Crying In A Small Child Who Looks Sick
Such a child should be shown to a doctor. He may have an infection like an earache, a cold with a blocked nose, a
flu-like illness with headache and body ache, a chest infection
like bronchiolitis or infection of the meninges and raised
intracranial pressure due to a tumour. The crying may also be due to abdominal pain. These conditions are
their respective headings.
Crying In A Child Who Appears Otherwise All Right
Hunger remains one of the commonest causes of crying.
Even a toddler may cry for this reason. But all crying is not due to hunger. If in doubt, feed the child. Otherwise, look for
other possible causes.
A child may cry because he is feeling hot or cold, or
has a wet nappy, or wants to be picked up and cuddled or shown things in the home or has been overstimulated by adults
around him or is just feeling tired. Some small babies quieten as soon as they are wrapped up in a sheet
Other causes of crying are pain at the site of an
injection or a child having been hit by an older sibling. Do not
leave the latter alone with the baby again, but also do not punish him.
Babies may also have sudden bouts of crying for no
apparent reason. The onset of these bouts is usually between the age of 2 and 4 weeks. They can occur at any time of the day or
night but are more common after about 6.00 in the evening. The baby suddenly starts crying. Nothing seems to work. The
child screams at the top of his voice, draws his thighs
and legs towards his abdomen, may pass some gas or have a
distended abdomen. Colicky cries are slightly shorter than those
caused by hunger.
These attacks usually stop by the time the child is 3 months old, and are termed evening colic or 3 months’
colic. Highest rates of infantile colic are seen in
babies of older first-time mothers with non-manual occupations and more years of education. Whether the rate of
colic is actually higher or whether such mothers are more likely to report the problem is not yet clear.
MANAGEMENT: Don’t allow the child to cry
unnecessarily. If a child keeps crying, he swallows more air, which
probably makes him cry more because of anger and distension of
the abdomen. Do not hesitate to pick him up for fear of spoiling him. A small child’s need has to be met — be it for food
or more human contact. Make the child feel secure, loved and
wanted. You will have enough time to discipline him later.
Children can cry because of habit. Even small infants
can take advantage of our ‘goodness’. So if the child
was playing on his own, you do not have to pick him up or talk to
him. If he suddenly starts crying while you are in the kitchen, you need not leave everything behind and rush to him, unless
you hear an unusual cry. Attend to what you are doing, then
go to pick him up and meet his need. You do not have to be
unduly apologetic for the delay. An older child can learn to manipulate, if you or other relatives let him have his
way all the time (see Sleep
And Sleep Problems).
Although it has not been proven that certain foods eaten
by a breastfeeding mother can upset her baby, it may be worth omitting milk, egg, fish, peanuts and peanut butter,
soya preparations, wheat, caffeine, garlic, onion and cabbage
from your diet for a few days. If you find a marked
improvement in the child, you can again try and introduce these food
items in turn and see if you can find a correlation between any particular food and colic in your baby.
- The colic positions - put baby on his tummy across
your knees; hold him against your chest, or hold him on his tummy across your forearm with his legs on either side
of your arm.
- Rocking him with or without soft music in the background.
- Sharing his care with someone else. Never shake a
baby vigorously in anger or irritation — you may damage his eyes as well as his brain. Let someone else handle him
if you are feeling exhausted.
- Dicyclomine if your doctor advises it, but not too
often. If elders at home recommend a home remedy, it may be worth trying it after you have cleared it with your
doctor. I do not recommend the routine use of drugs, or gripe waters or ‘digestive’ medicines. I am against the
use of pacifiers. A crying child needs our attention and not a pacifier. A pacifier also interferes with successful
breastfeeding. It is also a possible source of
- Half a teaspoon of sugar water. It has been found to have a pain-relieving effect on colic. Sugar
water given before a minor painful procedure like a skin prick has also been found to be helpful. Given
a minute before the procedure, it not only reduces the duration of crying, if any, but also reduces the
increased heart rate induced by pain. The sugar water seems to do this by some sort of morphine
effect, because any benefit of sugar water is negated if the infant is also given naloxone — an
11 February, 2013