This is the idea to start with - that we are dealing with little people. To be sure they are fearfully and wonderfully made, but only in the same sense as their parents. As many of these same parents do not understand the first principles of caring for themselves, we are obliged to begin at the beginning. It is important in the life of a child to begin right. The treatment many a babe receives during the first hours of its life causes it to be a puny, suffering infant, giving it a constitution predisposed to disease. The first thing is to protect the sensitive 'darling from exposure. There must be absolutely no exposure to chill. This is easily done by plenty of soft, warm flannels - a dozen pieces or more, some of which need be quite shawls. When needed, they must be full of fire warmth, full as they can hold, no matter if it is a warm August night. When the child needs attention, make the physician take a large piece of this and cover it instantly. He can do his whole duty with the child well covered. Never use water for the first bath, but sweet-oil; I prefer the oil of sweet cream, made by simmering cream in a shallow dish on the stove until the oil separates, to be applied with a soft piece of warm flannel. If care is used in removing the oil, you will be surprised to see how sweet the little one looks; on no account use water on the child until it is well climatized, say twenty-four to forty-eight hours. When a babe screams through its first toilet operation, it is either cold or frightened. Desist at once, and fold it closer in its warm wrappings, making sure that nothing soiled or damp is touching it. Let the little head be cared for first, then one arm, and so on, keeping the rest of the body carefully covered. After having the oil well applied, I would rather my child would lie a week with only its flannel wrappings than be dressed while screaming, but if you go right so far you will have no trouble.
Its clothing can be any thing that is warm enough and loose enough. Don't pin it up as if it was to be used to play ball with, and was in danger of getting tumbled to pieces. It is not even to be handled much, but laid away to rest as long as it will, and kept still; don't let some loving soul keep it swaying around. If it acts like waking up or is uneasy, pass your hands carefully under it, and gently turn it on its other side.
Its food, first and only, at present is that which God has so wisely provided; this is all that it needs, even if it gets but a few drops at a time. If it can not be satisfied without worrying the mother too much, a little - a very little - fresh cow's milk can be used with pure sugar and one-third water. Always remember this - the milk of a "farrow cow" will kill a young lamb just as sure as it enters its stomach.
I do not think it wise to insist on regular feeding times for nursing infants, or as long as milk is the chief sustenance. There are many days when the healthiest of children are fretful. Their gums begin to swell younger than is generally supposed. There is nothing more soothing than - well, just let the little pet have its own way; it will prove to you when it is most comfortable. A baby never cries if it is comfortable; when it cries it asks for something; put yourself in its place and maybe you can come near to the understanding. Many of its sufferings are caused by unwise changes in its clothing. You give it a slight cold by your own thoughtlessness; then for heaven's sake don't give it some soothing syrup to weaken its digestion, and render it liable to be hurt by all food except the simplest. My oldest boy is a victim to soothing medicines. He must be so careful through watermelon and fruit season, or he will be sick all the time; but four others, all past five years old, who never took as much as a cup of sage-tea, of medicine, can digest any thing. My remedy for most of the ailments of children is fire warmth.
For colic, unpin the little one's clothing so that the fire can shine clear to its arm-pits, heating your own hand and passing it gently over the restless little squirmer. This will either prevent or cure almost any thing. If it seems very sick, its head hot, you must watch that; I never knew a child to go into fits unless its head was hot and its hands and feet cold. In this case, bathe the little feet in warm water; and, if it is in summer, get the leaves of horse-radish, or a plant of that nature, roll and wilt them, and bind on the soles of the feet and in the palms of tbe hands; not to blister, only to keep moist and warm. If you can not get the green leaves, ginger on wet warm cloths will do. Then keep the head wet, and keep every one from the room but the one whom the child wishes to take care of it. Give water or milk - whichever the child prefers; or, if not weaned, let it nurse all it wishes, no matter if it keeps throwing it up - that is nature's provision for nursing babies. It is ready now to be soothed to sleep, and will generally waken with a gentle perspiration. When you think you must give some kind of warm tea, give pure warm water that has been boiled; it is the best hot drink out for either mother or child in pain.
My mother was once taken three miles on a cold winter's night to see a young infant that they feared was going into fits. It screamed and struggled and fought for breath, while its young mother, pale with fear was walking the house crying too. "Why," said mother, "the child has only got the 'snuffles,' bring me a little soft grease." She rubbed the nose gently until the child was partially relieved. Being quite a bad case, she advised the mother to milk a strain of breast-milk into the nostril; she did so, the child sneezed three or four times and dropped asleep in two minutes. This is also all that is needed for weak or sore eyes in an infant - breast milk.
For sore mouth, a weak solution of borax; but your child will not have a sore mouth or any other disease, if you follow these directions and your own good sense; and remember that soothing syrups are the lazy mother's cure. It is so much easier to put a child to sleep than to bathe it and warm it and nurse it well.
For croup, take sweet hog's lard and tincture of camphor or camphor gum and simmer together a short time; gum the size of a pea to a tablespoon of lard; keep it in the house prepared, and rub on the throat at first symptom. This will relieve any hard cough almost instantly; if it does not, mix one teaspoon of it with a tablespoon of molasses, and take inwardly. If you are called to a child too bad - too far gone - for these simple remedies, put it in a warm bath as quick as it can be prepared.
For whooping-cough, encourage the child to eat sour fruits, either cooked or raw, or both, all it wishes. This keeps the system cool, the bowels open, and the throat clear.
In weaning your darling, be sure you have plenty of suitable food in the house that baby is fond of. First teach baby to go to sleep without nursing; after he has become accustomed to this, teach him to do without it during the day, and to go to sleep at bed-time; then let him nurse all he wishes through the rest of the night, only being careful to leave the bed before he awakens in the morning. Let him nurse this way for several weeks, that the change of living may not be too sudden. I have weaned three children in this way without a single crying spell, and no one about the house knew about it.
The family physician is a great blessing - more so than his medicine. Never fail to call him in time, if the disease proves stubborn; but let him understand that you wish advice as to nursing, and not his medicine, unless it is very necessary. Most people think if a doctor leaves no drugs behind his visit is so much lost money; doctors understand this, and leave medicine whether necessary or not. As your child conquers one trifling ailment after another and grows in health and beauty, you will gradually gain a confidence in nature that will be a great rock of defense for a parent of a growing family; if you will obey her laws she will never disappoint you.
The regular meals, so necessary to the health and comfort of a family, must be regular. If you insist on the children only eating at their meals, don't sit and sew, or visit, with hunger gnawing at their vitals. I think it safest to allow growing children to have a piece between meals, if they are hungry enough to eat dry, light bread; no butter to grease things, or molasses or milk to tempt them to eat more than they need for necessary support. The only trouble, 1 find, is they soon get to be too fond of the crusts and "pudding pieces."
The care of the feet is the great picket post after the child begins to run alone. Watch, watch the little feet that no damp or chill is creeping up to chill the vitals. A pair of warm stockings to each pair of restless feet must be kept by the stove in all damp or cold weather, and never let a child stop a moment its active play until you know whether its feet are warm and dry. You had better change feet-covering four or five times a day during those delightful, treacherous springdays. than to watch a sick-bed and lose your darling at last. This is what neglect of the feet often brings the little ones to. I know the task I am enjoining on mothers and nurses. I have had twenty-three pairs of stockings hanging around my cook-stove at once, each pair in daily use for exchanges. But I do not know what it is to lose a child, or hardly a night's rest, and we have raised six from babyhood. Never let them go to bed without having their feet all aglow with warmth to their knees from the bright fire shining upon them. This is my hobby; fire-warmth. It will cure ear-ache, stomach-ache, head-ache, legs-ache; prevent neuralgia, white-swellings, rheumatic pains, indigestion. Yes, I'm a "fire worshiper," and you will be after you have tried its vrftues on yourself and children faithfully for twenty years.
In conclusion, my theory is incessant watchfulness of first symptoms - prevention rather than cure. But let no untried mother feel discouraged: the care of a babe is no trouble to a true mother. As often as it needs attention, so often do her eyes long for a sight of the sweet dimpled flesh, the dainty limbs; the loving touch of the little bands upon her face and neck has more than mesmeric power. And after all is done for them, if they seem to you to be growing coarse and unlovely, smile upon them oftener, kiss them, caress them. Don't let the pressing duties of the younger ones lead you to neglect the older ones. If a child once learns to do without mother's caressses, you can never again make them necessary to that child.