The First Weeks - Mistakes of the Young Mother - Devices which Should Never be Used - Evil of Rocking or Jolting and Jumping - Necessity for Restful Treatment of a Baby - Over-stimulation of the Brain - Making Baby Amuse Himself
Anyone who has had much to do with young babies will agree that good training and discipline make all the difference to baby's behaviour from the beginning.
It is with the first baby that mothers make the greatest mistakes over the question of " keeping baby quiet."
The young mother cannot distinguish between the cries of pain, discomfort, hunger, and bad temper, and she often makes the mistake of lifting baby because she cannot bear to hear him cry. But from the very beginning the mother should make up her mind that she will avoid the pitfall of keeping baby quiet at all hazards. She will not yield to the temptation of nursing him at wrong times or walk up and down till baby drops off to sleep before putting him to bed. Many a weary mile is tramped by young mothers who do not realise the harm they are doing to the child by inculcating self-indulgence in infancy.
There are various devices for keeping baby quiet which should never find their way into the well-regulated nursery.
The evils of the comforter have already been touched upon (Vol. 4, page 2903), whilst the rocking basinette and the swinging chair should be emphatically condemned.
" The hand that rocks the cradle " may rule the world in one sense, in another it is ruled by the baby who refuses to sleep until the swing of the cradle acts as a sort of hypnotic. A young mother would not dream of deliberately giving a child morphia to make it sleep, although many do so unconsciously when they rely upon patent sleeping draughts or baby soothers which nearly all contain some such narcotic drug.
The rocking cradle is not quite so bad as the soothing mixture, but the well-managed baby sleeps without any artificial inducement, because he is trained into good habits and requires neither swinging chairs nor rocking cradles to keep him quiet.
The miseries of the baby whose mother keeps him " quiet " by jumping him up and down, continually keeping him on the move, or jolting him face downwards on her knee may continue throughout life. The child who is treated in this way will pay the penalty of an over-stimulated nervous system. Nothing is worse for children than continual jolting or continual noise ; so baby's rattle should be used in moderation and the child's senses soothed, not overexcited.
" Look, baby, look," says the foolish distracted mother whose child is peevishly unhappy, constantly grumbling and requiring to be amused. In many cases the child is suffering from over-fatigue of the nervous system due to insufficient rest and sleep. The baby who rests and sleeps, feeds and lives in a regular way is not unhappy, but lies placidly in cradle or pram finding interest in the little things around him.
Before he reaches the crawling stage he, is perfectly safe lying on the floor, or on the ground outside at suitable seasons of the year, provided, of course, that he is protected from draughts and chills. He should be happy in his own society, cooing and crowing, and playing with his toes as the contented baby should do. Of course, he will get bored with a place after a time, but he should be taken from one room to another, or, in summer, lie in his pram in different parts of the garden watching the trees and the clouds. Indeed, the swinging of the trees is a constant delight to baby in his first year, and he will lie contentedly and far more happily than if he were one of the children who are constantly amused and distracted.
The young mother should never get into the habit of wheeling baby to sleep in the perambulator, but put him straight into his cot or his pram until sleep time comes and let him go to sleep naturally, without movement of any sort. The perambulator, of course, should be shaded by an awning, as the light is generally too much for the infant's eyes.
The principle of not over-stimulating baby's brain should be followed out all through the early years. Constant noise is bad for the child's ears and brain, just as artificial light and late hours so excite a baby nervously that he gets into the habit of sleeping too little for his age. If the young mother follows out the idea of getting baby into good habits she will save herself many hours of nursing and win leisure for herself.
In winter baby should be made to lie on a bed or on the floor, so that his mother has time for sewing or reading or writing letters. It is better not to let him lie in his own cot except when he is supposed to go to sleep, so that the idea of the cot may suggest sleep to him.
A bright rug of red worsted material, patterned with animals which may be made of many colours, is a constant joy after six or seven months when he gets to the crawling stage. He should be provided with a proper suit, which will keep all his garments covered and yet allow him freedom to exercise his muscles. Very soon a few bricks, a soft ball, and one or two stuffed animals may be given, but too many toys will only spoil the child. Let the idea always be that baby should amuse himself and learn to enjoy life without unnecessary attentions from busy people.