CRYING is one of the strongest signals a baby uses to get the attention of a caregiver or a parent, that something is bothering him or her. Through evolution, mothers are primed to respond to the cry signal and to attempt to soothe the baby as best possible.
However, some babies cry excessively. This prompts some parents to worry about the health of the infant. Babies of this nature, who are born to parents in rural tribal settings, send their parents panicking. Some call in traditional birth attendants. Others seek magical healing.
So, you often find both parents seated on the ground before a local magician who may also be known as a traditional healer. The worried parents will have the “offending” infant with them and will expect the magician to unravel the mystery behind the infant’s incessant cries.
Unknown to the parents, traditional healers in this country are, invariably, underworld characters who carry out their nefarious activities in near-total secrecy. Most of them are cheats. In some cases, what they do to heal the sick can be surreal and frightening.
Many spread on the ground or mat a curious array of objects. The objects can include amulets, fetishes, bones, sticks, roots, pebbles, feathers, animal skins, seashells, calabashes, pots, quills, bark powders and liquids that those in the lay world might not recognize.
In some cases, traditional healers are likely to suggest that the name of the crying child be changed. “Give him the name of his departed great grandfather. The grandfather wants to make a comeback to life through this child. He must be grunting in anger in his grave.”
This is the “clinical” suggestion the traditional healer is likely to parade. He will want to know the name of the child’s great grandfather on the paternal side. All the while, the healer might be juggling the objects on the mat and mouthing incomprehensible incantations.
If he is told that the name of the great grandfather was Mangoche. The healer will shuffle the objects on the mat much further and say more complicated incantations before jutting out his chin at the miserable parents, announcing that it is Mangoche who has been “offended.”
Meanwhile, the baby will possibly be wailing uncontrollably. “Okay. From now on, the name of this crying child will be Mangoche, not John, as you told me,” the healer will declare. But this might not stop the child from crying excessively. Most traditional healers are cheats.
I must point out here that babies who wail incessantly are normal. They too grow up well and eventually graduate into good citizens with full potential. It is possible that some of our best leaders, bishops, sheikhs, engineers, economists and others cried a lot during their infancy.
However, it is no surprise that bouts of inconsolable crying on the part of a baby will stress most parents, especially with babies suffering from what is commonly known as colic. Here the baby is clearly signaling that something is bothering him.
Yet the parent or caregiver is not able to find the root cause of the incessant crying and help the baby calm down. In similar vein, a baby who does not cry at all must have a frightening mental impairment. Personally, I have never seen a baby who never cries.
However, child psychologists cite examples in their books. For babies, crying is the main means for communicating their needs. About ten per cent of babies cry excessively-- more than three hours in a day. There are more such babies in Europe and America than in Africa.
As mentioned before, colic (a common pain in babies' tummies) may cause excessive crying in the first three months. Parents should be aware that it may not be possible to cure colic completely. However, the abdominal pain eases as the baby grows older. Colic will pass.
Such babies should not be considered a bad omen or a curse. A baby's cries tells his parents how he feels. It is a way of contacting with his parents. At first parents may not know what to do to soothe and reassure the crying baby. But they start getting it right as the weeks go by.
A normal, healthy baby cries between one and three hours a day. Parents normally start to notice and pick out different types of crying in their babies by the time they are ten to 14 days old. Hunger, pain and boredom are communicated with different cries.
Most parents notice this soon. Babies' cries are meant to catch the attention of parents and are designed to affect them so they are quick to find out what is up. Babies never cry to wind their parents up.
Some parents believe that by responding promptly to a baby's cry you set bad habits in him or spoil him. This is not the case. It is virtually impossible to spoil a newborn--a hapless being who is yet to comprehend the world around him.
So, the quicker you respond to a baby's cries in the early days, the more secure the baby feels. Other reasons for babies' cries include: feeling too hot or too cold; needing a nappy change; feeling bored and wanting company and being upset and wanting a cuddle.
And, naturally all babies cry when feeling ill. Babies also cry when over-stimulated. Of course, depending on the environment, there could be more reasons. Some babies cry more than others. Reasons why include temperament for, each baby is different.
My mother says that when I was baby (in 1953), I cried a lot – for no apparent reason. Some babies are fussier than others and may seem to cry more, often right from birth. Jumpy babies may protest about being too hot or too cold or might not like being bathed or dressed.
Some may be very sensitive to touch or to changes. Babies who were born prematurely or those who have had to be in special care may cry incessantly.Some babies get worried when parents, especially their mother, are out of sight.
They may get more and more worried about being separate from parents. Your baby can start to feel afraid for no clear reason. The sound of music or the cries of a pet can frighten him. Excessive crying is a common presentation to the pediatric emergency department.
This phenomenon often poses a diagnostic dilemma to emergency physicians. As mentioned before, there are several reasons for excessive or persistent crying in children, ranging from benign causes like hunger to life-threatening causes such as intussusception.
Intussusception is the most common abdominal emergency in infancy and early childhood, but it can occur at any age. Excessive crying needs comprehensive evaluation. Excessive crying is any amount of crying that worries the parents.
Most literature addresses excess crying in early infancy with focus on infantile colic. The crying infant represents a difficult diagnosis dilemma and may be the primary manifestation of a serious or even life-threatening condition.
The emergency physician can effectively evaluate the child through comprehensive history, physical examination, and ancillary resources to rule out potentially life threatening processes.
The clinician must also effectively manage the anxious and frustrated caregiver who presents with the child. The primary care provider is an important resource in the management of this very stressful problem.