A newborn baby is asleep almost all the time but the baby cries when she is either hungry, wet, sick, has indigestion or is uncomfortable. When the crying is confined to a certain regular period in the evening or the afternoon, then it means that she is suffering from colic. Besides screaming, her face turns red and she flexes her legs on her distended tummy. She may also pass some gas.
Nobody knows what causes colic but it rarely lasts for more than 3 months. Try giving the baby some gripe mixture, or some glucose water or honey dissolved in water. If these do not relieve her, then give her an antispasmodic medicine like Portal. But before administering consult a doctor for its dosage. This medicine will give her the needed relief.
The other most common cause of crying in infants is hunger. In a bottle-fed baby it is easier to know the exact quantity of milk the baby has taken, but in a breastfed baby, it is not possible to know whether a baby has had enough milk or not, although normally the breast milk supply increases in proportion to the baby’s demands. The more complete and most frequent emptying of the breast stimulates it to a greater production. But it is also possible for a mother to have less breast milk occasionally if she is tired or worried. It is possible to determine the exact amount a baby is getting from her mother in 24 hours.
For this, you have to have with you a reliable baby scale. To know the exact amount of milk the baby has taken, weigh the baby with her clothes, feed the baby for 20 minutes on breast and reweigh the baby with the same clothes on. The second weight reading minus the first will give the amount of milk the baby has taken.
As the baby does not get the same amount of milk at every feed, good test feeding involves weighing the baby for all the feeds in 24 hours. If the baby is not getting enough milk for her age and weight, then a suitable complementary food or diluted fresh milk should be offered to the baby, after each breastfeeding, in a clean and sterilized bottle.
Sometimes even after having a full feed the baby starts fussing and crying. Give her a pacifier or glucose water or honey water and watch if she goes back to sleep. But if in spite of these she keeps crying harder than ever, then there is no harm in trying to give her another feed.
A common cause of the baby’s discomfort is a blocked nose, resulting in difficulty in breathing. As an infant cannot breathe easily through her mouth, a blocked nose makes her uncomfortable, cranky and irritable. Put a drop of boiled and cooled salt water in each nostril and after a few minutes clean with cotton bud; do this a few times a day. Besides blocked noses and cold; babies also suffer from intestinal infections which make them sick and restless. Try treating these common ailments at home with medicines recommended in this book but if they do not provide relief within a day or two, then take the baby to your doctor.
Sometimes a child cries because she is physically uncomfortable. She may cry because she is wet, teething or because a pin or something is poking her or she may be feeling cold because of lack of proper clothing, or very hot because of over clothing. Sometimes a baby becomes tense, irritable and fretful because of fatigue. When she is awake for a long time or she has spent an exciting time with relatives or parents she becomes very tired and then she finds it very hard to relax and go to sleep.
She may start crying frantically and loudly for 15 to 20 minutes and then suddenly the crying stops and she falls asleep. Therefore if your baby starts crying frantically at the end of a wakeful period after having been properly fed, and then assume that she is tired. Put her in the cradle and rock her gently; this gentle motion will relax her faster and put her to sleep.
You may even take her in your arms and walk in a darkened quiet room for a little time to put her to sleep. Some children are placid, contented and happy with them and seldom cry. Others want attention, resent being left all alone and like to be carried. It is wise for a mother to carry her baby off and on because a baby who has constant physical contact with the mother develops more normally and becomes a more secure individual than the baby who gets plenty of social attention but less physical contact. The baby, who does not receive extra handling and attention beyond what she needs for physical survival, does not develop normally.
It has been observed that those babies who are reared in institutions where they get splendid physical and medical care but not the cuddling of the mothers are mostly listless and underweight. They do not smile, crawl or babble at the appropriate age and by six months they are visibly retarded, both physically and mentally. By far the most important stimulus to the infant is the sense of touch. It is through being touched, moved and handled that a baby first locates herself, her mother and makes contact with reality.
Therefore awake or asleep, a baby during the first few months of its life should always be surrounded by the mother’s warmth, and touch. It is a wrong notion that if she is carried around by the mother too often she will be spoilt, for such a tiny baby feels miserable without the touch of her mother. As far as she is concerned, the warm pressure of her mother makes her forget her pains and tensions. By the time she is six to seven months she does not care much for being carried around because then she has other things which catch her attention and keep her occupied, most of the time.