But rarely does a baby reach the age of two years without at least one attack of colic. Perhaps the perfectly reared child, who has the exact amount of food he can digest comfortably, properly prepared, and given at the proper time, may escape altogether; but perfect management in the nursery is exceedingly rare, and the majority of babies experience more than one "good cry" when their food does not agree with them.
No mother who has read this series will imagine that when baby cries it means that he is hungry, and he should have either the bottle or the dummy teat to keep him in a good temper. One of the rules laid down in the earlier articles on feeding the infant was that the child should be given the proper amount at the proper times, and neither sip nor suck between.
So that, when baby cries, the mother has to find out the reason why, if the cry is not one of genuine hunger because the next meal is immediately due. If the child is quite comfortable, free from the pricks of pins, warm, and yet not over hot and restless, in all probability the real cause is colic or indigestion.
There are some poor children whose early days of infancy are punctuated by attacks of colic one after the other. The infant is subject to screaming fits which are either blamed on hunger or bad temper. The mother who has not studied baby management with any success may try to "comfort" him by systematic shaking and rocking or holding the forbidden comforter between his parted gums. In most cases without success. When a child is suffering from colic, he will refuse bottles, he will scream in spite of rocking, he will find no comfort in the comforter. If he is lying down, he will probably draw his knees up in a pitiful effort to relax the abdomen, which, if felt gently with the palm of the hand is hard and resistant, and perhaps showing evidence of irregular swellings. These are due to the fact that the large bowel is distended by gas, the pressure of which is causing the pain. As a rule, the child's face is eloquent of the pain he is suffering, and looks pinched, white, and wrinkled. The hands and feet are probably cold, and the fingers are clenched. These screaming fits, in bad cases, may end in convulsions. Usually they pass off after a time, only to return again unless the child's diet is altered. They signify either that the food is too strong, and therefore not being properly digested, or that the infant is having too much food at one meal. In such cases the mother must carefully study the previous articles, and the chart which will appear in Part 20, dealing with baby's food, and follow the directions carefully.
But even when the food is ideal in quality and quantity, the baby will suffer from colic if he is getting his food too quickly. Say that the opening in the teat is too large, and baby swallows the milk in large mouthfuls, taking five minutes instead of fifteen or twenty to take his due allowance. On the other hand, it sometimes happens that when baby is laid down in his cot to have his bottle he drops to sleep in the middle of it, wakens up, and takes a little more, drops to sleep again, and takes nearly an hour dawdling over his meals. If this is allowed to go on for any time, indigestion will certainly arise, giving rise to attacks of pain and crying. The baby's meals are so important that it is much wiser for the nurse or mother to feed the child with the head resting against her arms, and the bottle held in a comfortable position, after which he should be laid down in bed to sleep. Thus there is no risk that he will ever have the food too quickly or too slowly. If he is on his bottle, he should not be shaken in any way. If he is subject to "wind," he should be laid face downwards on the nurse's knee, which presses against the stomach and assists him to expel wind. Then the baby should be carefully laid in bed on his right side and left to go to sleep.
Treatment of colic ought to be mainly preventive, in the sense that careful management will best ensure that baby will escape such attacks in future. In most cases, a dose of castor oil should be given to clear the bowel of undigested food, but it is always better to have even this drug prescribed by the doctor, as in certain abdominal cases, especially if there is any rise of temperature, it is extremely risky to give a purgative.
To relieve pain, apply a poultice to the abdomen or wring a flannel out of hot water and sprinkle it with a few drops of laudanum. If the doctor has shown you how to give an enema of warm water and soap, you can relieve the pain by giving one. Keep the child warm, and if there is any sign of collapse, such as pallor and fainting, give half a teaspoonful of brandy in a teaspoonful of water. Half of this should be given at once, and then in ten minutes the remainder, if the child still shows signs of collapse.
Consult a Doctor
Never allow attacks of colic to go on without consulting a doctor. They indicate that a child's diet should be rearranged, and unless the matter is attended to he will lose weight, and cease to thrive and develop. The wisest plan is to consult a doctor and ask him to examine the baby and go into the question of diet. The baby whose food agrees with him does not cry after meals, but peacefully digests his milk and barley-water.