Page images
PDF
EPUB

the most part be obviated by systematic exercise, by cultivating cheerfulness of temper, and by avoiding, on the one hand, all kind of excess, and on the other, habits of nuclelence and relaxation.

The first question that occurs concerning the requisitos of the new-born infant, is with regard to the manner in which it is to be fed ; and to this nature at once furnishes us with a reply. It has been asserter, that not one in a hundred of the instints, who, in the first stage of their existence, are given by their mothers into the charge of foster parents, survives. This is doubtless a highly exaggerateri statement; but even allowing the proportion of deaths to be one half of the infants thus deprived of maternal care, the number is still sufficiently large to excite the mos painful, and indeed melancholy reflections. There are however, many instances, although probal, much lewis than is generally supposed, of incapacity on the part of the parent to nourish her own offspring; and in such cases it remains to be determined whether it be better to give the intant over to a foster nurse, or to substitute some kind of fooit for its support.

Some of the evils resulting from the former mode of treatment, are stated by Dr. Clarke in the following extract.

• If the child lives, for which the wet nurse is invited by the prospect of present gain to forsake her own, the child of the wetnurse often dies, or it becomes diseased or crippled. Her other children are neglected, and her husband, for want of her society becomes drunken and profligace: she rarely returns home contented with her former station, but compares her present privations with the indulgences which she has left : ihe whole comfort of the labouring man's fire-side is broken up, and society has only exchanged the life of one child for that of another, with all the disadvantages above enumerated,'

The following is the Author's inference, after a full consideration of the matter under discussion.

• On the whole it would be better, perhaps, that the children of the wealthy should be brought up artificially, where the mother does not suckle, because they would have every advantage of good nursing, cleanliness, air, and medical treatment, and would therefore have a better chance of living than the child of the wet-nurse who will want all these advantages.'

In a paragraph immediately subsequent to that which we have just quoted, Dr. C. in some weasure contradicts his own position, by asserting that 'the inost desirable thing perhaps

would be, that a strong wet-nurse should as far as slie is able • suckle her own and the foster child, and that the deficiency of • both should be supplied by artificial food.' This compromise would not perhaps be very readily submitted to, or very easily practised; and we feel some hesitation in admitting any scheme,

[ocr errors]

that interferes with an obvious duty and demand of nature, that every female, poor or rich, shoule furnislı food to ber own offspring.

As, however, there are, confessedly, many instances in which this cannot be done, the next point to be ascertained in, what kind of food, under these circumstances, is the best substitute for the milk of the mother. And we must protest against the practice which until very lately was the common one, 01 giving the infant a mixture of bread and water, or common pap. This composition generates acidities in the first passages, and occasions pains and restlessness. Cows' milk gently warmed, and diluted with an equal quantity, or rather i ore, of water or gruel, will ordinarily be found the best substitute; and this may be occasionally changed for arrow-root and milk in the same proportion. Recourse may also be had to a litul gritgruel without milk ; but the greater proportion of milk that the infant can bear without disordering the stomach, the better. Warın panados and gruels are apt to give temporary ease at the risk of serious and permanent mischief.

It has been a very general practice, immediately upon the birth of the child, to administer to it a purgative medicine;' as if (says a modern writer) to prove to the little stranger that it has ' arrived in a world of physic and of evils.' This practice is equally cruel and unnecessary; for nature has provided the first milk that is secreted, with a quality of this kind ; and even when the infant is brought up without the breast, this artificial stimulus to the bowels will not often be found necessary.

With respect to weaning, it may be safely laid down as an axiom, that there are very few instances indeed in which good has ever been done either to mother or child, by the infant's being continued at the breast more than nine months : and in general it is better for both, that after the third or fourth month the child should begin to take other food, so that the weaning should be a business very gradually and almost insensibly effected. It will be recollected that these rules are adapted to the present artificial state of society. In the rude health accompanying the simplicity of savage existence, the mother's breast affords the sole nutriment that the infant requires during the whole period of lactition, and the mother supplies its wants with perfect impunity.

We now proceed to consider the best manner of guarding against the injurious operation of vicissitudes in temperature; and first of dress. It is in this particular, especially, that our

. modern improvements in the management of infancy, are so unequivocally and happily operative. When we look back upon the senseless and cruel contrivances practised a few years since, we wonder that so many infants escaped with impunity, rather than that so much injury was the product of such improvements upon the economy of nature. Physicians,' (says an author

6

who writes on the management of children) speculated about • the infant's imperfect structure at birth, about the imperfect

structure of his bones, the shapeless forms of his head, • and the injuries be might sustain in birth ; about injuries and • distortions from hurtful motions and unnatural positions. · They thought the infant's body unable to support itself, and ( that even its own motions might destroy it. Then in came o the midwives for their share of the concern. The task was • theirs to model the liead, and to straighten the limbs ; to ' improve upon nature; and to support their improvements by

the applic iion of fillets, rollers, and swaddling bands. They 6 vied with each other who should work the work most cun

ningly; for, strange to tell, dexterity in working this work ' of cruelty was reckoned one of their mos necessary and inportant qualifications.'

It is at length, happily, very generally understood, that swathings and partial pressures are founded upon a wrong principle, and are calculated to be destructive of their own purpose. The requisites of clothing are confined almost solely to the preservation of a due degree of warmth, and all the bandaging that is required, is a strip of flannel or cotton folded round the body, not very tight, to serve as a support for the navel. There is one particular with regard to the infant's dress that is still too much used, and against which we are happy to find Dr. Clarke enter so distinct and decided protest. It is that of undue warmth to the bead. A thin single cap is the whole of the covering that the head should receive from the birth, and to this, it should be remembered, it is of great moment to attend. The actions of the system are disproportionately directed towards the brain during infancy; and we are disposed to think with Dr. C that keeping the head warm, which is the earnest solicitude of so many parents, while they are not sufficiently careful probably with respect to exposure of the extremities, may be one among the many exciting sources of hydrocephalus or water in the brain. It is the extrenities, especially the feet, that call for the artificial warmth of clothing; and these ought never to be exposed to cold while other parts of the body arc heated. Indeed, it is the partial application of cold from which most danger is always to be apprehended.

Before we quit the subject of temperature, and the best means of guarding the infant from injuries likely to arise from exposures to the variations of cold and heat, we shall say a few words on bathing. On this head, parents still find a diversity of opinions prevailing among professional men. The objects intended to be derived from bathing the infant, are twofold. lo the first place, it is practised for the purpose of cleanliness;

а

a

[ocr errors]

6

and in the next, to strengthen the infant's frame, and give more security in future life against the hurtful operation of cold. In this, as in every other part of infantile regulation, very much depends upon the constitutional charac'er of the child. Perhaps we may lay it down as a general rule, applicable to such as are likely to become the subjects of our observations, that the practice of cold-bathing is more to be honoured in the breach than in the observance; nevertheless, with hearty, robust chikiren, provided there is no local irritation in the frame, particularly such as affections of the bowels, daily dipping in cold water may prove abundantly serviceable; but never let recourse be bad to it as a hardening measure with weakly, delicate children, in whom the circulatory powers are too languid to produce a subsequent re-action, and general, not feverish, glow.

It may not be amiss to state this caution more fully in the words of a modern writer, with whose sentiments we fully coincide.

• Immersion in cold water, during the period of infancy, " (water under 80 degrees of Fahrenheit,) has been very ge

nerally recommended, and too often had recourse to in an in• discriminate manner, to preserve liealth and insure hardiness.

The author has remarked several instances, where sensible and ' sometimes material injury has arisen from neglecting to ob

serve the precautions necessary to regulate the employment • of this important agent in very early years.' In infancy,

danger to the lungs from cold bathing has been stated to exist in a very interior degree; and by the practice of dipping children in cold water, susceptibility to the injurious inpression of cold, in succeeding years, has been thought to be inaterially diminished. This principle, in the abstract, is un

doubtedly correct; and with the exceptions and cautions now ' to be mentioned, may be pursued with propriety and advantage. - Two infants may be supposed of one family, of reverse con

stitutions. In the one a general torpor, debility, and great susceptibility to cold shall prevail; in the other, comparative vigour, activity, and warmth. That degree of cold which

would invigorate the one, would confirm debility, and aug• ment torpor in the other. A bath which is not cold to the sea

sation, must in the first instance at least, be resorted to for the ( weaker infant: and in neither case should immersion in cold ' water be practised, when the external warmth of the body is in"ferior in degree to its general standard; when after immersion ' the body appears to be chilled, or when returning heat is at' tended with febrile languor, instead of the grateful genial warmth

characteristic of the appropriate action of exciting powers. • If the practice of immersion is guided by a cautious observance

6

[ocr errors]

6

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

of these particulars, it may be adopted with safety, and will I be attended with success ; but a total beglect of bathing ? would be greatly preferable to the severe and incautious

manner in which infants are frequently exposed to these ( violent and rapid changes in temperature.'

Perhaps it may be useful to some of our readers to add, that whether bathing, or only cominon washing, be practised previously to the infant's being dressed for the day, the subsequent drying should be very carefully attended to. Much and very troublesome irritation of the parts in which the skin lies loose and folded, is often consequent upon the nurse's neg. lecting to make these parts thoroughly dry.

We have not yet done with the nursery : some observations remain to be made in respect to air and exercise. As in regard to dress, so likewise in relation to air, the erroneous notions of some, and the apatlay of others, will serve to excite the surprisé of subsequent generations. It may be remarked, too, as a triumph of science over the efforts of mere nature and instinct, that mankind seemed almost dead to the blessings of a free enjoyment of the surrounding air, till chemistry unfolded its nature and constituent principles; and now, that we begin to live and breathe, we are astonished at our former torpor. The following tale has been many times told, but it cannot be too frequently pressed upon the consideration of those who are inattentive to the good arising from a free circulation and frequent change of air. 'In the Lying-in Hospital at Dublin,

2,944 infants, out of 7,650, died in the year 1782, within the ' first fortnight from their birth; they almost all expired in ' convulsions; many foamed at the mouth, their thumbs were

drawn into the palms of their hands, their jaws were locked, their faces swelled, and they presented in a greater or less degree every appearance of suffocation. This last circum

stance at length induced an inquiry whether the rooms were ' not too close, and insufficiently ventilated. The apartments • of the hospital were rendered more airy; and the consequence

has been, that the proportion of deaths, according to the

register of succeeding years, is diminished from three to 6 one.'

Let then the apartments in which infants are reared, by all means be rendered as airy as possible; and let this ventilation be so contrived as to prevent a current or stream of air from coming upon the child or children. In a former article, on Consumption, we have pointed out the attention necessary to this particular, and the comparatively great regard that is given to it in countries where at the same time the inhabitants are much more free in respect to general exposure, and much more

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

6

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »