New research challenges have established ideas about infant crying – Neuroscience News

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Summary: The duration of a baby’s cry decreases dramatically after five weeks of age, but crying remains an important part of a child’s communication repertoire after six months of age.

Source: Aarhus University

When will my baby stop crying so much?

If you’re a new parent who, in a more or less sleep deprived state, googles this question, then the answer might put your mind at ease.

Many Google results will refer you to an old study that concludes that infant crying normally peaks around six weeks of age, after which it decreases markedly and stabilizes at a low level after three months.

Commonly referred to as the “crying curve,” parents can expect their babies to cry dramatically less after the initial peak. However, a new study from Denmark challenges this ‘cry curve’ model, by pooling data from parents from 17 different countries.

“We created two mathematical models that reasonably represent the available data. Neither show that the duration of crying drops as markedly after five weeks, which is also seen in the graphs presented to the parents. The available data show that crying is still an important part of many infants’ repertoire after six months,” says Christine Parsons, Associate Professor in the Department of Clinical Medicine at Aarhus University.

Widely used cry curve

The researchers behind the study compiled data from 57 research papers from around the world, in which parents recorded how much their babies cry each day.

The normal crying pattern, the “crying curve” that parents often refer to today, is based on a 1962 US study, which focused only on the first twelve weeks of a child’s life.

“This is a graphic that is often presented to new parents. If you google “infant crying” you will see many images of this particular graphic. Therefore, we thought it would be interesting to model all the available data to see what type of model best represents the data, and test if this is consistent with the original ‘cry curve’,” says Arnault- Quentin Vermillet, the first author of the article.

Important tool for clinicians

Crying is one of the first forms of communication infants use to get their parents’ attention. Infant cognitive and emotional development is stimulated when parents respond appropriately to infant cues.

New parents often turn to the health care system for help if they are concerned that their child is crying too much.

According to Christine Parsons, it is therefore important that healthcare professionals and parents have a correct and accurate understanding of normal crying patterns in infants.

“For clinicians in particular, this is important because their job is to help, support and reconcile the expectations of worried parents. It is important that clinicians have up-to-date data on what is normal for infant crying, so they can better support new parents. When parents perceive their child to be crying excessively, it can be associated with negative consequences for both parent and child,” she explains.

Patterns of crying vary a lot

A widely used definition for excessive crying, or colic, is when a baby cries for more than 3 hours a day, more than 3 days in a week. During the first 6 weeks after birth, colic is estimated to affect between 17 and 25% of infants.

Crying is one of the first forms of communication infants use to get their parents’ attention. Image is in public domain

Researchers at Aarhus University have developed two new models for the infant crying model. One of them shows peaks in infant crying after four weeks. The other shows that infants cry a lot and at a steady level for the first few weeks, after which the level drops.

However, neither pattern indicates a steep drop, as it otherwise appears to be from the “original cry pattern.”

See also

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Another remarkable finding from the study is the difference in crying patterns among babies, both within and outside national borders, according to Christine Parsons.

As an example, she mentions that the limited data available indicates that children from non-Western countries such as India, Mexico and South Korea cry less than children from English-speaking countries such as the United States, Great Britain. Britain and Canada.

About this neurodevelopment research news

Author: Jacob Binderup
Source: Aarhus University
Contact: Jakob Binderup – University of Aarhus
Picture: Image is in public domain

Original research: Free access.
Crying in the first 12 months of life: a systematic review and meta-analysis of cross-national parent-reported data and modeling the “crying curve”” by Christine Parsons et al. child development


Crying in the first 12 months of life: a systematic review and meta-analysis of cross-national parent-reported data and modeling the “crying curve”

Crying is a pervasive communication signal in early childhood. This meta-analysis synthesizes data on parent-reported infant crying times from 17 countries and 57 studies up to 12 months of age (NOT = 7580, 54% of women from k = 44; majority white samples, when reported, k = 18), based on studies carried out before the end of September 2020.

Most studies were conducted in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada (k = 32) and the traditional crying “peak” (5–6 weeks of age), where the combined estimate of crying and fussing duration was 126 minutes (South Dakota = 61), with strong heterogeneity.

Formal modeling of meta-analytic data suggests that crying duration remains significant in the first year of life, after an initial decrease.

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