A mother's influence with children is greater than any other; it is easier for her than any one else to train them all right if she be a good and loving mother, and the little ones will rather obey her commands than those of nurse or governess, no matter how kind these may be to those under their charge. Some women of fashion, moving constantly in society, deny that they have time to give to their little ones. Their visits to schoolroom or nursery are few and far between. They have everything beautifully appointed in the children's quarters, and first-rate nurses and governesses, and they cannot take time from gaiety and pleasure to devote to what they think can be obtained from hired service. This is a mistake, for no nurse, however excellent, can supply a mother's place.
The children's hour should be an institution in every household. To the young folks it is (or should be) the happiest time in the day, while to the attendants it is a rest and a great relief. Let the children bring their little troubles and sorrows to mother, to be set right and comforted; let praise be given for little tasks well done, disputes be settled, help and suggestions given for either work or play, and let a game or tale (the latter told, not read) conclude the happy hour. Should this, as it often happens, be just the time generally given to afternoon tea, let the little ones bring this to their mother and wait upon her as children love to do. She will not find an hour wasted in this way, even if it be one hard to spare.
Games for children should be provided out of doors as much as possible whenever the weather will allow. Running and playing come more natural to children than walking, and in these days of high-pressure education it is most essential that when released from the schoolroom they should find healthy, active exercise, and games which try the muscles instead of the brains.
The Book of Household Management, by Mrs. Isabella Beeton, 1861, 1907
In spite of the fact that children have far more, and more beautiful, toys with every advancing year, we venture to assert that it is just as difficult to amuse them now as ever it was. A magnificently-dressed wax doll often seems to afford no more delight than a shabbily- dressed old one, and the most complete and perfect of expensive toys, be it what it may, lasts no longer than a shilling one in destructive little hands. The truth is, modern children are often surfeited with playthings. They are allowed to use them all whenever they like, and so they mix them up, and soon lose their appreciation, however beautiful the toys may be. The best plan is to let children have but one plaything at a time, and directly they weary of it to make them put it away. If it be anything that they can improve or add to, encourage them to do so; if it be a broken toy, help them to mend it; if it be a doll, let the owner be often making something fresh to add to its wardrobe. Modern playthings are often too complete when given to children. Dolls are dressed, boats are fully rigged, horses are harnessed, dolls' houses are as well fitted as real ones, so that there is nothing left to be done by the little ones, to whom making and contriving are pleasures in themselves, and, at the same time, develop their constructive faculties.
should be a matter of care and thought with the mother without which, indeed, it is impossible to have the little ones always properly clothed. We do not mean by this the mere consideration of prettiness and effect, but whether their clothing is just what it should be for the season and the health of each individual child. People are apt to think that what is good for one must be good for another; whereas, although all children feel the effects of heat and cold more than we do (although they may not always show it), they are as different in temperament as ourselves, and clothing that is amply sufficient for one child is quite inadequate to the wants of another. The main requirements of children's clothing are lightness, freedom and warmth. Children should never be encumbered with their clothes, nor, on the other hand, should they ever be allowed to feel cold. In winter, flannel or merino may be worn next the skin by all children, and in summer by many, while night-dresses of the same materials are fit for either season. The best kind of nighr garments for young children who are apt to throw off their bed clothing, are pyjamas. Light woollen materials are the best for the ordinary wear of young children; the garments should be easy and loose, so that their limbs are free. An overall of some washing material will be found most serviceable for wearing during play hours.
should be nourishing rather than stimulating. They do not need much meat, nor require several courses to make a meal. The meals should be served regularly at the same hour daily, and irregular eating of sweets, cake, biscuits, fruit, etc., between meals should not be permitted. A minimum of 3 hours is necessary for the digestion and assimilation of the simplest meal, and meal times should be so arranged that an interval of 3 to 4 hours elapses between each. The stomach then has time to digest its contents, and pass these on to the small intestine before it again receives food, and has also time to rest (for it requires rest as much as any other organ if its work is to be done properly). Eating between meals, therefore, is harmful in two ways: first, undigested food enters the stomach and mixes with the partly digested food present, which is hindered in its passage onward to the small intestine till the whole has been digested; second, no time is allowed for rest, the stomach is over-worked, it ceases to perform its functions efficiently, and indigestion ensues. These remarks apply to all foods taken at irregular times, but starchy foods (cakes, biscuits) and sweets are especially harmful in this respect. When sugar is taken in excess, the walls of the stomach secrete large quantities of mucus; this is poured out or mixed with the food, and the gastric juice is thus prevented from reaching it. In other words, "catarrh of the stomach" is produced, a common precursor, of indigestion. The most important thing is to vary the food given; for children, like ourselves, need change of diet. A good dinner from a joint one day may be followed the next by one of macaroni boiled in milk. When the children are young, soup or fish makes a pleasant change; while puddings should be not only frequent, but more varied in flavour than those usually given to children. We are, of course, now only speaking generally, but all children cannot eat the same things, and the mother who values her children's health must study, without pampering, their individual tastes. Plenty of milk should be given to young children, for it is their best and most natural food.
The position of a good Nursery Governess in a household should be that of a lady, and not, as it too often happens, a situation in which the duties of a governess and of a nurse are expected to be performed by one person at a salary far below the wages of a servant. Speaking generally, there is scarcely any class so badly paid as nursery governesses, but the fault does not lie entirely with the employers. Too often the girls themselves are, by their social position and education, totally unfitted for the training of children, and really not worth the wages of a good servant, whose place they would be too proud to take. A nursery governess should be, as she is sometimes termed, "a mother's help," and as such the mistress of the household should endeavour to choose her from her own rank. No one expects the daughters of the aristocracy to take situations as nursery governesses, but there are now many well-educated, lady-like girls to be found a little lower in the social scale who have qualified themselves by special training to earn their living in this manner.
Treatment of Nursery Governess.
To the mistress of a household she should be, as we have said, a mother's help, and treated accordingly. In many cases she has to perform the duties that might fall to the eldest daughter, or the mistress herself; and anything which they themselves would shrink from should not be pressed upon her. She should not have to feel ashamed of her position in the household, or suffer the lack of kindness or companionship, while her pay should be adequate. Kindly encouragement, it need hardly be mentioned, should always be given to the nursery governess who honestly and faithfully fulfils her duties; while, should she be an orphan with no near relatives to whom to turn for advice, she should be able to find, in the mistress of the household, a friend from whom she can seek help and sympathy.
The qualifications most necessary for a nursery governess are a love for children and a good temper. With these she can soon win the hearts of the little ones under her care, and keep them happy while in her company. It must be bad for both governess and children when these qualifications are lacking, or even one of them; and it would be far better to seek another post more congenial than one into which she cannot put heart, as well as hands and brain. But, independent of these two qualities, a good nursery governess must also have a good system of training children, a thorough knowledge of all she undertakes to teach, and be a good manager. That she should be clean, neat, and refined in manner and speech goes without saying. Good early teaching and example in such matters as speaking correctly, eating in a proper manner, politeness, and so on, is of the utmost importance, for children are ready copyists, quick to pick up and use words or ways of those around them, especially those it is most desirable they should avoid; and they are also quick to notice the injustice of being chidden for a fault that they see passed in their elders without comment. For this reason it is unwise to select for nursery governess a girl who has had the disadvantage of an inferior moral and social training.
A knowledge of needlework is also essential. It is not always stipulated that the nursery governess makes the clothing for the children, but it is always understood that she repairs it and keeps it in order, and to do this she must work neatly, and, if the children be old enough, give them some instruction in the rudiments of needlework. To be able to renovate and renew little garments, to trim hats or bonnets, and to suggest or design pretty and inexpensive little costumes, should be a pleasure to one who takes an interest in the children for whom she works; while if she is able to undertake to entirely clothe them, her value to her employer will be considerably greater, and her salary should, in consequence, be higher.
Duties of the Nursery Governess.
such as a little help given to the mistress of the house, dusting the drawing-room, arranging the flowers, and many other little tasks, should be willingly performed if there be time to spare from that which must be devoted to the children. None of these tasks, however, would be asked by a mistress who looked upon the governess she employed in the right light (unless she had engaged her to do them) except as an assistance to herself; requested and rendered as such, they should be the means of creating mutual sympathy and friendship.
UPPER AND UNDER NURSEMAIDS
Duties of the Head Nurse.
The nursery is of great importance in every family; and in families of distinction, where there are several young children, it is an establishment kept apart from the rest of the family, under the charge of an upper nurse, assisted by under nursery-maids proportioned to the work to be done. The responsible duties of upper nursemaid commence with the weaning of the child. It must now be separated from the mother or wet-nurse, at least for a time, and the cares of the nurse, which have hitherto been only occasionally put in requisition, are now to be entirely devoted to the infant. She washes, dresses, and feeds it; walks out with it; supplies and regulates all its wants; and, even at this early age, many good qualities are requisite to perform these duties in a satisfactory manner. Patience and good temper are indispensable; truthfulness, purity of manners, minute cleanliness, and docility and obedience are almost as essential. The nurse ought also to be acquainted with the art of ironing and getting up small fine things, and be handy with her needle.
There is a considerable art in carrying an infant with comfort to itself and to the nursemaid. If it is carried always seated upright on her arm and pressed too closely against her chest, the stomach of the child is apt to get compressed, and the back fatigued. For her own comfort, a good nurse will frequently vary this position by changing the child from one arm to the other, and sometimes by laying it across both, raising the head a little. When teaching it to walk, and guiding it by the hand, she should change the hand from time to time, to avoid raising one shoulder higher than the other. This is the only way in which a child should be taught to walk; leading-strings and other foolish inventions, which force an infant to make efforts, with jts shoulders and head forward, before it knows how to use its limbs, will only render it feeble, and retard its progress.
Most children have some bad habit, of which they must be broken; but this is never accomplished by harshness without developing worse evils. Kindness, perseverance, and patience in the nurse, are here of the utmost importance. When finger-sucking is one of these habits, the fingers should be rubbed with bitter aloes, or some equally disagreeable substance. Others have dirty habits, which are only to be changed by patience, perseverance, and, above all, by regularity in the nurse. She should never be permitted to inflict punishment on these occasions, or, indeed, on any occasion. But, if punishment is prohibited, it is still more necessary that all kinds of indulgence and flattery be equally forbidden. To yield to all the whims of a child to pick up its toys when thrown away in mere wantonness, etc., is extremely foolish. A child should never be led to think others inferior to it, to beat a dog or even the stone against which it has fallen, as some children are taught to do by silly nurses. Neither should the nurse affect or show alarm at any of the little accidents must inevitably happen; if a child fall, treat the incident as a trifle, otherwise a spirit of cowardice and timidity is encouraged. But she must take care that such accidents are not of frequent occurrence, or the result of neglect. The nurse should keep the child as clean as possible, training it, in particular, in cleanly habits, so that it feels uncomfortable when not clean; and she must watch especially that it does not soil itself in eating. At the same time, vanity in its personal appearance is not to be encouraged by over-care in this direction, or by too tight lacing or buttoning of dresses, nor a small foot cultivated by the use of tight shoes.
Nursemaids would do well to repeat to the parents faithfully and accurately the defects they observe in the dispositions of very young children. If properly checked in time, evil propensities may be eradicated; but this should not extend to anything but serious defects; otherwise, the intuitive perceptions which all children possess will construe the act into "spying" and "informing," which should never be resorted to in the case of children, nor, indeed, in any case. Such are the cares which devolve upon the nurse, and it is her duty to fulfil them personally. In large establishments she will have assistance proportioned to the number of children of which she has the care. The under nursemaid lights the fires, sweeps, scours, and dusts the rooms, and makes the beds, empties slops and carries up water, brings up and removes the nursery meals, washes and dresses all the children, except the infant, and assists in mending. Where there is a nursery girl to assist, she does the rougher part of the cleaning; and all take their meals in the nursery together, after the children of the family have finished. In higher families the upper nurse is usually permitted to sup or dine occasionally at the housekeeper's table by way of relaxation, when the children are all well, and her subordinates trustworthy.
The Single Nursemaid.
In smaller families, where only one nursemaid is kept, she is assisted by the housemaid or general servant, who will do the rougher part of the work and carry up the nursery meals. In such circumstances she will be more immediately under the eye of her mistress, who will probably relieve her from some of the cares of the infant.
for children should be given according to age and constitution. Some require warm baths and suffer from the effect of cold water, while with other children the cold agrees perfectly. A tepid bath is the one most generally suitable. Young children should have their bath in the morning, and if they are under two years may take it after their first meal. A child should never be given a hot bath in a very cold room, and thorough drying after bathing is of great importance.
Where the nurse has the entire charge of the nursery, and the mother is too much occupied to do more than pay a daily visit, it is desirable that the nurse should be an observant woman, possessing some acquaintance with the diseases incident to childhood, and with the simple remedies that may be useful before a medical attendant can be procured, or when such attendance is considered unnecessary. All these little ailments are preceded by symptoms so minute as to be only perceptible to close observation; such as twitching of the brows, restless sleep, and grinding of the gums; in some inflammatory diseases the child even abstains from crying from fear of the increased pain produced by the movement. Dentition, or cutting of the teeth, is attended with many of these symptoms. Measles, thrush, scarlatina, croup, whooping-cough, and other childish complaints, all of which are preceded by well-known symptoms, may be alleviated and rendered less virulent by simple remedies instantaneously applied.
fresh air, clean utensils, and frequent washing of the person, both of nurse and children, are even more necessary in the nursery than in either drawing-room or sick-room, inasmuch as the delicate organs of childhood are more susceptible of injury from smells and vapours than adults. It may not be out of place if we conclude this brief notice of the duties of a nursemaid by an extract from Florence Nightingale's admirable Notes on Nursing. Referring to children, she says "They are much more susceptible than grown people to all noxious influences. They are affected by the same things, but much more quickly and seriously; by want of fresh air, of proper warmth; want of cleanliness in house, clothes, bedding, or body; by improper food, want of punctuality, by dulness, by want of light, by too much or too little covering in bed or when up." And all this in health; and then she quotes a passage from a lecture on sudden deaths in infancy, to show the importance of careful nursing of children: " In the great majority of instances, when death suddenly befalls the infant or young child it is an accident; it is not a necessary, inevitable result of any disease. That which is known to injure children most seriously is foul air; keeping the rooms where they sleep closely shut up is destruction to them; and, if the child's breathing be disordered by disease, a few hours only of such foul air may endanger its life, even where no inconvenience is felt by grown-up persons in the room." "Don't treat your children like sick," she sums up; "don't dose them with tea. Let them eat meat and drink milk." "Give them fresh, light, sunny, and open rooms, cool bedrooms, plenty of out-door exercise, facing even the cold, and wind, and weather, in sufficiently warm clothes, and with sufficient exercise; plenty of amusements and play; more liberty, and less schooling and cramming and training ; more attention to food, and less to physic."
THE MONTHLY NURSE
The doctor will, in most cases, be best able to recommend a suitable and trustworthy nurse. It is of the utmost importance to engage the monthly nurse in good time, as, if she be competent and clever, her services will be sought months beforehand, a good nurse having seldom much of her time disengaged. There are some qualifications which it is evident the nurse should possess: she should be scrupulously clean and tidy in her person; honest, sober and noiseless in her movements; should possess a natural love for children, and have a strong nerve in case of emergencies.
as she often will, instructions from the doctor, she should bear these in mind, and carefully carry them out. In those instances where she does not feel herself sufficiently informed, she should ask advice from the medical man, and not take upon herself to administer medicines, etc., without his knowledge. The advantages of employing a nurse who has gone through a systematic course of instruction at one of the recognized lying-in hospitals are obvious.
A monthly nurse should be between 30 and 50 years of age, sufficiently old to have had a little experience, and yet not too old or infirm to be able to perform various duties requiring strength and bodily vigour. She should be able to wake the moment she is called at any hour of the night that the mother or child may have their wants immediately attended to. Good temper, united to a kind and gentle disposition, is indispensable; and, although the nurse will frequently have much to endure from the whims and caprices of the invalid, she should make allowances for these, and command her temper, at the same time exerting her authority when it is necessary.
The duties of the monthly nurse in the way of cleaning and dusting the sick-room depend entirely on the establishment that is kept. Where there are plenty of servants, the nurse, of course, has nothing to do but attend on her patient, and ring the bell for anything she may require. Where the number of domestics is limited, she should not mind keeping her room in order; that is to say, sweeping and dusting it every morning. (But if fires are necessary, the housemaid should always clean the grate, and do all that is wanted in that way, as this dirty work would soil the nurse's dress and unfit her to approach the bed, or take the infant without soiling its clothes.) In small establishments, too, the nurse should herself fetch things she may require, and not ring for everything she wants. She must not leave her charge, of course, unless she sees everything is comfortable ; and then only for a few minutes. When downstairs, and in company with the other servants, the nurse should not repeat what she may have heard in the sick-room, as much mischief may be done by a gossiping nurse. As in most houses the monthly nurse is usually sent for a few days before her services may be required, she should see that all is in readiness, so that there shall be no bustle and hurry at the time the confinement takes place. She should keep two pairs of sheets, thoroughly aired, as well as night-dresses, flannels, etc., etc. All the things which will be required to dress the baby the first time should be laid in the basket in readiness, in the order in which they are to put on; as well as scissors, thread, a few pieces of soft linen rag, and two or three flannel squares. If a berceaunette is to be used immediately, the nurse should ascertain that the mattresses, pillow, etc., are all well aired ; and if not already completed before she arrives, she should assist in covering and trimming it, ready for the little occupant. A monthly nurse should be handy at her needle, as, if she is in the house some time before the baby is born, she will require some work of this sort to occupy her time.
Cleanliness and Neatness.
A nurse should endeavour to keep the sick-room as cheerful as possible, and always see that it is clean and tidy. All utensils must be taken away and emptied as soon as used. Soiled baby's napkins must be rolled up and taken away, and put into a pan, when they should be washed out every morning and hung out to dry; they are then in a fit state to be sent to the laundress; on no account must they be left dirty, but dealt with every morning in this way. The bedroom should be kept of a regular temperature, well ventilated, free from draughts, and free also from unpleasant smells every cause of offence being removed at once.
The infant during the month must not be exposed to strong light, or much air; and in carrying it about the passages, stairs, etc., the nurse should always have its head flannel on, to protect the eyes and ears from the currents of air. A good nurse should understand the symptoms of ailments incident to this period, as, in all cases, prevention is better than cure. As young mothers with their first baby are very often much troubled at first with their breasts, the nurse should understand how to deal with retracted nipples, and the prevention of cracked nipples by carefully washing them and drying with a soft linen rag after the infant has fed, and then anointing them with a little glycerine of borax.
The importance of preventing sore or cracked nipples by cleanliness in this respect is emphasized by the fact that abscess of the breast is almost always due to septic organisms entering the breast by way of these cracks, or less commonly along the milk ducts.
THE WET NURSE
Duty of the Mother.
Unless prevented by illness or inability, a mother should nurse her child herself. A woman with health, strength, and time to devote to her child, should not shrink from performing this most natural of maternal functions, no matter to what rank she belongs, for by not doing so she certainly risks the child's health, and her own. If, however, she is unable to nurse her child, it is usual to bring it up on some preparation of cow's milk, which has been so altered as to correspond in its composition to human milk, many children thriving as well on this as on their natural food. It is seldom that doctors think it necessary in these days to advise the employment of a wet nurse; but as in some cases it is absolutely necessary, some hints on the choice and diet of the "foster-mother" may be useful.
The Wet Nurse.
Her age, if possible, should not be less than twenty nor exceed thirty years. Preference is to be given to the woman who has already had one or two children of her own, for the reason that the milk is richer and more nourishing in those who have already borne children, and she is likely to be more experienced. It is necessary that the ages of the children should nearly correspond; where there is any great disproportion, as when the age of one child is a few weeks, while that of the other is six or seven months, the woman should be rejected. Her health should be sound in every respect, and her body free from all eruptive disease or local blemish. The best evidence of a sound state of health will be found in the woman's clear, open countenance, the ruddy hue of the skin, the full, round and elestic state of the breasts, and especially in the erectile, firm condition of the nipple, which, in all unhealthy states of the body, is flabby and relaxed; in which case, the milk is sure to be imperfect in its organization, and, consequently, deficient in its nutrient qualities. Appetite is another indication of health in the suckling nurse or foster-mother, for it is impossible that a woman can feed her child properly unless she has a good appetite herself; and. though inordinate craving for food is neither desirable nor necessary, a healthy zest at the proper hours is very essential. It is very important also that something should be known of the moral fibre of the wet nurse, as unless she is a woman of principle the child may suffer by her selfish indulgence in some favourite but forbidden article of diet, such as pickles, etc., or by her secret use of narcotics to secure a quiet night.
The ultimate choice of the wet nurse should of course, in all cases, be left to the doctor. Disregard in this respect may bring about the direst consequences. He alone is capable of deciding whether a woman may or may not nurse another woman's child. He will not do it until he has examined both foster-mother and her child, for if the latter is not thriving and healthy on its own mother's milk, it is extremely improbable that a stranger's child will benefit by it.
The conscientiousness and good faith that would prevent a nurse so acting are, unfortunately, very rare; and many nurses, rather than forego the enjoyment of a favourite dish, though morally certain of the effect it will have on the child, will, on the first opportunity, feed with avidity on fried meats, cabbage, cucumbers, pickles, or other crude and injurious aliments, in defiance of all orders given or confidence reposed in their word, good sense, and humanity. Then when the infant is racked with pain, a night of disquiet alarms the mother, and the doctor is sent for, the nurse covers her dereliction by a falsehood, the consequence of her gluttony is treated as a disease, and the poor infant is dosed for some days with medicines that can do it but little if any good, and, in all probability, materially retard its physical development. The selfish nurse, in her ignorance, believes, too, that as long as she experiences no admonitory symptoms herself, the child cannot suffer; and is satisfied that, whatever the cause of its screams and plunges, neither she, nor what she had eaten, had anything to do with it; with which nattering assurance at her heart, she watches her opportunity, and has another luxurious feast off the proscribed dainties, till the increasing disturbance in the child's health, or treachery from the kitchen, opens the eyes of mother and doctor to the nurse's unprincipled conduct. In all such cases the infant should be spared the infliction of medicine, and, as a wholesome corrective to herself, and relief to her charge, a good sound dose administered to the nurse.
The Diet of the Wet Nurse.
The first point of importance is to fix early and definite hours for every meal; and the mother should see that no cause is ever allowed to interfere with their punctuality. The food itself should be light, easy of digestion, and simple. Boiled or roast meat, with bread and potatoes, and occasionally some sago, rice, or tapioca pudding, should constitute the dinner, the only meal that requires special comment; broths, green vegetables, and all acid or salt foods must be avoided. Fresh fish, once or twice a week, may be taken; but it is hardly sufficiently nutritious to be often used as a meal. If the dinner is taken early at one o'clock there will be no occasion for luncheon, which too often, to the injury of the child, is made an excuse for a first dinner. A glass of milk and a biscuit at eleven o'clock will be abundantly sufficient between breakfast at eight and a good dinner at one o'clock. Supper may be taken about eight o'clock, and should consist of some light farinaceous pudding, porridge and milk, etc. Animal food once in twenty-four hours is quite sufficient. All spirits, unless in extreme cases, should be avoided; and wine is still more seldom needed. With a due quantity of plain, digestible food, with early hours and regularity, the nurse will not only be strong and healthy herself, but fully capable of rearing a child in health and strength. The large quantities of stout or porter which were formerly ordered are not essential ; one pint during the day is an ample allowance, or milk may be substituted altogether. Two points are of importance in maintaining tne nurse in good health: (1) The diet should not be too rich at the commencement of her duties. A change from a poor, insufficient diet, to which she may have been accustomed, to a rich, full one, is likely to cause indigestion ; (2) Exercise daily in the open air is absolutely essential to her well-being.
There are two cautions which all mothers who are obliged to employ wet nurses should remember. The first is, never to allow a wet nurse to give medicine to the infant on her own authority; many have such an infatuated idea of the healing excellence of castor-oil, that they would administer a dose of this unpleasant grease twice a week, and think they had done a useful service to the child. The next point is, to be careful that to insure a night's sleep for herself, she does not dose the infant with syrup of poppies, or some narcotic potion, to insure tranquillity to the child and give the opportunity of sleep to herself. The fact that it used to be the common practice of wet nurses to keep secret bottles of these dangerous syrups and to use them to a terrible extent, is notorious; and too great care cannot be taken by any employer of a wet nurse to-day to guard her child against the possibility of such ignorant or unprincipled treatment, remembering in all cases to consult a medical man for her infant, in preference to following the counsel of her nurse.
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DON'T forget that the quantity and quality of the mother's milk can be improved by dietetic and hygienic.