The sleep of the infant in health is quiet, composed and refreshing. In very early infancy when not at the breast, it is for the most part asleep in its cot and although as the months advance it sleeps less yet when the hour for repose arrives the child is no sooner laid down to rest than it drops off into a quiet peaceful slumber.
Not so, if ill. Frequently it will be unwilling to be put into its cot at all and the nurse will be obliged to take the infant in her arms. It will then sleep but for a short time and in a restless and disturbed manner.
If it suffers pain, however slight, the countenance will indicate it and as when awake, so now, if there is anything wrong about the head, the contraction of the eye-brow and grinding of the teeth will appear.
If anything wrong about the belly, the lips will be drawn apart, showing the teeth or gums and in both instances there will be great restlessness and frequent starting.
In the new-born infant the motions are dark coloured, very much like pitch both in consistence and appearance. The first milk, however, secreted in the mother’s breast, acts as an aperient upon the infant’s bowels and thus in about four-and-twenty hours it is cleansed away or if it should not, a tea-spoonful of castor oil accomplishes this purpose.
From this time and through the whole of infancy, the stools will be of a lightish yellow colour, the consistence of thin mustard, having little smell, smooth in appearance, and therefore free from lumps or white curded matter and passed without pain or any considerable quantity of wind.
And as long as the child is in health, it will have daily two or three or even four, of these evacuations. But as it grows older, they will not be quite so frequent. They will become darker in colour and more solid, though not so much so as in the adult.
Any deviation, then, from the above characters, is of course a sign of something wrong and as a deranged condition of the bowels is frequently the first indication we have of coming disease, the nurse should daily be directed to watch the evacuations.
Their appearance, colour, and the manner in which discharged are the points principally to be looked to. If the stools have a very curdy appearance or are too liquid or green or dark-coloured or smell badly, they are unnatural.
And in reference to the manner in which they are discharged, it should be borne in mind that in a healthy child, the motion is passed with but little wind and as if squeezed out but in disease, it will be thrown out with considerable force which is a sign of great irritation.
The number, too, of stools passed within the four-and- twenty hours it is important to note so that if the child does not have its accustomed relief (and it must not be forgotten that children, although in perfect health, differ as to the precise number) a little castor oil may be at once exhibited and thus mischief be prevented.
I hope this will give some idea for how sleep and stools could be the signs of disease in babies especially new born. Please read our articles about The Countenance, The Stools, The Sleep and The Breathing and Cough.
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