Healthy Living – Keeping The Baby Well

The Care of the Baby.— In many families there can be no regular nurse, and much of the care of the baby must come on the older children. Girls, and sometimes boys too, may be very helpful in this work, and so it is particularly important that children should know how to keep the baby well.

A baby is much more delicate than a grown person, and many serious illnesses of babies occur largely as a result of improper care. Most of this sickness is quite needless. Health is the normal condition for a baby, just as it is for a grown person. Little children become sick because they are given the wrong kind of food or because they are not given the right kind of clothing or airing-because people do not know how to care for them.

The girls who act as little mothers to their small brothers and sisters, if they will learn how to take good care of babies, can be of great help in the national movement to save infants’ lives.

Feeding the Baby. The most important factor in keeping the baby well is proper feeding; and there is only one thoroughly safe food for a baby under nine months old—mother’s milk. Cow’s milk is different from human milk. It contains more fat and protein and less sugar than the baby needs. Above all, it generally contains germs which poison the infant, whose delicate body is not yet ready to fight against them. A young baby is very sensitive to heat, and in summer the combination of heat and uncooked cow’s milk is likely to lead to serious and perhaps fatal attacks of “summer complaint.” Out of an equal number of babies fed on the bottle and on mother’s milk, ten times as many of the bottle-fed babies die.

When a baby cannot be given mother’s milk, it should be fed, not on prepared baby foods, but on clean cow’s milk, modified. Modified milk is cow’s milk to which water, lime water, and sugar have been added according to the needs of the individual baby so that it will have the chemical composition the baby needs. The formula for modifying the milk must be changed from month to month, according to directions of the family physician or the doctor at the dispensary or Infant Welfare Station.

The cow’s milk used should be the best and cleanest milk obtainable. It should be modified and then put in nursing bottles, stoppered with clean cotton batting, and pasteurized as described on page 253. On no account should milk be given to a child without pasteurization, for no one can tell when the cleanest, freshest milk may contain germs of tuberculosis from the cow, or germs of scarlet fever or sore throat from some unsuspected human carrier.

After pasteurizing, the milk should be cooled at once by placing the bottles in cold water and then on ice. The milk should, of course, be warmed again before it is given to the child.

All patent “baby foods” should be avoided, unless ordered by the doctor for a baby in need of a special diet. They are expensive, and the babies fed on them are, as a rule, more likely to be ill than those fed on cow’s milk.

The baby should be fed only at regular times, as specified for each age by the doctor or the Board of Health, and should never be fed. at other times merely because it cries.

The baby needs water between feedings. This water should always be boiled first to kill any germs in it, and then cooled.

For the first nine months of its life, a baby should have no solid food.

Clothing and Bathing the Baby.—The baby is very sensitive to both heat and cold. When it is taken out in cold weather, it should wear a warm woolen cap and a coat long enough to turn up at the bottom and button, making a bag. When the baby is in the baby carriage, it should be covered with a blanket.

In summer the baby’s clothes should be as light as possible. Even in cold weather, overdressing is quite as dangerous as underdressing, since clothing that is too heavy weakens the vital resistance of the child and makes it liable to colds and pneumonia and other diseases of the lungs and throat.

Every baby should be bathed at least once a day, care being taken that the water used is neither too hot nor too cold. Further information about clothing and bathing the baby may be obtained from the doctor or from special government bulletins.

Fresh Air for the Baby.—After the baby is three months old, much of its time should be spent outdoors. A healthy baby should be kept in the open air at least four hours each day, even in winter (properly clothed), except when it is colder than 22F. The baby’s eyes should be carefully protected from direct sunlight. Too often we see a child in its baby carriage blinking straight into the sun.

The sleeping room for a young baby should be kept at about 65°. After, the baby is three months old, the temperature may be allowed to fall to 55°, and during the second year to 45°. In summer, the baby’s room should be kept as cool as possible with awnings and shutters. The windows should be open day and night in summer, and in winter the room should be aired two or three times a day. Windows and doors should be screened against flies and other disease-carrying insects. If screens are not available, mosquito netting may be tacked on the outside of the windows.

The surroundings of the home should be free from uncovered garbage and rubbish, which attract flies and other insects.

Babies usually catch colds (which may be very serious with them) because they have been near some, one who has a cold, or because they have been kept too warm and then suddenly taken into a cold room or placed in a draft.

The Baby’s Naps.—The baby needs more sleep than an older child. It should be trained to sleep at regular hours and should never be disturbed at these rest times.

The baby should get two naps a day and at least twelve hours of sleep at night. It needs twenty hours of sleep out of every twenty-four in the first month, and not less than sixteen hours out of twenty-four up to the twelfth month.

It should not sleep on a feather pillow, but in a bed or crib by itself—never in bed with its mother. If no crib is avail-able, a clothes basket or a large box is a good substitute. If the baby cries when it should be asleep, it is probably sick, overfed, or hungry; or it has been badly trained.

Under no circumstances should soothing sirups be given to a baby. They contain opium or other drugs, and are dangerous. Pacifiers should not be used, as they injure the shape of the baby’s jaw while its soft parts are forming.

Gentleness with the Baby.—As the baby’s muscles are weak, it should never be handled except with the greatest care. To lift a young baby, one hand slipped under the back beneath the shoulders, with the fingers spread so as to support the neck and head, while the other hand lifts the feet and legs. The baby should never be pulled about by the arms.

The baby’s nervous system is delicate. It should not be strained by rocking and jouncing, or by unnecessary handling. Remember that the baby is not a plaything.

Summer Care of Babies.—The summer is a very trying time for babies, particularly for those who cannot ‘get mother’s milk. The combined effect of improper food (unheated cow’s milk) and high temperature is almost sure to cause digestive trouble. If cow’s milk is given to babies at this season, it is particularly important that it should be carefully pasteurized. The baby’s clothing should be made very light in summer. The infant should be kept out in the fresh air (not in. the sun), and when indoors it should be kept in a well-ventilated room. If the baby is sick, if it vomits, if its skin is cold or flushed and hot from fever, if it is restless, nervous, and crying, or exhausted and limp, a doctor should be sent for at once.

Protecting the Baby from Communicable Disease.—All communicable diseases are likely to be severe in a baby, and the greatest care should be taken to protect it from dangers of this sort. No one with a cold or cough or any other sign of sickness should come near the baby, if it can be helped. A little cold in a big person may cause a very big cold in a little person. The baby should never be kissed on the mouth. It should never be allowed to crawl on a dirty floor or play with dirty toys.

The Infant Welfare Station and Its Work.—The most important thing that can be done in any community to prevent the needless sickness of babies is to establish Infant Welfare Stations. At these places, the mothers of young babies are taught how to take care of them. The babies are brought to the station once a week, to be weighed and examined by the doctor. Each mother is told just what her baby needs, and is shown just how it should be dressed and bathed and cared for. The nurse from the station visits the mother in the home, and helps her to carry out the directions of the doctor.

In New York City such infant welfare work reduced the death rate of babies under one year of age from 144 deaths for every 1000 births in 1907, to 94 deaths for every 1000 births in 1914, which meant a saving of over 5000 infants lives a year.

Little Mothers’ Leagues. In order to teach girls how to care for the babies in the household, Little Mothers’ Leagues have been organized in the schools of many cities. By means of talks and demonstrations given by the school physician, school nurse, or teacher, the members of these leagues are taught the essentials of baby welfare. The girls have their own organization and elect their own officers. Each one agrees “to do some one thing each day to help a baby.”

There are few finer things that a school can do for its pupils than the organization of a Little Mothers League.


1. What is meant by the Campaign for Better Babies?

2. Do you think that it would be a good plan for the older brothers, as well as sisters, to learn how to take care of the baby?

3. Why is the kind of food that is given to a baby important?

4. Why must we be careful to use clean nursing bottles and nipples for a baby?

5. Should a baby be given food any time when it cries?

6. Why should a baby’s clothing vary according to the weather or the temperature of the room? What is the danger in too heavy clothing? In insufficient clothing?

7. When a baby is bathed, should the water be hot or cold? When he is taken out of the water, he should be covered up at once while being dried. Why? Why do we dry a baby by patting rather than by rubbing, as we do for ourselves?

8. If you saw a baby crying, with the sun in his eyes, how could you explain to the nurse or person in charge what was wrong with the baby? Would you feel that it was your duty to say anything about it?

9. Why should you be especially careful not to go near a baby when you have a bad cold?

10. How many hours of the day should a baby sleep?

11. How can you apply to the subject of the baby’s training in sleeping, feeding, etc., the rules for habit formation which you learned in studying about the nervous system?

12. Why are soothing sirups dangerous to babies?

13. What is the proper way to lift a baby?

14. Is rocking good for babies? Is it right to jump them up and down to keep them amused? Explain.

15. Why is summer the most dangerous time for babies? Find out why people always dread the baby’s second summer.

16. What things can you do to make a baby more comfortable in summer?

17. What is an Infant Welfare Station?

18. Why do many cities form Little Mothers Leagues among their school children?