Ninety per cent, of young mothers know absolutely nothing about infant management. When the maternity nurse has departed the trials of the mother, and very often of the child as well, begin. When baby is strong and sturdy, with an excellent digestion and a placid temper, matters run smoothly enough, but in the majority of cases the poor young mother is a little overwhelmed with the responsibility she has to face, especially when things go somewhat awry.
She makes many mistakes. She underfeeds baby one day, and overfeeds him the next; she allows him to contract cold, and does not know how to guard against infection, and almost certainly she over-coddles him. And yet the subject is not so very difficult. It only requires a little knowledge of infant management to escape many a pitfall, and to pass through the first year of a child's life with a minimum of worry and anxiety.
So we propose to take up in detail, directly and helpfully, everything that has to do with the care of the child during the first year of his life. This is the period during which the foundation for his future life is laid. The healthy, sturdy, well-developed child of twelve months has made an excellent beginning. It depends almost entirely on how a child has been managed during that time as to whether he is healthy and happy, or puny and dyspeptic on his first birthday. Although each child may require different management in one sense, there are certain broad principles of infant hygiene which every young mother can master, and which will give her self-confidence with regard to the feeding, clothing, and hygiene of the infant.
That every baby should be nursed by its mother is the first general principle of infant management. For certain health reasons the doctor may advise that baby should be brought up on artificial food, but under ordinary circumstances the child that is naturally fed has, perhaps, twice the chance of passing through the first year of life easily and safely. The subject of artificial feeding will, however, be considered in detail, because a large number of children are necessarily bottle fed, and, if judicious care is exercised, there is no reason why the child should not be perfectly healthy and strong. At the same time, he runs greater risks than when nursed by the mother, and this reason alone is sufficient to make every young mother who has the welfare of her child at heart nurse her baby if she can.
During the first month the young mother has actually very little to do with her baby, but she ought to watch carefully the methods of the nurse, and learn everything she can concerning the management of her child. The modern maternity nurse is a well trained, qualified person, unlike the "Gamps" of former days, whose ignorance was of the extreme order. A good, properly trained nurse knows her business, and can teach a great deal, whilst much useful information can be obtained from the doctor. Also, with the help of this series of articles, which should be retained for reference, any mother can feel herself qualified to deal with everyday emergencies of baby life
Full directions for bathing were given in Vol. 1, page 331, Every Woman's Encyclopedia, in the Children's Section.
From the medical standpoint, the chief thing is to see that the water is neither too hot nor too cold, and the temperature should always be tested by a thermometer, which may be allowed to register 100° Fahr. in early infancy, whilst at six months the child will be quite comfortable in a bath of 8o° Fahr.
Secondly, the nurse or mother must learn to support the baby's back in the water with the forearm and hand, so as to afford the support necessary. At first the child is very liable to slip about unless held properly, and a nasty bruise may result when the child's head suddenly strikes the edge of the bath. After about a couple of minutes in the bath, baby should be lifted out and laid on his back on nurse's knee to be dried with soft, warm towels.
After drying the front of the body, baby should be dusted with equal parts of starch and boracic powder, especially under the folds of the joints. The wet towel is removed, and the child is laid on his face so that the back can be dried and powdered. Whilst lying in this position the little flannel binder is first put on, the child turned over, and the binder stitched with white cotton. Then a little soft woollen vest is slipped in place The diaper, pilch, and flannel can be put on at one time, and the child laid on them so that they may be fastened in place.
Every care should be taken to avoid turning the child over and over. His little dress is pulled gently up over the feet whilst the child is lying on his back, the sleeves put in place, and then the dress can be fastened behind.
Baby ought to be bathed every morning just before his breakfast is due, and after the evening bath he is ready for supper.
The chief things the mother has to avoid with regard to the baby's health are chill and skin troubles. If the temperature is always gauged by the thermometer, the child bathed quickly, dried, and dressed in a warm nursery, there is very little likelihood that he will catch cold. The young mother must never dawdle over the bath. She should have all the little garments well aired, and ready to put on in turn as they are wanted, and should not allow the nursery door to be opened by anyone while the child is undressed.
Skin troubles will arise if baby is insufficiently dried, or is bathed in very hard water. In the country rain water should be used. In towns the water should be boiled for some time, or the hardness removed as far as possible by one of the water softeners sold for the purpose. In addition to this, it will be necessary to use a little grease, such as boracic ointment, as the creases of baby's body are apt to become chafed if the water is at all hard. Careful drying is the best measure for preventing chafing, whilst the child's digestive condition affects this question considerably. If the milk is disagreeing with baby, the skin is very liable to become chafed and sore.
Baby's digestion will be considered in careful detail in this series, in order that the mother can guard against such contingencies.
The tiny ears must be carefully dried with a little piece of soft, fine linen or cotton-wool.
All the appliances required for the bath must be kept in a basket, the best type of which has three tiers, the two lower consisting of shelves, while the top tier is the basket proper. The properly stocked basket contains: The set of clothing to be required next time, with six well-aired napkins ready for use. In one box, perhaps, a little hairbrush and comb are kept. In another, needles, cotton, and scissors. On the shelves the following articles will find a place: (1) A packet of absorbent cotton-wool, (2) a pot of boracic ointment, (3) a thermometer, (4) a glass box for boracic powder, (5) a case containing a fine quality of soap, (6) a few safety-pins.
1. The young infant requires to be kept warm in an even temperature of about 6o°.
2. He must be kept quiet, and guarded from unnecessaiy and sudden noises, which simply excite the brain and make the child nervous.
4. He should not be nursed, or he acquires bad habits, and has to be constantly taken out of his cradle.
5. Regularity and method must be strictly observed in the nursery.
6. During the first part of its life the healthy baby sleeps all night and nearly all day, wakening only for bath and meals.
To be continued.