The new mother quite naturally regards her suddenly acquired responsibilities with considerable dismay. What is she going to do with this little living creature in order to keep it in the pink of condition? How is it to be fed, and how often? What is the technique of bathing it? What kind of clothes, and how many, should it wear? How long should it sleep? How much air should it have?
Well, all these things are important, and there is a right and a wrong way of doing all of them, although for the mother’s comfort it may be said that Nature is able to do pretty well with the slightest amount of encouragement, provided the baby is healthy from the beginning. Natural food, enough water, some sunshine and air, plenty of sleep, a cleansing bath, even if not too regular, and enough clothes to keep it warm, and it will thrive surprisingly.
DANGER OF INFECTION
The greatest danger to which the baby is exposed is one that is not frequently thought ofthat is, the infectious diseases. And there is one thing that the new family must plan to do, which is to set a time for vaccinating the baby against smallpox and diphtheria.
The summary of all rules for the purpose of keeping the baby healthy, as laid down by an eminent children’s specialist, is as follows:
“1. Skilled medical and nursing care of the mother before, during, and after the birth of the baby, and especial attention to its physical examination, nutrition and daily hygiene.
“2. Establishment of breast feeding, and its continuation for at least six or seven months at regular nursing periods of three or four hours.
“3. Supplementary feeding with simple mixtures of cow’s milk, pasteurized or boiled, when prescribed by a physician after a thorough effort to carry on breast feeding.
“4. Fresh air day and night.
“5. Regulation of body temperature by suitable clothing and proper heating apparatus.
“6. Scrupulous daily attention to cleanliness of the baby.
“7. Regular hours for sleep.
“8. Formation of good habits from the very first.”
To many of these there will be some exceptions. Especially in the way of feeding, because the mother cannot always nurse the baby. Others need amplificationwhat, for instance, is “suitable” clothing? It will be the purpose of the subsequent articles to enlarge upon this simple summary, and explain the technique of the different procedures.
AIR WATER AND SUNSHINE NEEDED BY NEW-BORN BABY
Air, water and sunshine are things that must be properly mixed and administered in proper quantities to the new-born baby.
The first cry of the new-born child is for air. It is suddenly and dramatically transferred from an aquatic existence, where it has not used its lungs at all, but has obtained oxygen through the mother’s blood, to an existence in which its life depends upon the proper utilization of a new mediumair.
It also finds that it is losing water very rapidly through the expiration of air and from the surface of its skin. No wonder it takes some time for the little organism to adjust itself to these strange new conditions.
NEEDS AIR WITHIN, WITHOUT
The baby not only needs air within its lungs, but air on the out-side of the body, to assist in getting rid of waste products and to regulate its temperature. A young baby, of course, should not be exposed to cold air or cool air for any length of time without being covered, but if, after a few days, it is taught to sleep in a room with fresh air, and given fresh air through the day, it will thrive better, be more contented, and less subject to such infections as colds.
Fresh air does not necessarily mean cold air, but it is well to re-member that the baby should never be kept in a room where a gas stove is burning for any length of time, or where there is a burning gas jet. Humidification should be attended to by placing a pan of water over the radiator. In the hot months of summer, the baby’s body should be exposed to currents of air as much as possible. Constant change of air around the baby’s body is effective in reducing its temperature and preventing heat stroke and the diseases incidental to high temperature.
Water, both inside and out, is essential for the baby’s health and comfort. In the first few days of life, the baby loses a considerable amount of water, which is the reason for its primary loss of weight. A small amount of water given to the baby in a medicine dropper, half an ounce two or three times a day during the first few days, is calculated to diminish this weight loss and make the baby more comfortable until the mother’s milk begins to appear. After that, the milk will supply the baby with most of its water, and attention to this detail need not be so carefully observed. Only boiled, cooled water should be given, and not sweetened.
FIRST TUB BATH
The baby’s first tub bath should not be given until after the cord has fallen off and the umbilicus thoroughly healed. But before that, it should be sponged daily with warm water at 100 degrees Centigrade. If soap is used, it should be a mild, white, unscented soap.
The eyes should receive special attention during the bath. If there is any secretion, they should be bathed each day with a solution of boric acid. A separate piece of cotton should be used for each eye. The mouth should not be washed with a cloth nor rubbed hard, as this may break the mucous membrane and invite infection. A small piece of absorbent cotton wrapped around an applicator, dipped into warm water or boric acid solution, should be used to clean the nose. The same method should be used for the ears. The ears should be dried thoroughly after bathing.
If the head is covered with oily material or has crusts on it, warm sweet oil should be rubbed in gently, after which soapsuds and warm water should be used.
The body should be dried by gentle patting with a soft towel, and not by rubbing. Talcum powder used in places where the skin touches, as under the armpits, between the legs, and in the neck, will tend to keep the skin in good condition.
IMMUNIZING BABY AGAINST INFECTION MOST IMPORTANT
When people ask about the proper way to take care of a baby they usually are thinking of what is the healthful way to feed the baby, what is the healthful way to bathe it, to clothe it, and so forth and so on. There is, however, another aspect to the question which is far more important to the baby’s health than the arrangement of any of these other things, and that is to be certain that the baby is immunized against the infectious diseases, so far as possible.
I like very much an advertisement that one of the insurance companies has been putting out, showing a young mother with a little baby about a year old on her lap. She is saying to a visitor, “The inoculation was perfectly simple. He didn’t mind it a bit. This young man will never have diphtheria.”
The gravest menaces to the young child’s health are the contagious diseases, and no cradle or nursery is safeguarded unless immunization against them is included in the health program. When you remember that before the days of immunization against diphtheria one out of every 100 children born in the United States was destined to die of the disease, you can readily understand that protection against it was a matter of primary importance. These figures are based upon the following computation. The birth rate is about 2,000,000 live births per year. Before 1923 there were 14,000 deaths from diphtheria in the United States. This means that seven out of every 1,000 children born were destined to die from the disease. To-day, the death rate has fallen.
DESTROYERS OF CHILDREN
The grimmest destroyers of children are as follows : From birth to the age of two years, intestinal infection, infantile dysentery, etc. This can be controlled, and has been controlled in safeguarded communities by controlling the cleanliness of the milk supply.
From the age of one year to the age of ten, the greatest menace is diphtheria. This can be controlled by immunization with diphtheria toxoid. The administration should not be given, however, until the child is about a year old.
From the age of five to the age of twenty, a very serious menace is typhoid fever. Perhaps it is better to say WAS typhoid fever, for with the control of the water supply it is largely a thing of the past. However, it is not safe to trust to the water supply, and inoculation should be done.
Another menace which is largely a thing of the past, is smallpox but it is a thing of the past only because vaccination is practically universal. Vaccination against smallpox should be done at the age of about six months.
Whooping cough is a less serious menace for which a vaccine has been produced, although, as yet, we are not perfectly certain of its value.
Measles and scarlet fever are dangerous, although of recent years scarlet fever has been so mild as to be almost negligible. At any rate, we have not, at present, any reliable method of preventing either of these diseases.
MODERN SCIENCE PROTECTS INFANT’S FIRST SUMMER
Baby’s first summer is no longer the dreaded time it once was. We have learned how to save the babies.
In other days, and not so long past, summer intestinal infections carried off an appalling proportion of first year infants. It was the greatest source of infant mortality, and infant mortality was the greatest of any period of life.
The chief cause of these troubles is contaminated cow’s milk. Babies fed exclusively on mother’s milk do not develop them, at least in a severe form. So it was the old rule to advise the mother to nurse her baby through the first summer. Older children are more resistant to these infections than infants, and it was thought that if the baby got through the first summer, it was safe.
Our knowledge of prevention of the condition by the proper preparation of cow’s milk, however, has advanced so rapidly that the old-fashioned advice about nursing through the first summer may be largely disregarded.
GERMS ALMOST UNAVOIDABLE
Contamination of cow’s milk with germs is almost unavoidable. The containers, the milker’s hands, the cow’s udders, are certain to have germs on them. So that during the process of milking, a certain number of germs always get into the milk. Milk is a good culture medium for germs, and especially at the temperature of summer they multiply rapidly.
The old superstition was that thunder soured the milk. It wasn’t the thunder, but the rise in temperature just before a thunderstorm, that did the business. It provided the exactly perfect conditions, just as if the milk had been in an incubator, for the growth of the germs.
Unfortunately, milk with many millions of germs does not always sour. It may remain palatable even when dangerously contaminated. Taste, therefore, is no criterion.
The only safe way to prepare fresh milk for infant consumption in the summer is to boil it. Even if you feel sure it comes from a clean dairy and is clean when you get it, it is safer to boil it after the formula has been made up. Boil for three minutes and put in clean boiled or scalded bottles and cork with clean stoppers, and keep in a refrigerator until they are to be used.
BOILED MILK MORE DIGESTIBLE
Boiling the milk makes it more digestible for infants as well as safer.
Canned evaporated milk is also a safe food for the baby. After the evaporated milk is put into the cans, they are heated to a sufficiently high temperature to kill off all the germs. The water that you add to the evaporated milk before giving it to the baby should be boiled and allowed to cool, but the formula need not be boiled after this.
Powdered dried milks in various forms (neither these nor evaporated milk should be confused with condensed milk) are also safe and nutritious.
Acidified or soured milk is sometimes used for feeding babies in summer, and has the advantage that germs do not grow in it so readily. But boiled whole milk cannot be improved upon.