This is a question asked by many mothers. Crying is not nearly so injurious as its causes. And what are the causes? Too much attention, too much coddling; educating the child into believing that it can buy anything and everything if it will only cry hard enough. Then, again, crying is brought about by pain or discomfort in the stomach and bowels, due to indigestion. Mothers feed children too much. This brings on indigestion, following which there is always gas distention in the bowels; and when the bowels are distended with gas, hard crying means severe straining on the abdominal walls, and this is liable to produce a hernia at the navel.
The above hints concerning crying indicate the cure to people of good judgment. But those who bring children into this state are not people of good judgment; hence it is necessary to say that the first cause referred to can be overcome by proper discipline. However, is it possible for a mother who spoils a child to be able to turn around and give it just the opposite treatment? Because that means to stop coddling the child, to stop dancing attendance, to refuse absolutely to give it what it wants until it ceases crying. Many mothers will answer this by saying that it will cry itself to death, or it will bring on hernia, etc. A nurse should be substituted for such a mother as that, until the child is disciplined out of its bad habits.
Those children who cry because they are uncomfortable can soon be brought to a state of comfort by watching the stools. If there is any evidence at all--and there always will be--of indigestion, feeding must be reduced in quantity at least one-half, and perhaps a fast of one or two days will be best. Then start in and feed one-third the quantity that the child was taking before the fast. One or two days later increase to one-half the amount. From that time on gradually increase to the child's digestive limitations. The stools must always be watched. If there are any flakes or small white curds, the amount of food must be cut down. The very worst feeding habit that people practice with children in this condition is to change food. Because the food is not agreeing, they think there should be a change, and in a few days another change. This sort of floundering works mischief, and too often is the cause of a child's death. Overfeeding is the cause of the indigestion in the child ninety-nine times out of every hundred; so the bugaboo of food not agreeing must explode when people really understand the cause of indigestion. When the food is given within the proper limitations, there will be no more distention of the bowels from gas, and no more constipation. Then, if the child is not coddled, it will spend most of its young life playing with its fingers and toes, and cooing itself to sleep.
Babies occasionally hold their breath until the face is quite discolored or livid, and this is very much inclined to scare the parents. I have never seen a case die from this cause.
Such children are usually decidedly neurotic, and an effort in coughing or crying may produce congestion of the base of the brain. The more blood that is rushed to the brain, the more spasmodic the crying and coughing become. It is a little on the order of whooping-cough or epilepsy.
Some children are so very sensitive, and carry so much blood in the brain, that any exertion of the body which forces blood to the brain brings on a reaction of extremely persistent coughing, or extremely and persistent crying.
If a small towel is wrung out of real cold water and spread over the face when the child begins to hold its breath, it may cause a reaction.
Children seem to outgrow such a condition in the course of a few months. The rule is that nothing happens to children who hold their breath until livid when they cry.
Pacifiers, gas in the bowels, catnip, camomile, soothing syrup, castoria, castor oil, syrup of rhubarb, neutralizing cordial, stupidity, and medical superstitution are a conglomeration extraordinary, common in child-raising.
Many mothers seem to think that it is necessary to keep something in the child's mouth for it to suck--a sort of a make-belief eating. It is a bad habit. It is no more necessary than it is for a child to be educated into crying for the mother to give it attention every hour of the day. It means a very bad and censurable lack of discipline. If the care of children is started at birth, as this book teaches, there will be no need of pactfiers, rattle-boxes, toys, jumping-jacks, or anything of that kind with which to entertain them. Children started right usually get all the pleasure they want out of playing with their toes, counting their fingers, sticking their fingers into the mouths, eyes, and noses, and pulling their ears. This is nature's way of allowing them to get acquainted with themselves in the kindergarten school of "hard knocks."
Pacifiers always go with overfeeding. Overfeeding is followed by indigestion, and indigestion is followed by discomfort from distention of the bowels from gas. Gas in the bowels is always accompanied by much crying or fretting. Crying is due to discomfort in the bowels, and part of it is a demand for mothers, nurses, etc., to dance attendance upon the children--in other words, it means spoiled babies.
Overfeeding causes restlessness. To pacify, more food is given. Then follows a therapeutic conglomeration, partially enumerated above, which often ends in death, or, what is worse, invalidism --physical or mental. If physical, then tuberculosis or possibly cancer; if mental, then insanity or crime.
Few can get the proper perspective. Average eyes are rammed up against the kaleidoscope of symptomatology, and every view is interpreted as a distinct entity. They cannot follow a pactfier to tuberculosis, cancer, or electrocution.