“Baby Education” (from Arthur’s Home Magazine, August 1861; pp. 89-90)
A mother who has evidently acquired experience in this most important science, writes as follows, from New Haven, to the American Agriculturist: How are the most babies treated? Are they not smothered with blankets, kept in rooms, and cool fresh air avoided as if it were a pestilence? Do they not worry and cry for this very want, and then doesn’t nurse come to helpless mamma and insists that the little creature is hungry, though nursed but a short time before? Then hungry or not, its cries are stilled with food it does not need, bona fide pain comes, diseases often follow in dire succession, and mother and nurse are well worn out before many days with such a worrying child. Who would not worry under such treatment? Babies appreciate oxygen thoroughly, and there would not be so many “terrible infants” were there more of it in sleeping and living apartments.
Well, to be practical, and “give my experience,” which consists, at this present time, of as healthy specimens of boys and girls as ever made parents’ hearts brim-full of thankfulness. I have pursued with them from their birth undeviating regularity in sleep, food, and out-door life—nothing but downright rain preventing the latter. Mothers tell me, “O, it’s a very good way, if you can only carry it out, but—I can’t.” Well, if children are not worth self-denial; if they are not better than calls or company, or visiting, then they must go to the servants; but to those warm mother hearts which make light of all fatigue and care for the sake of the baby, who accept the sweet task committed to their hands by a heavenly Father, how much better to have the key of sunny faces and joyous rippling laughter, than wry faces and shrieks “that make hideous.” If a child is born healthy, all it needs to thrive, is the carrying out of simple, natural laws. For the first few weeks, every two hours is often enough for nursing, after that once in three; it will then be regularly hungry and as regularly satisfied; if it cries, you will know it is not hungry; and its stomach will never be overloaded.
Let it sleep in a crib by your side, never with
you; then the sleep is longer, sweeter and more refreshing. Never wake a child—no, not to show it to the Queen of England. Wrap it well, all but the face, and take it daily into the purest air you can find. Let its baths be not decidedly cold water, and before nursing, and then another nice nap will follow. As it grows a few months older, keep it out of doors half the time, and in summer its best naps will be under the broad roof of heaven; and in winter don’t stop for the cold, but wrapped up like a perfect mummy out with the baby, and if you want to see the little one’s cheeks take on the rose, let it feel the splendid tonic in a sharp nor’wester, and it will smile at the snow flakes as they softly melt on its velvet cheeks, and grow daily so strong and fat and happy, that the little life will be one continual hymn of praise to God for its own existence.
The observance of regular hours for the morning and afternoon nap in its crib, wide awake, when the time comes, is of the greatest importance. It all turns on commencing right, and then there’s no trouble. How infinitely better to lay a laughing, playful creature, with a good night kiss, to sleep its long, healthful sleep, than the common rocking and hushing so often repeated, and often in vain—or the watching by the bedside, or the leaving a light to go to sleep by. Never reward a child for crying by giving the article desired; wait till it stops. Teach it to amuse itself often, and not require some one to be constantly shaking a rattle, or tapping a window, but lay it on a bed or floor with a plaything; a slipper is an unfailing amusement when all other objects fail. Lastly, always endeavor to have a serene, pleasant face when you nurse your children; for, chameleon-like, it is taking hues to its soul, that do color and shape it for life and eternity.