Shortly after a child is born it begins to breathe. This is followed immediately with a lusty cry which means vigorous action of the chest, diaphram and lungs and a full inflation of hitherto unused lungs with air. Shortly after that little cry has hearalded to the world the birth of another living child, the physician, mid-wife or attendant severs the cord through which the child has secured not only its air, but its food and water, as well, during its nine months of intra-uterine life, and its existence as an independent being is fully launched. From this point onward, the needs of the child are more complex and its care is no longer so simple.
BREATHING: Not all babies breathe immediately after birth. Such cases are due chiefly to the use of anesthetics, to a difficult birth, and to pressure upon the cord. Anesthetics and measures to hasten delivery should not be employed; anesthetics being justifiable only in those cases where surgical interferrence is essential.
When baby does not begin to breathe promply after birth, gentle spanking, dashing cold water on the face and chest, alternate immersion in hot and cold water, and artificial respiration are resorted to.
As soon as the cord is severed and properly tied the child should be wrapped in cotton or other soft material and placed where it will be warm and undisturbed. After a few minutes to an hour, depending on the strength of the child, it should be carefully but quickly cleaned. The clean baby needs no other bath than one of plain luke-warm water. No soap should be used, and no oil. Never anoint a child's body in oil.
Mothers who have had frequent intercourse during pregnancy will give birth to babies covered with a cheese-like substance called vernix caseosa. This substance can best be removed by pledgets of cotton dipped in olive oil. The oil should then be thoroughly removed from the skin.
As soon as the baby has been cleansed, it should be prepared for bed and permitted to sleep. No food should be given for the first twenty four hours.
THE EYES: The eyes should be carefully cleansed with warm water and cotton pledgits. It will be well for the father to attend to this himself rather than trust it to an ignorant and careless nurse, for nurses are never trained to properly cleanse the eyes of infants.
Infection of the eyes in infants is comparatively rare, and in cases where it does occur, proper cleansing after birth will prevent it. It is the medical practice to drop an antiseptic into the eyes, while naturopaths who have embraced the germ delusion use lemon juice. Thorough cleanliness is the thing needed.
The eyes should be shielded from strong sun light or artificial light and from dust and wind.
THE MOUTH: There is no need for washing the mouth of a healthy baby; either at birth or subsequently. The mouth is self-cleansing, the saliva is a sterilizing fluid and health prevents the mouth from becoming dirty. It is almost impossible to wash the mouth of a new-born baby without causing some irritation and injuring the delicate membranes and predisposing these to inflammation. Let the mouth alone.
THE NOSE: What is said of the mouth applies to the nose also.
THE EARS: The external ear should be washed daily with plain water. Keep out of the internal ear. There is always some wax in the internal ear which should be let entirely alone.
THE GENITALIA: The genital organs should be kept scrupulously clean. In girls these should be washed during the bath with plain water and absorbent cotton. No soap or antiseptics should be used on these tender parts. Be careful to dry them throughly after each washing.
In boys the foreskin is almost always tight. There is nothing abnormal about this. Every other day, however, the foreskin should be pulled back and the secretion throughly washed away with plain water. Do not use boric acid ointment or other drugs to smear the parts with, as is usually advised.
If the foreskin is very tight, so that cleanliness is difficult, it should be stretched each day until this difficulty is overcome. In some cases the prepuse is merely too tight to be retracted. In others It ts so tight that It interfere with urination, being contracted in a few cases until the opening is no larger than a pin head In such cases a sebaceous secretion of the glans penis, called smegma, accumulates under the foreskin, decomposes and causes considerable irritation and even more serious trouble. Dr. Lindlahr declares that "the intolerable itching caused by such irritation not infrequently leads to masturbation."
Phimosis is the term applied to a tight foreskin and circumcision is the customary remedy. Among the ancient Egyptians and Jews and among the Jews of today, as well, perhaps, as among other people, circumcision was and is practiced as a religious rite.