General Care of Children
CARE AT BIRTH
IF THE labor has been hard--if the mother has been in labor from six to twenty-four hours, and is quite worn out the baby should be anointed with some bland oil, like olive or cottonseed oil, wrapped in cotton, and laid away where it can be perfectly quiet and warm for twenty-four hours. Babies, under such circumstances, are pretty well worn out, and they should not be handled enough to bathe and dress them soon after birth, as is common. Pay no attention to feeding--rest is all that is necessary. In twenty-four hours the child should be bathed in warm water--soft water, if possible--using the best castile soap, or a toilet soap that is known to be mild. If everyone connected with the case will be better satisfied to have a bandage on the child, put one on. I always acquiesce in this superstition--in fact, I acquiesce in all superstitions that are innocent; slight variations without a difference that do not amount to anything; anything to keep people from worry and anxiety. After the child is dressed, it may be put to the breast.
Concerning the wearing apparel: If wool is used, it should be very soft. Linen is better, and soft cotton will do. I do not believe in dresses. A long, soft, cotton-flannel or linen gown is about all that is necessary to put on a child. A change of gowns can be made without tiring the child. When gowns are used, they can be changed as often as is necessary without much trouble.
If the child has come into the world tired because of the mother's long or hard labor, it is perfectly natural for its body to be a little sore. This causes it to be restless, and it needs its position changed often. After the washing, the body should be anointed with oil, and gently rubbed with a soft hand from head to foot to rest it Aside from slipping on a gown, nothing but changing the position or giving it the breast is necessary, night or day. Feeding at night should never be started.
It is a very great mistake to put a newborn baby on exhibition, because handling it, throwing a strong natural or artificial light into its face, so people may inspect it, loud talking, laughing, etc., in the same room where the baby is, use up its nerve-energy and creates more or less enervation.
WHEN BABY BEGINS TO NOTICE
Do not feel that it is necessary to entertain babies. They should be left alone, to learn how to entertain themselves. Babies and children who have entertainment furnished them make very dependent grown people--the kind who are lonesome and homesick when a time comes, which it will, for them to take a rest cure. Children brought up without education in self-entertainment and self-control break all laws of man and nature, and end in hospitals, penitentiaries, and premature death. Every child should be allowed enough time to become acquainted with, and learn to entertain, itself. All that is necessary until a child is able to turn itself over in bed is to change its position. Eternal attention builds an egotism that is ruinous.
BABYHOOD TO FULL MATURITY
Bathing.--The baby should be given a daily bath from birth, but not a daily soaking. Many children suffer from depletion of their vital energy by being overbathed---soaked--in water. The daily bath should be given quickly, using warm water--neither very hot nor very cold. The sponging-off of the body should be followed with a brisk, soft dry-towel rubbing. Your children need to be bathed in a warm room.
Two or three times a week for the first three months a baby's body may be anointed with oil, rubbed well, and then the surplus wiped off with a soft cloth.
Once a week a warm soap-bath may be used, thoroughly scouring the body and rinsing well.
The temperature of all baths should be about blood-heat. During hot summer weather, after the second year, a cool bath may be used; but children that have weakened hearts should not be subjected to cool or cold water.
The less soap used, the better. Of course, with growing, active children it is necessary to use some soap, in order to keep them clean; but the use of much soap ruins the self-cleansing function of the skin.
The bath, from babyhood up, may be given at the most convenient time, either morning or evening. Many homes are not warm enough in the morning for bathing in comfort. However, it is well to establish a regular bathing hour.
Children should be taught early to keep their bodies clean. Hot houses and clothes make bathing necessary, and the skin which is not cleansed properly has a peculiar odor. As soon as they are old enough, they should be taught to take their own daily baths. Water of about blood-heat may be drawn in the tub to the depth of a few inches. The child may squat or stand in the water, and, using a sponge or the hand, bring the water well over the body, using a little soap on the parts requiring special attention. The soap should be thoroughly rinsed off. Then follow with a brisk towel-rubbing.
A short rubber hose, with spray attachment on the end, allows the bath to be given quickly, and the child enjoys its use.
Children should be taught to keep the genital organs clean--washing them as often as the face, eyes, and ears. This cleanliness will remove the cause of irritation which leads to self abuse. Irritation from lack of cleanliness is followed by rubbing of the itching parts--the genitals--and this ends in onanism.
The entire surface of the body must be kept clean. The skin is just as much an organ of the body as the stomach, liver, etc., and a neglected organ becomes diseased. Then, through sympathy, other organs become less efficient. Cleanliness leads to godliness.
The mucous membrane lining the intestinal tract, air-passages, etc., is the skin within, and it is in sympathy with the skin without. Neglect to either reflects on the other. It is no uncommon thing to see people suffering from indigestion due almost entirely to a neglected surface of the body.
And so-called skin diseases, including eruptive diseases, follow on the heels of gastro-intestinal derangements brought on from carelessness in eating. Intestinal putrescence is the basic cause of eruptive diseases.
Air- and Sun-Baths.--As soon as it is possible, put the child on its face--I mean allow it to lie on its stomach. When the weather is warm and the room comfortable, and the sun shines through the window, very young babies can be given sun-baths. Put a soft comforter on the floor, and put the child down on it, face down. There is no danger of its smothering. Children treated in this manner will walk earlier than children who are kept on their backs continually. It is a mistake to leave a child on its back all the time. That is the reason why I suggest that when very young they should be changed from side to side. The sun-baths, to start with, should not be of long duration--say, five or ten minutes. The babies then can be left nude on the floor out of the sun for quite a while, if awake. When a child goes to sleep, or appears sleepy, it should be put in its bed. The child must be watched during the sun-bath. Those of low resistance may become chilly, and they should be returned to bed at once. The next air-bath should be in a warmer room, watching the child to avoid chilling. Many children are forced into ill-health because of lack of air and an overheated state of the surface of the body.
Young children should be taken out of doors on all warm, sunny days; but they should not be chilled. Resisting cold uses up nerve-energy. When the feet are cold, it becomes a constant drain on the nerve- energy, and will soon bring a child to a state of enervation that leads to indigestion.
Older children should not be allowed to sit with cold or damp feet. This chilling will hinder digestion.
Care of Beds and Sleeping-Rooms.--The beds should be scrupulously clean. Bed-pads should be used on top of mattresses, so that they can be replaced frequently. It is a very great mistake to allow children to sleep on mattresses without pads; for the mattresses will become soiled so frequently that it will be a source of great expense to replace them as often as cleanliness and the children's health demands. If pads are used, they can be washed and changed often.
The sleeping-rooms of children should be aired thoroughly through the day. Beds should be opened, and, if possible, the bed-clothing should be put in the sun.
Clothing.--Children should sleep in nightgowns, which should be changed as often as twice a week.
During the hot weather, when the days and nights are warm, as they are in many of the southern and central states, babies should not be overdressed. They should sleep under light covering. When the nights are pleasantly cool, they should sleep in pajamas with closed bottoms at the feet.
In very hot weather, babies should be dressed as lightly as possible. To go almost naked is a great comfort to children in hot weather; but when cold weather comes they should have sufficient clothing to keep from chilling.
Clothing that children wear should be of a washable nature--not too heavy. Why should a child be overclothed in a warm house? The feet of children should be watched, and kept dry and warm. Overshoes for winter weather should always be used, and the overclothing should be heavy enough to protect them from the weather. I do not advocate wool next to the skin. Cotton or linen is good enough. Underwear is not necessary. Care for the skin, and teach it to be a protector and not to need protection.
Overheated houses and overclothing cause enervation of the skin; and an enervated skin does not protect the body well. The clothing in the home and schoolhouse, if well heated, should be light even in winter; and then, when the children go out of doors, the outer clothing may be of a much heavier weight--long overcoats and high overshoes and leggings, if they are to play in the snow.
Children should wear long stockings in cold climates. It is all right to have them wear short socks in a temperate climate all the year around, but in the colder climates the long stockings should be used when the weather begins to get cold.
Mothers who are aware of the fact that they are not strong and that consequently their children are not strong, should give their children more careful attention than the mother who knows that she is husky and her children are husky. Too many mothers try to harden their children after they have a bad start at birth. There is so much difference between children that different rules of care must be applied to different families.
Babies Must Be Kept Warm.--All young children must be watched carefully, to see that they do not chill at night; or, for that matter, they must not chill at any time, day or night. If a child is to thrive, it must be kept warm. To allow a sick or frail child to chill every day will eventually kill it, no matter how good care it may receive otherwise. The feet should be felt frequently, to make sure that they are warm. Artificial heat should be used, if necessary. Even in the summer time the feet may chill without artificial heat. A woolen blanket should be used to wrap the feet in when there is danger of chilling. A sickly child has no power to warm its own body, and it must be warmed artificially.
Care of Napkins.--The baby's napkins should be changed as soon as they are wet. When the napkin is removed, the body should be sponged and cleansed wherever the parts are wet. The napkins should always be washed before they are used again. To use a napkin that has been wet with urine and dried without washing causes a great deal of skin irritation. Cleanliness will cure all skin irritations of this kind.
Perfume or talcum powders with a decided odor should not be used; for such odors cover the body odors and often mislead. The odor of the body is a sign which mothers need in caring for their babies. It is all right to use a little plain cream on the irritated parts after washing thoroughly, and a little plain talcum powder; but do not overdo this.
Poised Mothers.--Poised mothers reflect this quality in their children. Mothers who have no self-control and no poise should not expect to have poised children. The habit of poise should be formed long before conception, and then continued during the nursing period and on through maturity.
Weight.--The weight of the child, even at birth, depends much on the build of the parents. One should not expect to find a so-called fat baby where the mother and father are of the long, lean type. This is why the rules and tables for weights of children are so absurd. They do not take into consideration at all the parentage of the child.
When mothers watch their eating, and restrict themselves during pregnancy so as to have a normal and natural childbirth, the baby should weigh from three to six pounds. The rule is that there is no gain the first week, and neither is there much of a loss. In fact, children that are born of mothers who restrict themselves during pregnancy do not gain so much the first year as overfed children of overfed mothers, but they are much safer, so far as health is concerned, than those who gain so rapidly. Such children will be much more healthy and active. The gain during the first six months is usually from three to six pounds. There is nothing like the mother's milk to keep the gain in weight regular. Changing from one food to another always interferes with the proper development and gain in weight of the child. There are many things which occur during the first year to interfere with the steady increase in weight, and it is bound to vary from time to time. Mothers should not worry so much about the weight of their children, but pay more attention to their physical comfort, letting that be the guide in their care.
The fat child is supposed to be healthy, but a slender, wiry child always has a better chance for development and maturity than the overfat, roly-poIy child. A fat child is an incumbered child.
Teething, Talking and Walking. --There is no hard and fast rule which can be laid down regarding the proper age for walking, talking, and teething in babies.
As to walking, parents who eat beyond their needs, making themselves stupid and dull, should not expect to have a child that will walk early in life. It will have a slowly developed nervous system, and this may handicap it for life. An active child, born of active parents who have had some self-control in their early lives, will walk early. Such children may walk at nine months of age. If walking is delayed too long, up to the approach of the second year, there has probably been a little paralysis--infantile paralysis--so light that it has not been noticed, that is retarding the walking in the child.
As to talking, it is governed by about the same principles as walking. Active, bright children, born unincumbered, will talk earlier than sluggish, heavy children. It is usually the small--or what is known as the undersized--child that talks early--at nine months or even earlier. By the end of the first year the child should begin to talk; but, if this has been delayed, the cause may be the same as the cause of delayed walking--a slight paralysis.
As to teething, there is also a great variety in this particular function in babies. Even in the same family the date for the appearance of teeth varies. Usually about the fiifth month the two central lower teeth begin to appear, and then the four upper teeth in the center about the eighth month. From the end of the first year to the eighteenth month the other front teeth follow. At the end of the first year the child usually has six teeth, at eighteen months twelve, at two years sixteen, and at two years and a half, twenty teeth.
If children have trouble at teething time, it is due to overfeeding, which brings on indigestion. If the teeth are slow in developing, there may be a lack of some of the body-building elements in the food that is being used.
Care of the Eyes and Month.--Sprue is a whitish, stringy-like substance that collects in the mouth, under the tongue and around the gums--in fact, all over the inside of the mouth when the condition is bad. It is caused by too frequent feeding from a mother who has eaten too much of the starchy foods. If a child is properly fed, and not fed more than three or four times at the most in the daytime, and not at all during the night, there will be no trouble of this kind.
If, however, the condition appears, it can be overcome without much trouble if the mother who is nursing the child will cut out all the starchy food for a few days and eat more freely of the fresh fruits and raw vegetable salads, together with the regulation dinner in the evening, consisting of meat, cooked vegetables, and salad.
I do not approve of any of the mouth-washes that are suggested to be used at such a time. This is merely palliation, and the real cause, not being recognized and done away with, will build more trouble in the future. It means that the mother is building an acid condition through her overeating on starch; and this will build further trouble for her also later on.
There should be little or no trouble with the eyes of a baby, if it is properly cared for. One of the principal things to watch is the cleansing of the wash-cloth that is used on the baby's eyes. In fact, the wash-cloth should be used on the body of the child, but a small piece of cotton should be used on the eyes, mouth, and the parts of the body where there is any secretion to be removed. Then the cotton can be thrown away and a new piece used each time. The eyes should be bathed in warm water. If there seems to be some irritation, a little salt may be added to the water, but nothing else.
Daily Habits at School Age.--Children just beginning school should retire at eight o'clock at night in winter. Those who have been in school several years may remain up until nine o'clock. In the summer time, when school is not in session, the retiring time may be an hour later for each age.
School children would be able to do twice as much work at school, and very much better work, if arrangement could be made for an hour of sleep, or at least rest on the bed, at noon. Parents would do well to demand two hours at noon, so that the children may come home and have an hour of rest--rest, not recreation--and then take time to eat their lunches and not be compelled to rush the food into the stomach. Children not of school age should have a one-hour rest every day after the noon meal. Those under four should also have an hour of rest during the forenoon.
Children should not have home studies. They should take just such work in school as they can do during the school hours. The plan of having to spend the entire evening preparing the lessons for the next day is a tremendous handicap for children.
Sleep.--As stated above, children of school age need rest aside from the night's sleep. Babies under two or three years should have as much sleep as they can possibly get. If a child is restless and cannot sleep, it means that the nervous system is worn out, and it needs to have food kept from it until the nerves have had time to settle down. Then the amount of food should be kept within the digestive limitations, as evidenced by a poised state of the nerves. Mothers need a rest in the middle of the day, as well as the children, therefore the habit should be built of mother and child going to bed for a rest after the noon meal. Remember that it takes nerve-energy for digesting food; and there is nothing which renews nerve- energy so quickly and safely as sleep and rest.