Our forefathers and foremothers were dressed, in infancy, precisely like their fathers and mothers. As we see by the portraits treasured among our curios, they were abridged copies of the adults of a hundred years ago. Parents were then consistent in feeding their progeny with food they considered convenient for themselves.
When the royal father ate fermenty for breakfast it is upon record that a baby prince, suffering from marasmus, was nourished (!) upon barley, boiled soft with raisins. They sat up to late functions - those wretchedly dissipated princelings - and the cotter's children went to bed at the same time with himself.
He who doubts whether or not our times are better than the former would be converted to steadfastness of conviction by patient study of the nursery habits of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
We have children's outfitters nowadays, who fashion garments utterly unlike those worn by be-corseted, be-trained, and be-pantalooned grown people. The cotter's wife clothes her boys in knickerbockers and blouses, her girls in loose waists and brief skirts, all designed expressly - although she does not know it - to allow free and healthful growth of the immature creatures.
I wish I could add that reform as radical and common-sensible had been wrought in children's diet, and children's hours of rest and sleep.
Mothers who have thought deeply upon these matters and acted upon meditation, appreciate the hygienic law that children require sleep to promote growth, as well as to repair the waste of waking - which are working - hours. If an adult needs seven hours' slumber, the infant of days - under seven years of age requires ten to satisfy wants his senior has outgrown. Up to the age when the child ceases to add inches, if not cubits, to his stature yearly, provision must be made for the steady drain upon vital and nerve forces.
The aforesaid canny mothers call in the little ones from play before sundown in summer, bathe them, endue them in nightgowns and pajamas, put dressing-gowns over these, and loose slippers upon the tired feet, then set them down to a supper of bread and milk, or buttered bread with a dash of jam or jelly, and good, sweet milk, with once in a while a plain cooky as an afterthought. Supper over and prayers said, the darlings are laid in bed by the time the west begins to blush at the sun's nearer approach. In winter, the six o'clock supper is served in the nursery or dining-room, and the bairnies disposed of comfortably to themselves and to the rest of the household before "grown-uppers" sit down to the "hearty" supper or dinner dividing the working day from an evening as busy, and sometimes almost as long.
To borrow from the slang dictionary - the child needs the ten or twelve hours' sleep in his business of growing tall and robust, steady of nerve and sane of mind. Furthermore, he needs food adapted to his needs. Plenty of cereals; plenty of milk; plenty of ripe fruit in the season thereof; meat once a day; nourishing broths and a few green vegetables. No fried things whatsoever; neither tea nor coffee. No pastry; no mince pie nor plum pudding, nor highly seasoned entrees. Time enough for these delicacies when the inches (and feet) are all in, the muscles in splendid working order, the gray matter of the brain "all there," and ready to do the duties of a man's brain for fifty years to come.
One branch of a child's education, sorely neglected in tens of thousands of homes, is mastication. As soon as he cuts his teeth teach him why they were given him. Make him chew everything he takes into his mouth. Able dieticians are proclaiming boldly that milk should be chewed, a mouthful at a time, if one would not have it change to curd about the diaphragm. The child's meat should be finely minced for him until he can cut it up for himself, and bolting be reckoned as a breach of decent behavior.
He may forget the truism that "gentlemen eat slowly" after he joins in the great American rush for fortune. Obedience to it for a term of years will lay the foundation of sound digestion. He will have a better chance of long life and no dyspepsia, than if he had been allowed to gulp down milk by the glassful without drawing breath, and to gobble steaks and chops in two-inch chunks.