The first requisite of an infant is plenty of pure and fresh air. It should be kept in open air as much as possible, and when in-doors in well-ventilated rooms. When carried in the open air, their heads should not be enveloped in blankets, and when sleeping, their faces should not be covered with the bed-clothes. The infant needs and should have all the oxygen a pure air affords, which is so essential to its proper growth.
The Skin. -- The skin of infants should be kept clean, to render them less liable to cutaneous diseases. The unctuous covering of a new-born child should be removed as soon as possible. This can readily be done by smearing it with pure lard, and washing with white Castile soap and water. Do not use the brown Castile soap, as it contains oxides of iron, which are irritating substances. Infants should be washed every day with warm water, to be followed in course of time with tepid water, then temperate, and finally, at an age of some months, with cold water.
Clothing. -- The young child should be amply clothed, care being taken that they are sufficiently loose, to admit free motion in all directions. Flannels should be placed next to the skin in winter, and cotton in summer.
Food. -- Proper regimen is of the utmost importance to the health of the young. Until the first teething, the proper and natural food is the mother's milk. If the mother is unable to nurse her child, a wet-nurse should be procured. If the mother's milk is insufficient, cow's milk, sufficiently diluted with water and sweetened with loaf sugar, should be taken in addition. This should be taken from a sucking-bottle, which, when not in use, should be kept in water, to prevent becoming sour. A nursing woman should pay the greatest attention to her health also, and, for obvious reasons, a scrofulous or consumptive mother should never suckle her offspring; she should also place a check upon her passions, as violent passion, grief, envy, hatred, fear, jealousy, etc., tend to derange the character of the milk, and often superinduce disorder of the infant's stomach, and throw it into convulsions. The diet of the mother should receive strict attention. Her drink should be simply water, or weak black tea, and her food plain and wholesome. Pastry and the richer articles of food should not be eaten. She should take daily moderate exercise to induce better assimilation of aliments. When her milk is scanty, a sufficiency can frequently be induced by placing a bread and milk poultice, over which a moderate quantity of mustard is sprinkled, on the breasts.
Weaning. -- The child should be weaned after the appearance of its first teeth. Nature then designs it to have different food. Spring and fall are the proper seasons for weaning; no child should be taken from the breast in the midst of summer. The weaning should be a gradual process, and the food to be given should be of the character of milk. Bread and milk, boiled rice and milk, soda-crackers and milk, soft boiled eggs, roasted potatoes and milk, preparations of sago, arrowroot, tapioca, oatmeal gruel, rice pudding, and similar substances are all indicated. My nutritive fluids, given on page 205, can also be given with good service. From these, in course of time, more solid articles of food can be given them. Sugar in moderate quantities-- wholesome. Excessive eating should not be suffered. Water is the best drink.
Sleep. -- A child should always sleep in a loose gown, to prevent restlessness. Nature should govern its sleep, and which should never be induced by opiates. It should be allowed to sleep to a natural awakening, and should not be aroused for any avoidable purpose. Its covering should be warm but light, thus avoiding pressure upon its tender limbs; the infant should lie on its side, alternating at times from right to left, to prevent distortion of the spine. The body should be placed with the head to the north, and this rule applies to all, as the action of electric currents is to the north, thus allowing greater repose to the brain. Strong sunlight or moonshine should be excluded from their sleeping apartments. What I have thus far written is not only preservative of good health, but preventive of many species of illness to which infants are liable. Children are very liable to disease, necessitating great precaution in a variety of matters, the most important of which are the foregoing. When it is known that death destroys about one-half of humanity before the age of five years, the physical life of children is of the utmost importance. While young, the moral, intellectual, and religious faculties should be shaped, as the child often indicates the man.
The baby exhibits indisposition by cries, struggles, etc., and if these are carefully noted, every mother may know what ails the baby.
A baby suffering from stomach-ache sheds tears copiously, and utters long and loud cries. As stomach-ache is paroxysmal in character, so will its cries remit, and enjoy repose, to be followed by movements up and down of the legs and the peculiar cry.
To cry in inflammation of the organs of the chest is painful; it therefore does not cry or shed tears, but utters a muttering cry, abruptly completed, and coughs after long breaths.
In diseases of the brain, the child shrieks piercingly, followed by moaning and wailing. In extensive congestion, there is quiet dozing and probably snoring.
Loss of appetite, fretfulness, restlessness, thirst, great heat of skin, are all indications of disease, and require that solicitude and treatment that every fond mother should know how to bestow.