dealing with discomfort, rather than tolerating unwelcome behaviour with the excuse that - "Johnny's not well today, he's teething."
Managing Sick Babies (Under 8 months)
Delineating management of infant sickness prior to and beyond the age of 8 months is based on the fact that around that time babies become mobile through crawling, and are therefore far more likely to come in contact with a whole new range of pathogens in their environment - such as things on the floor which then go into their mouth, dirt, plant and animal material, faeces, as well as a higher incidence of contact with other people.
The most common signs of illnesses in young infants include: disturbed sleep patterns, rashes, a runny nose, runny eyes, poor feeding (either of solids or milk), a flushed face, raised temperature, high pitched screaming, stiffness in the body, pulling on their ears, excessive sleepiness, shallow or rapid or irregular breathing, reduced or excessive urination, constipation, diarrhoea, vomiting other than common reflux, drawing their legs up. Whilst some of these symptoms, alone or together, may indicate a serious ailment requiring medical attention, the same symptoms can also indicate something quite simple which has a quick and easy cure.
The first thing in the event of a baby's illness is not to panic! Naturally we worry about their weak and sensitive little bodies succumbing to some dangerous virus. I know that many a mother's greatest worry is that a little pain in her baby might, overnight, develop into something life threatening. "Will I or won't I call the doctor? Will I take him to the hospital now or wait until the morning? What if it gets worse?" I know well that babies can give confusing signs about what might be wrong with them and how, when you've tried everything simple and nothing has worked, you start to imagine the worst. But, in 99% of cases, a few days later, when "whatever it was" has mysteriously disappeared, or the doctor has told you it was "just a little tummy bug", you realise that it was more your own maternal fears that upset you rather the baby's suffering. Parental anxiety and fear at times of infant sickness are understandably common but at such times it is important to keep a clear head and faith in your heart that things will be alright in the long run. For instance, there are many stories mothers tell of babies crying day after day, night after night, for no diagnosable reason - parents out of their mind with anxiety - when, airing the bed a few days later, a small beetle with
spiky claws is found hiding away in the bedclothes down near the baby's feet! So firstly, be careful that anxiety doesn't cause you to immediately jump to conclusions or latch-onto fixed ideas.
The second thing after not panicking is to simply comfort them. This is much harder to do if you yourself are stressed by their distress, so learning to relax and accept the fact that they are unwell is important. Often all an illness needs is time for the child to fight it off; to get it out of their system. In the meantime all the child needs is to know that you are there, cool, calm and relaxed, and that you will comfort them with all they need - food and love.
The next thing is to investigate possible causes and remedies. Here you need to observe your baby and contemplate the situation very carefully in order to accurately interpret what is going on. It may take a few sleeps, a few feeds, a few poo examinations, even a few days for a pattern to emerge by which time things will have either gotten better - or maybe even worse! Well, that's progress - of sorts. Some of the above symptoms are just par for the course of many particular stages a baby grows through. They are not really sicknesses although they may appear so. For example a rash and / or a few days of excess mucus may simply be linked to the introduction of certain foods, or an irritation from a new soap you have bought, or some new clothes, or a sudden hot day in the weather. A temperature usually accompanies a new tooth coming through. Diarrhoea may be due to that handful of dirt the baby ate at the park yesterday, or a sudden cold change in the weather. Never rule out the obvious nor forget to consider the subtle.
If, after some time of self-diagnosis, you cannot decide the best course of action, before calling in the heavy medical artillery, share your situation with some other mothers (particularly your own). Their greater experience and intuition may just hit the nail on the head and their (hopefully) quiet confidence will help to relax your anxieties. The next step might be a phone call to a baby health clinic for advice, but also to find out if there is anything "going around", before finally making a doctor's appointment.
When symptoms first strike, it is also impor-tant not to suppress them with the usual sorts of medications that one might prescribe for an adult - even in tiny quantities such as baby preps. Firstly, this hides valuable information as to the progress of the situation and secondly, it never - repeat never - helps the cause of the illness to go away, but only prolongs the body's fight against the cause.