Health and beauty by Caplin/Chapter II
ON INFANCY, AND THE DRESSES ADAPTED TO THAT PERIOD OF LIFE.
To illustrate our peculiar views on this important subject we shall commence with the period when the infant is first ushered into this "breathing world," and trace its progress through the various stages of infancy, childhood, adolescence, womanhood, and old age; describing in our progress the evils arising from improper dressing and treatment, together with the means which have been found most efficacious in their prevention or remedy. It must be remembered that in the adaptation which we have invented, our object has not been so much the cure of malformation, as the prevention of its occurrence. Taking the perfection of female beauty as our standard, our inventions are for the purpose of preserving it in that condition where it exists; or should any deviation from that standard have taken place, our endeavours are directed to the restoration to the normal form. It is universally acknowledged that a good figure may be made a bad one by an injudicious mode of dressing; and if such be the case—if the human body will yield to injurious pressure, thereby producing deformity, an opposite course must produce opposite effects, and by a certain adaptation of means, an imperfect or declining figure be brought, if not into a state of absolute perfection, at least into one very closely approximating to it. We do not profess to perform impossibilities, but do confidently assert that in the course of a short time the method which we adopt, if fairly carried out, will do more for the promotion of health, elegance of figure, and prevention of disease, than all the medicine which may be administered for the purpose. This is no idle boast; every day's experience proves its correctness, and there are scores of families now living who can and will, if necessary, testify to the truth of our assertion.
On the birth of the infant, after the process of ablution, the first thing necessary is to apply a bandage round the abdomen, for the purpose of preventing the protrusion bf the umbilical cord, or navel-string. Here, in the very commencement, a serious error is frequently committed, a strong inelastic substance being tightly placed round the delicate body of the child, and a degree of pressure made on that part, regardless of the infant's previous state of existence. The bandage is also often made so broad as to press considerably on the ribs, and therefore, even at this early period, to contract the chest; the nurse rarely considering that the sole object of this investment is the prevention of umbilical protrusion, and that therefore pressure on that particular region is all that is necessary. The newly born child does not at first respire so much by means of the muscles of the chest, as by the action of the diaphragm, and any undue tightness of a bandage round the abdomen must therefore be extremely injurious.
All the clothes provided for the advent of the little stranger are made entirely on a false principle, and calculated to produce a baleful influence on its future development. In the first place, the nurse is particularly anxious that its little fat and mottled neck and shoulders should be exposed to the admiration of visitors, and she therefore pushes all the dressings of the child down on the arm, instead of allowing them to remain on the shoulder, which is their proper place; and when Baby is in full dress for the reception of company, this object is effected by means of charming red or blue ribbons passed under the sleeves and tied in a very pretty knot outside; conveying to a reflecting mind the idea of a lamb decorated with garlands before being sacrificed. Now, by this mode of procedure the baby's chest is exposed to cold, which its delicate organization is unable to bear, and cough or inflammation of the lungs may result; while at the same time the sleeves are made so tight round its little arms, and the operation of pinioning is so effectually performed, that the capillary circulation in the arms is obstructed, the poor infant's hands become blue and cold, and the nurse then wonders that her charge is so peevish. The legs also come in for their share of punishment,—a thick napkin being put on, totally preventing the kicking in which children so much delight, and which is so necessary for the strengthening of the muscles; while, to add to the misery of the little sufferer, this napkin is generally secured by pins, which, however carefully inserted, are very apt to tear its tender skin and produce a fit of screaming, the cause of which can only be discovered on the dress being entirely removed. The use of pins may therefore be justly called a "crying evil," and we hope they will soon be entirely superseded by loops and buttons, which are not open to the same objections, while at the same time they afford infinitely greater security. We may here also mention that napkins are generally worn too constantly, and their use continued too long; as the heat they occasion over the loins has a great tendency to relax the muscles of the back, and thus give rise to a yielding of the spinal column, which we shall presently have to describe.
The next ordeal through which our little friend has to pass, is the being constantly held in one position. Nearly all nurses carry the child on the left arm, rarely, if ever, changing to the right; and with the affectionate feeling inherent in every woman's breast, the nurse hugs the baby closely to her, thus keeping its right arm close to its chest, which is by this means pressed inward, thus diminishing its capacity, and at the same time throwing its body out of the centre of gravity. Add to this, that the child's head naturally sinks on the left shoulder, the muscles of the right side of the neck are elongated, those of the left side contracted, and an incipient distortion is the result. Mothers frequently, though unconsciously, aid this mischief by the habit of suckling exclusively on the left side—-a practice which is not only injurious to themselves, but a remote cause of deformity to their little ones. Due caution should be observed also in washing and dressing the infant, and the head be so supported by the hand, as to obviate the danger of dislocation of the vertebræ. *
The clothing of new-born children should be light and warm, and so constructed as to admit of easy removal, as its frequent change is essential to health. Flannel being a bad conductor of heat, is one of the best materials of which the clothing can be composed, if it does not produce too much irritation of the skin, in which case the interposition of a little soft calico will be necessary. Long-clothes may be useful in the first instance, as conducive to the warmth of the lower extremities, but they should be discontinued as soon as the child evinces sufficient vigour to keep warm without them. The principal point to be attended to at this period, with regard to dress, is to leave the clothing so loose that the infant may have the fullest use of all its joints, and room for the development of its organs. The head should be covered only with a very thin cap, or better still, not covered at all, and the pillow on which it rests should not be so soft as to allow the head to sink in it, and thus promote perspiration.
We may incidentally mention, with regard to the sleeping of infants, that we consider the best position for repose to be lying on the back; for if the child lies on either side, the ribs will be forced inward by the pressure of the arm above; and if, as is too frequently the case, the baby be laid upon its stomach, and patted off to sleep, not only does it experience a difficulty in breathing, but the sternum is compressed, and the chest lessened in its dimensions, while in addition the diaphragm cannot descend into the abdominal cavity in consequence of the pressure on that portion of the body. We purposely abstain from any observations on the food or general treatment of infants, as that must always depend on the constitution; and on a variety of circumstances, which fall more properly within the regulation of the medical attendant, who alone is a competent judge, and whose decisions should always be implicitly obeyed.
From what we have advanced here, it will naturally occur to the reader that what is required in infantile clothing is warmth, freedom, and, where support is required, elasticity. To meet all such necessities, we have constructed an Umbilical Band, which affords sufficient umbilical pressure, and allows all the great organs of life to perform their natural functions. The construction is simple, and the elasticity so great, that the tender organs are never oppressed: thus, whilst we afford all needful support to the abdomen, the heart, lungs, liver, and stomach, are left perfectly free.
We repeat, then, that the baby must never be pressed and confined; its little chest and shoulders must be covered, and every part, except the face, shielded from the cold. There are certain physiological reasons why
UMBILICAL CONTRACTING BELT.
the face should always be uncovered, not only because there should be no obstruction to the ingress and egress of air from the lungs, but there is a stimulus imparted to the breathing, and to the whole vital apparatus, by the action of light and heat upon the face; and hence the exhilarating effect of cold water when applied to its surface.
- * In washing the child care should be taken to have the water sufficiently warm, as if cold water be used the capillary circulation of the skin will be congested, the animal heat unduly lowered, the surface of the body will become blue and rigid, and the infant by its cries will vigorously protest against the cruel but mistaken kindness in which this practice originated.