Why do British babies cry so much?

Crying baby

A new study shows that British babies cry more than babies almost anywhere else in the world. So, if like me, you spent most of the first few months of your baby’s life going, “Err…is it normal for them to be screaming this much?” Yes, apparently it is. Because Britain.

British babies join Canadian and Italian babies as the most compulsive criers, while Danish, German and Japanese babies cry the least. Around 28% of British babies have colic, which is defined as crying for more than three hours a day for at least three days a week.

So why are British babies so pissed off?

Anxious British parents?

According to the study, Danish and German parents are more relaxed and will let their babies cry for a minute or two before picking them up, while British parents fall over themselves to grab their babies at the first sign of distress.

Professor Dieter Wolke, who led the research, said, “It’s the same principal as going on a plane. You are told to put your own oxygen mask on before helping others. If you are not relaxed you are not going to be any use to your baby.”

I was definitely NOT relaxed during the first few months of the Popple’s life. Not at all. How could I have been? I wasn’t sleeping, my nipples were bleeding, my baby was screaming and I was spending far too much time thinking about, looking at and poking at poo. Little did I know that my very reasonable anxiety about, you know, being responsible for a helpless, tiny person, was potentially freaking my baby out. But if someone had come up to me then and said, “If you’re not relaxed you are not going to be any use to your baby,” I probably would have punched them in the face. And then cried. And then eaten an entire block of extra mature cheddar.

It was a pretty rough time.


Wolke admits that there might be some sort of genetic reason that Danish babies cry less and British babies cry loads. As I have a half-American, half-Puerto Rican baby, the genetic excuse doesn’t really fly in my case – unless I can blame my British great-great-grandparents for the fact that my baby cried pretty much non-stop for her first few months. In which case, thanks for nothing, ancestors.

Pregnancy experiences?

The study suggests that experiences during pregnancy may explain the differences in crying, but I feel like the pregnancy experience is pretty universal no matter where you live.

I am fat.

I am tired.

I am SO EXCITED to meet my baby!

I am crying over a car insurance advert.

I am Googling ‘pooping during labour’.

I am pretty sure I have to pee again.


Rhyming with Wine
Two Tiny Hands


Diary of an imperfect mum


36 Comment

  1. I think that this might be right that we instantly panda to our baby’s as soon as they cry. I know that I did. Whilst my parents would say just leave her for a few minutes. I’m sure that for my next I will hopefully be a little more relaxed and can leave them for a while. This is an interesting post as I don’t think that colic was around as much as it is now 50 years ago. Claire x

    1. Squirmy Popple says: Reply

      I was guilty of rushing to my daughter at the first cry too, but surely most first-time parents do the same? Like you, I hope that if I have another baby, I’ll be more chilled out – and hopefully the baby will be too!

  2. You’re right, there’s nothing relaxing about having a new baby and if your baby has colic then it’s even worse! I also remember seeing a report about African babies not crying as much because they’re always held – which goes against leaving them to cry for a little bit – I guess you can’t win either way! #DreamTeam
    Our Cherry Tree recently posted…Tales as Old as TimeMy Profile

    1. Squirmy Popple says: Reply

      I’ve heard that too, which seems to contradict the whole leaving-them-to-cry theory. Who knows?

  3. I was just going to comment saying the same thing about how African babies supposedly don’t cry much because they are always held and breastfed really frequently… so that doesn’t exactly work with the theory that we respond too quickly when they cry, does it?!
    I do think the stress/anxiety might play a part and we don’t necessarily have the best support for new parents in this country. But also all babies are different – my sisters both have 3 kids and some cried more as babies than others; despite my sisters being the same each time… I don’t know. I don’t think it’s exactly helpful for new parents to be worrying that their babies cry more than normal, is it?

    1. Squirmy Popple says: Reply

      It makes sense that anxiety might be a factor. It might be different if you have a second baby because you know what to expect and aren’t so freaked out by the crying anymore! I know I worried about it a lot, but the Popple also cried for hours every day until she was about 12 weeks old.

  4. This is quite interesting. My daughter is Danish-British and doesn’t cry much. I wonder if there’s much science to it, or is it simply down to circumstances?

    1. Squirmy Popple says: Reply

      I don’t think they’ve quite worked out the science yet – there are a lot of factors that could affect why babies cry more. All I know is that my British baby was definitely one of the babies that helped Britain climb the crying baby chart!

  5. It’s a news story for the sake of it and I find it kind of annoying! Babies cry and some more than others. I don’t think the study would have looked into everyone’s window and I’m pretty sure there will be some Danes and Germans really struggling. Grrr. ‪Thank you for linking up to the #familyfunlinky‬, it’s always a pleasure to have you 😀

    1. Squirmy Popple says: Reply

      Oh, there will be Danish and German parents struggling for sure!

  6. I kinda disagree with 2. I was very calm when pregnant. Quite enjoyed it. And, I let them cry. I never picked them up straight away, I let them try to work it out for themselves.

    They still cried all the bloody time! I can’t remember the statistic. But when we heard the average yesterday, Husband, who had the pleasure of going to work said “Bobsy didn’t cry that much!” I replied “No, Bobsy cried much more. Double!!”

    Genetics. We are all just a nation of moaners!! #familyfun

    1. Squirmy Popple says: Reply

      Ha! You’re right – maybe we’re just moaners!

  7. When I got to “I probably would have punched them in the face. And then cried. And then eaten an entire block of extra mature cheddar.” I laughed so hard. I think I would have done the same but with cake! British people are quite highly strung and don’t like disruption so it’s inevitable we’ll dash to a small human screech-machine to try and get it to shush the heck up.
    This study could be interesting when they’ve done more with it. I’m not really sure what it proves right now though. It’s just more ‘noise’ to imply parents (read: mainly mothers) are doing something wrong in Britain, Canada and Italy.
    Angela Watling (Life, Motherhood and Everything) recently posted…Five Favourite Finds #11My Profile

    1. Squirmy Popple says: Reply

      Cake would have been my second choice to cheese!

  8. I do actually think there is something in a relaxed parent a relaxed baby. So many of my predecessors said it to me and I rolled my eyes. I defineitly jumped at the first wimper. That said my first wasn’t a huge crier, in fact she was quite quiet, considering. However the fact I stood to attention at every sound certainly shows now. Especially in comparison to her younger brother! Thanks for joining us at #familyfun

    1. Squirmy Popple says: Reply

      I agree – relaxed parents probably can help a baby be more relaxed. I’m hoping I’ll be more chilled out if we have a second one…

  9. This is really interesting – and do the criers turn into ultra-demanding toddlers do you think? I do wonder culturally how we seem to be raising so many ‘high maintenance’ children (2 out of my 3 would fall into this label)…. it could well be the pandering thing…. arghhhh – so hard to know what to do for the best (sorry I realise I’ve digressed a little…) xx #familyfunlinky

    1. Squirmy Popple says: Reply

      My crying baby is now a demanding toddler – but that’s not science, it’s just my experience. I think she’s got my winning personality. 🙂

  10. Arthur had awful awful colic as a baby and I now recognise that I was suffering some form of PTDS after the labour. Although I always tried to be calm around him I do wonder if there were certain ‘chemical’ happenings in my body due to stress and anxiety that just couldnt be helped and had an effect on him too. I’m due the next one in August and hoping for a better experience! #ablogginggoodtime

    1. Squirmy Popple says: Reply

      I wonder about the chemical element of stress too and what impact that could have – I was very anxious during my pregnancy too which probably didn’t help.

  11. This is interesting – I never knew that British babies cry more. I am fully on board with the idea that stressed / anxious parents create stressed / anxious kids. And as a naturally stressed & anxious person, I worked really hard to consciously be calm and relaxed. I had 2 pretty calm babies, so maybe it worked? Or maybe I was just lucky? Who knows?! Haha #abloggingoodtime
    Lucy At Home recently posted…When Selfless Love Becomes Self AbuseMy Profile

    1. Squirmy Popple says: Reply

      Who knows? I still think lucky plays a big part in all this. 🙂

  12. Interesting! I would say some of it is our Cultural expectations, lack of “villages”, work culture, not enough support for PND, and poor breastfeeding rates. I think we have really lost the “natural” way to care for babies. I say this as someone who’s child cried non stop for months on end no matter what i tried. Countries where Parents have good maternity/paternity lave and more support seem to be the ones with more content babies. happy mum happy baby, #ablogginggoodtime

    1. Squirmy Popple says: Reply

      You’re right – there are probably a lot of factors that go into it, but it all comes back to happy mum, happy baby.

  13. Popping back for #ablogginggoodtime xx

  14. You missed – OMG there’s a person inside me and at some point they’re going to have to come out …. Eeeeekkkkkk!

    This is really interesting … I wonder why it is …

    1. Squirmy Popple says: Reply

      Haha – I think we’ve all thought that!

  15. Hahah “I am googling ‘pooping during labour” This is really interesting, I love reading about these kind of studies. I’m quite surprised by the German stat though, I thought they were meant to be uptight? I think the Danish thing makes sense, I mean they get five years maternity leave right? They must be super relaxed! Thanks for sharing with #StayClassyMama!

    1. Squirmy Popple says: Reply

      The Danes get great benefits – I would LOVE to live in a Scandinavian country.

  16. Just because you are laid back doesn’t mean baby will be! These studies drive me mad. Thank you for linking up to #ablogginggoodtime 🎉

    1. Squirmy Popple says: Reply

      They sometimes offer more questions than answers!

  17. I definitely think there is some truth in this. I am the youngest of 4 and my eldest nephew is only 7 years younger than me so by the time I came to have my own children I’d had a fair amount of baby experience. I think I was a pretty chilled out new Mum and as a result I had two pretty chilled out babies. Neither of them cried too much. Pregnancy though was a whole different matter….I hated every second of it!! #ablogginggoodtime

    1. Squirmy Popple says: Reply

      I hated pregnancy too!

  18. I have no idea why they cry so much, but mine cried more than any other baby in the world! Lol #familyfun

    1. Squirmy Popple says: Reply

      Haha – it always feels that way, doesn’t it?

  19. This is really interesting – our baby number three definitely cries less than the other two did – and I don’t pick her up as quickly to comfort her as I did with the others because often I can’t… #familyfunlinky
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