Every mother will perceive the necessity of perfect cleanliness. The clothes should be frequently changed, and the child be accustomed to a daily bath. The water should be during the first few days after birth about blood heat, gradually lowering the temperature as the child becomes stronger, until in the course of a few months, the water may be used nearly if not quite cold. A bath should be used in which the whole body may be immersed. After bathing, the body should be thoroughly dried, followed by gentle friction with the hand or a soft towel. Particular attention should be paid to the hair and scalp. At first it is of course washed all over every day, but after the child is a year old, once a week or fortnight will be sufficient, if it be well brushed night and morning.
'There is one important subject in the training of the child, of which I have not spoken, I mean, the nursery. A healthy location, pure air, and cleanliness are of course essential. A situation away from contamination, with a dry and pure air, should be selected.
It is very common in New-York, and in fact in all populous cities, to see in certain localities, a dozen families occupying one house. Each family sometimes composed of six or eight children, besides the parents, has at most but two rooms, and often only one. Here within these dark, damp walls, sometimes in basements, and sometimes in attics, where the cold wind and rain penetrates through every crack, they cook, and eat, and sleep, huddled together like swine.
No wonder that disease and crime revel here. No wonder that these localities swell that dark and filthy stream of licentiousness, whose turbid waters cast their stench over society; morally and physically poisoned, what could we expect. And here they live in the midst of filth, pinched with poverty, seeing their children growing up around them candidates for crime, when at a less expense than they are now under, they could have pleasant homes in some of the many quiet villages clustering around, and within a few moments' ride of our great cities.
Even among those who are possessed of wealth the most unpleasant and worst ventilated part of the house is not unfrequently taken as a nursery. The upper rooms, being more airy and dry than the lower, should as a general thing be selected. Those having a southern exposure would of course be preferable. A want of pure air and healthy food, is one of the principle causes of various diseases, as well as the development in infancy of that scourge of our race, Scrofula or Tuberculosis. Nothing should be permitted in the nusery which would have a tendency to vitiate the air, or interfere with a proper ventilation. While we take particular pains not to have the nursery at too high a temperature, we should be equally cautious to have an even and comfortable warmth at all times. Drafts of cold air should be avoided, and the so-called hot air stoves, standing like a mass of heated metal, exhausting the life of the air, and creating no current should never find their way into the nursery.
The temperature must be regulated according to the season, and should range somewhere between 60° and 70° During winter, and a portion of spring and autumn, fire will be required during the day, but it is not necessary at night, unless in case of sickness. After dressing in the morning, the children should leave the room for an hour or two, during which time it should be thoroughly ventilated.
Children must, as a matter of course, spend hours and days alone with their nursery attendants, at a time when first impressions are stronger than at any other period of their lives. Great care then should be taken in the selection of the nurse. She should be orderly, cleanly, addicted to no vulgar habit, and of a mild and cheerful temper. I have already referred to this subject, in speaking of the moral training of children.
This is essential to the proper development of the muscles, and the various organs of the body, but we should bear in mind the softness of the bones and the weakness of the body in the early months of infancy. Exercise at this period should be mostly of the passive kind, as violent exercise, or carrying the child in an erect or sitting position would have a tendency to produce curvature of the spine and limbs. Respiration, crying, tossing about the limbs, produce at first nearly all the exercise required.
In summer weather the child can hardly be too much in the open air, and should be accustomed to it at longer or shorter intervals daily. In winter, more caution is necessary, but even then it may be taken out after the first or second month, in pleasant weather, for a short time. The indiscriminate exposure of children for the purpose of hardening them, is a barbarous practice. They should be warmly clothed, and not exposed to the weather when there is danger of being chilled. During the first four or five months, in taking exercise, the child should not be carried in a sitting position. The head is large and heavy, and for want of sufficient strength in the neck to keep it in an erect position, it falls from one side to the other, impeding respiration.
The best way to carry young infants, is in an oblong basket, or on the arm of the nurse in a reclining position, so as to protect the body and head. It should never be lifted by the arms or guided by them, when it makes its first effort to walk, but one hand should be placed on each side of the chest, just below the arm-pits.
The cradle in which the child is rocked to sleep, or its cries stilled, is rapidly losing favor, and should be entirely banished from every household. Rocking, with the rapidity often practiced, undoubtedly induces sleep, but it is an apoplectic sleep, endangering the brain and the nervous system.
When a child is able to walk he will show his ability in a way which cannot be misunderstood, and then a little help, rather to enable him to balance than to support himself will be sufficient. Walking requires not merely physical strength, but the power of balancing, and we should be cautious about forcing the child to step alone, until the latter as well as the former has been m a measure acquired. The child itself decides on the different steps of its progress, and a little watchfulness on the part of the mother or nurse, will easily discover the indications. As the child increases in strength, air and exercise are even more indispensable; in fact, from two to ten, or twelve years of age, it cannot have too much fresh air, provided there is not an undue exposure. I have already referred to this part of the subject in speaking of the moral, physical, and intellectual training of children.