stabilized at a low level after 12 weeks – the commonly accepted “crying curve”.

Now a new study covering more data collected over a longer period of time shows that prolonged crying in babies can last much longer – and the team that conducted it wants to redraw the crying curve.

If you Google ‘crying babies’, you’ll see a lot of images of this very graph,” says Arno Quentin Vermille, professor of cognitive science at the University of Aarhus in Denmark.

“So we thought it would be interesting to model all of the available data to see which type of pattern best represents the data and see if it matches the original ‘crying curve’.”

The standard definition of excessive crying (colic) is crying for more than three hours a day and at least three days a week. It is believed that in the first six weeks after birth, colic occurs in 17-25 percent of babies.

The team of researchers collected information from 17 different countries and 57 separate research projects by examining the crying patterns of 7,580 babies reported by their parents. It is important to note that the data covered 12 months, not 12 weeks as in the 1962 study.

Although the data showed considerable variability in terms of crying patterns, the researchers analyzed the numbers and developed two statistical models: one showing a peak in crying after four weeks, and the other showing a steady level of crying during the first weeks followed by a gradual decline.

None of these patterns match the traditionally accepted crying curve, but evidence also shows that excessive crying can continue for months, which can soothe young parents who are worried about their babies.

“We created two mathematical models that reasonably represent the available data,” says neuroscientist Kristin Parsons of Aarhus University.

“None of them show that crying duration decreases as much after five weeks, which is what you can see in the graphs that are presented to parents. The available data show that crying is still an important part of the repertoire of many babies after six months.”

The researchers also noticed that crying habits can vary quite a lot across countries, although data is limited in some regions. For example, infant crying rates in India, Mexico and South Korea are lower than in countries such as the US, UK and Canada.

Crying is an important part of a child’s development. It is used to get the attention of parents, and how parents react to it can affect the child’s cognitive and emotional development.

In addition to giving parents reassurance by explaining the norms for crying, the new study could also be helpful for healthcare professionals who need to recognize when something more serious is about to happen.

“For physicians in particular, this is important because their job is to help, support and reconcile the expectations of worried parents,” says Parsons.

“It is important that clinicians have up-to-date data on what is normal for baby crying so they can best support new parents.”


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