Baby's toilet is a very important ceremonial, the details of which, though perfectly simple to the experienced nurse and mother, cause no small anxiety to the novice, and infinite discomfort, and even danger to the child if mismanaged.
Except for some special reason, such as illness or unusually hot weather, one bath a day is sufficient. Like everything else, " tubbing -can be overdone; when it is it becomes weakening. The daily bath should, however, never be omitted unless by doctor's orders.
Except in the case of infants, there are two reasons why it is an advantage to bathe children at night. First, baths have a soothing effect and promote sleep; and secondly, they ensure children going to bed with the hundreds of thousands of pores of the skin clear and free from dust and perspiration, after romping about all day. Some careless nurses put their little charges to bed with merely a quick sponge of face and hands, neglecting legs and feet altogether.
It is sometimes advisable to consult a medical man who has had opportunities of observing the health of a particular child as to the best time for, and temperature of the bath. When infants are not actually bathed, they should have a quick all-over sponging.
During the heat of summer, especially in hot countries abroad, children get tired and peevish, and a bath or sponge over, with cool water at about 700 F., will be found very soothing and refreshing, especially if a rounded teaspoonful of bi-carbonate of soda be added to each quart of water.
Those who have charge of children should bear two points in mind:
1. That bathing is a powerful agent in maintaining and restoring health.
2. That baths must be quick and efficient, no playing and dawdling being allowed.
The room must be warm and free from draughts, and for quite small babies let there be a bright fire, unless the weather is exceedingly hot. Babies are chilly little mortals, and love, after their dip, to kick about and warm themselves in the cheerful glow. Put a screen round the chair and bath, and never permit people to keep coming in and out while baby is undressed. Many cases of infantile rheumatism, with consequent heart trouble, have been caused by cold air striking on the child during, or just after, his bath. Many careful nurses for this reason invariably lock the nursery door. Have everything needful close at hand before undressing the child, for it makes an inexperienced nurse flurried to find the towels, soap, or other important items missing at the critical moment, especially if baby is cross and exercising his lungs.
For infants the bath known as a "nursery basin" is very handy. It holds about six or eight quarts of water, is large enough to receive the child comfortably, and is fitted into a frame which raises it to a convenient height for the nurse.
For older children any ordinary deep bath may be used.
The effect of very hard water on the delicate skins, especially that of the face of children, is very harmful. If rain water is not procurable, add a little milk to the bath water, or use water that has really boiled, and squeeze a muslin bag of oatmeal in it until the water looks cloudy.
It is of utmost importance to use the best and purest soap procurable for children, for their skins are very sensitive and more easily injured than those of adults. For this reason avoid all highly coloured and scented soaps. Too much soap is a common fault of nursery bathing; soaping all over once a day is quite sufficient, and even a thick lather is unnecessary. The reason is, even the best soaps remove the natural oil of the skin, thus overmuch soap renders the skin dry and rough, and by depriving it of too much of its oil weakens the child, and contributes to malnutrition.
Infants require two sponges - one very soft cup-sponge for the face and head, and a second for rinsing. A new sponge must be put in cold water for twenty-four hours to soak out sand. Examine the sponge carefully in order to see it is free from gritty substances, or a bad scratch may result. Sponges must be kept scrupulously clean, as if at all slimy they are very harmful to the skin. If a sponge gets slimy, soak it for twelve hours in strong salted water, and if that remedy proves ineffectual soak it in three half-pints of water containing a sherry glass of table vinegar, exercising the greatest possible caution in the use of the acid, which in its pure form is dangerous. Rinse the sponge well before use.
A good toilet powder is as essential as good soap, and, like soap, all highly scented varieties must be avoided. Fine boracic acid powder, fuller's earth, or equal parts of starch and oxide of zinc are always safe. The powder is best applied with soft wads of cotton-wool, which can be changed frequently. This is far more cleanly than using the same powder-puff for every purpose for one year, or even several.
A nursery basin is very convenient. It is fitted into a frame which raises it to a convenient height for the nurse
For very young infants the temperature of the water should be 100' F. when the child is put in. This can be lowered as the baby gets older, or if the weather is very hot, to about 98°-95° F.; at about three years of age 65°-8o° F. will often be warm enough in summer, and 85°-95° F. in winter. Only the most robust children - never under three years of age - should have quite a cold bath. A bath thermometer, costing about Iod., is an essential item in the nursery, and must always be used to ascertain the temperature of the bath water.