The Mistake of Coddling - Diet - Home Training - The Overdressed Child - Fretful Children Efficient Ventilation - Exercise when we consider that over 90 per cent. of children are born healthy, the prevalence of mother ignorance must be a widespread evil, in view of the high infant death-rate and the number of ailing, fretful, unhealthy children in our midst.
The most important work any mother can do la to rear healthy, happy children for the nation. The well-managed home strikes a note of harmony in the world. A family of thriving children is the best testimonial to any woman's ability. Children ought to be healthy. They ought to thrive like young puppies or kittens brought up under ideal circumstances.
Practically the only reason why so many children do not " get on " is mismanagement. Give a child the right sort of food and make him eat it properly. Provide fresh air for him night and day. Teach him how to breathe and how to play. Train his mind and character.
In spite of the new teaching on the wisdom of bringing a child up simply, healthfully, and naturally, there are many women who ought to know better who coddle a child into ill-health. They over-clothe it. They heap a multiplicity of garments upon its poor little body. They cover its head with heavy hats until the child is in a state of perspiration on the slightest exertion. The result is chill and a tendency to bronchitis and other chest ailments which might have been prevented by more judicious clothing.
They coddle it in the matter of diet. Under the mistaken impression that a child should be fed up, they stuff it like a Christmas turkey, and never realise that the attacks of sickness and diarrhoea are simply Nature's effort to get rid of what the digestive organs cannot deal with.
In spite of all that has been said about the need of ventilation and the healthful properties of fresh air, not one nursery in fifty is properly ventilated. Not one child in five hundred sleeps with the window open more than an inch at the top. The result is that the children, especially of the well-to-do classes, suffer from over-coddling in many nurseries.
The few sensible mothers here and there are exceptions to the general rule of mismanagement. The child brought up in the right way is never ill. Even teething is a natural process, which is not accompanied by illness and pain. The healthy child passes through the teething stage with the greatest ease. The fact that " another tooth " is making its way through the gum is only made evident to the rest of the household by its appearance.
Cold in the head is an infectious disease which the healthy child does not catch. If he contracts the ailments which are supposed to be inseparable from childhood, such as measles and whooping-cough, he gets them mildly, and recovers without any of the complications which are such a dangerous feature of these affections.
And now how are we to ensure health to a child ? In this series of articles we shall deal with child management in all its phases. Clothing, diet, hygiene, mental and moral training will each be taken up in turn. In this introductory article we can only briefly mention some of the essential details of healthy child management.
1. The healthy child must be properly fed. If he is overfed he becomes fretful, nervy, and subject to periodical attacks of sickness and liver. If he is underfed he is stunted in growth, and may become rickety or liable to tubercular disease. If he is unsuitably fed, with too much butchers' meat or too much starchy food, his health inevitably suffers from the poisons which are circulating in his blood.
The healthy child has simple, well-cooked meals, moderate in quantity, and daintily served. Four or four and a half hours should elapse between meals whenever a child passes the infant stage. Three good meals a day may ensure health to a child who does not thrive because he is having five or six, or is constantly picking.
The healthy child is taught to chew his food, and is never permitted to wash it down with gulps of fluid after every few bites.
2. Health in the nursery can only be obtained if the mother is alive to the importance of efficient ventilation.
Impure air is poisonous in the nursery, and proper ventilation is one of the chief points to be attended to. The healthy child cannot thrive in an ill-ventilated nursery. He loses his ruddy colour and exuberance of spirits; he becomes pale, sickly, and anaemic. The average mother is too much afraid of draughts. One article, at least, will be devoted to slaying the draught bogey in this series.
3. The healthy child must have plenty of physical exercise. All young animals exercise their muscles naturally, freely. Only the poor little overdressed child of the rich has to march sedately beside his immaculately dressed nurse, and knows nothing of the joy of tumbling about without fear of spoiling his clothes.
The perambulator baby suffers in health from insufficient exercise. For hours he is deposited in his fine carriage, covered with heavy wraps so that he cannot move his limbs, and then wheeled out into the "fresh air." Now, fresh air is an excellent thing, but it can be obtained at the expense of things which are just as necessary.
Many children would develop better if allowed to tumble about a well-ventilated nursery during the hours they are wheeled about the streets in their perambulator.
4. To ensure health to the child, attention to clothing is necessary. Clothe a child in as few garments as possible, and let the one next the skin be of light wool, loosely woven, and soft to the touch. Put nothing tight on a child that will restrict his breathing or hinder the free movement of the muscles.
Do not get into the habit of using overcoats too much. If a child is healthy, he generates heat in his own body, but does not perspire heavily and run the risk of chill or rapid cooling. Let headgear be light, and used only as a protection from the strong rays of the sun. Heavy headgear is a potent cause of dandruff in childhood, and loss of hair in after life.
The child who is sensibly clothed and fed, who breathes pure air and uses his muscles as Nature intended, is a healthy child, who is happy because he is healthy, properly managed, and allowed to develop naturally on proper lines.