This section is from the book "The Home Hand-Book of Domestic Hygiene and Rational Medicine. Volume 2.", by J. H. Kellogg, M.D.. Also available from Amazon: The Home Hand-Book of Domestic Hygiene and Rational Medicine, Volume 2.
If the birth is a premature one, having occurred before the infant was fully developed, the child will be smaller than usual and less well developed; its movements will be slight and feeble, and its cry will be very faint, and the countenance will have a peculiarly old expression. Such a child requires extra care and warmth. It should be carefully wrapped in soft cotton. Very great care will be required in rearing it, as it will at first be too weak to nurse and must be fed with a spoon. It should not be washed and dressed for some time, and should be kept very warm. Care should be taken in washing the child not to expose it to cold so as to produce blueness of the surface, as is often done. It should be recollected that the infant has all its life thus far been accustomed to a temperature of nearly 100°, and being wholly without protection when bom, and keenly susceptible, it must suffer quite severely from cold.
The best plan is to place the child in a warm bath, the temperature of which is about blood heat, and then rub it gently with a sponge dipped in warm, weak suds made of castile soap. If the surface is covered with curd-like matter, as is sometimes the case, it should be smeared with a mixture of equal parts of egg and sweet oil beaten up together. After the bath, the surface of the skin should be anointed with a little olive oil or vaseline. If some portions of the curdy matter seem to be firmly adhesive to the skin, no violent efforts should be made to remove them, as they will dry up and disappear in a short time without further attention. After being thoroughly washed, the child should be carefully examined to see that it possesses no deformity. The outlets of the body should receive particular attention, as in some cases the anus or urethra are closed.
The best method of dressing the cord is this: Grasp the cord with the thumb and finger close to the body, cutting it off at the ligature. Squeeze out all its contents by pressure with the thumb and finger of the other hand, keeping a firm grasp upon it with the thumb and finger first applied so as to prevent hemorrhage. Now apply another ligature about an inch from the end of the stump. By this means the cord will be very greatly reduced in size and may be much more easily dressed than when treated in the usual way. In dressing, apply a soft thin muslin bandage, about as wide as the first joint of the thumb, wrapping it around the cord three or four times. Now apply another ligature outside of the bandage, and the dressing is complete. Some prefer to apply for a bandage a soft linen cloth four or five inches square smeared upon the under surface with mutton tallow and having a hole in the center through which the cord is slipped. The cloth is generally scorched, but not much is gained by this practice. By dressing the cord in this way, much offensiveness which arises from decomposition is avoided. It is generally customary to next apply what is termed the belly-band. This is not so important as many suppose, if indeed it is needed at all, which we very seriously doubt. If applied, it should not be drawn too tight, and should be fastened with tapes instead of pins. The best material to use is very soft flannel. When the dressing is completed, the infant should be placed in a warm bed; but it should not have its head covered, as it needs an abundance of air, as well as adults. The infant when thus properly dressed, generally sleeps several hours. When it awakes, it should be applied to the breast. Although the milk is not yet formed, the efforts of the child to nurse will promote the secretion and will also benefit the child, as the first secretion furnished by the breast, a watery fluid known as colostrum, has a slightly laxative effect upon the bowels of the infant, freeing them from their dark green contents, which is termed meconium.