This only holds good if the nurse is accustomed to carrying infants, and if the baby is sufficiently protected from cold. The modern perambulator, of the bassinet type, when it is wide and deep, rubber tyred, well balanced and well hung, has many advantages even during the first few weeks of life. The baby is well protected from cold, and a hood or awning provides shade for the eyes and face.
When the nurse wheels the perambulator carefully and at an even pace, there is very little chance of jolting or jarring from movement. Baby should lie on a fairly hard pillow with a smaller soft pillow for the head. A blanket with a cloth or linen cover keeps baby warm, especially if he is wrapped carefully in a soft shawl before placing him in the perambulator.
The craze for open-air life at present has a great deal to recommend it, but there is always some risk that the child is kept lying flat for too many hours at a time, and has not sufficient opportunity for kicking his legs, and using his muscles, as all young healthy animals love to do. Babies require definite periods for exercising the muscles every day, and they will grow better if allowed to tumble about freely on a rug or a bed.
After the first few months baby will not wish. to lie all the time in his perambulator, but he should not be allowed to sit up without very careful support during the first eighteen months. The lying posture is much better for the spine, and if the child is allowed to sit up too much he is apt to double forward and get into uncomfortable positions. During the first two years of life, at least, the perambulator is the right vehicle for taking baby out of doors.
The little go-cart, or wheel-chair, is excellent for a child of three, and may occasionally be used when baby is about two and a half. But it is a very great mistake to put a child of eighteen months or two years into a little chair and keep him strapped there for two hours at a stretch.
What are the chief objections to the wheelchair for the young child ?
The strain on the spine resulting from the necessity of keeping the upright position.
Lack of rest compared with the perambulator.
The child's proximity with the pavement makes him more likely to be exposed to the dust. He is also insufficiently protected from sun in hot weather as these little chairs are rarely supplied with any awning.
It is impossible to cover up the legs and feet properly, and there is great risk of chill.
A child's spine is composed of over thirty vertebrae, which are not bony as in the adult's spine. They yield more under pressure, because they are softer; and improper positions will alter the spine and even render the child liable to curvature. Although, when baby is first put into the chair, he may be able, with the assistance of the straps, to keep fairly erect, gradually the little body droops, and a child huddled asleep in a wheel-chair is far too common a sight in everyday life.
The child sitting or lying comfortably in his perambulator with the shade adjusted to protect his eyes from the glare of the sun, is comfort personified compared with the poor little mite in the go-cart, who has to meet dust and sun during the whole two hours he is out of doors. These chairs are so near the pavement that the little occupant encounters every swirl of dust right in the face, making risks of sore throat and laryngitis very real ones. In the case of older children the risk is less because the child can complain when he is uncomfortable or overheated. The older child also is less likely to contract a chill, as he will soon tell the nurse that he is cold and wishes to run about. The smaller the child, the greater risk of contracting chill from rapid loss of heat in the body.
When baby goes out of doors the nurse should be instructed, when he has reached the walking stage, to allow him occasionally a little walk or run to keep up the circulation. Otherwise the little limbs become cramped and chilled if the weather is at all cold. It is far better to make a rule of taking baby out of doors every day unless in a heavy downpour of rain or in a fog. If the perambulator is supplied with a waterproof and a rain-hood, there is very little risk of cold from an occasional shower or wetting. In the cold weather, also, a hot-water bottle wrapped in flannel can be put at the foot of the perambulator, although it is better to get the child's circulation into good condition, and therefore resistant to cold, by attention to food and other health matters.
In towns, where baby's outings are, of course, restricted, and he has to go stereotyped fashion in perambulator or go-cart to get his airing, he should have at least two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon, unless in the depth of winter, when it is advisable to have shorter outings in the dreary weather, and to choose the period of day that is brightest. All young mothers should try to understand that fresh air is food to the child. The more he can get, the better for his health. Without sufficient sleep and fresh air the healthiest baby will deteriorate and not develop as he should. Sunshine, fresh air, and sleep, next to proper diet, are the most essential things in a child's life.