Updated: Dec 11, 2022
The information contained in this article is for general information purposes only and is not meant in any way to replace advice given by healthcare professionals.
Many parents find it’s challenging to help their babies to sleep and bathing. We are here to share with you what you need to know in taking care your little one to ease your life.
For three or four weeks after birth the infant sleeps more or less, day and night, only waking to satisfy the demands of hunger; at the expiration of this time, however, each interval of wakefulness grows longer, so that it sleeps less frequently, but for longer periods at a time.
This disposition to repose in the early weeks of the infant's life must not be interfered with; but this period having expired, great care is necessary to induce regularity in its hours of sleep, otherwise too much will be taken in the day-time, and restless and disturbed nights will follow. The child should be brought into the habit of sleeping in the middle of the day, before its dinner, and for about two hours, more or less. If put to rest at a later period of the day, it will invariably cause a bad night.
Parents’ role in early days
At first the infant should sleep with its parent. The low temperature of its body, and its small power of generating heat, render this necessary. If it should happen, however, that the child has disturbed and restless nights, it must immediately be removed to the bed and care of another female, to be brought to its mother at an early hour in the morning, for the purpose of being nursed. This is necessary for the preservation of the mother's health, which through sleepless nights would of course be soon deranged, and the infant would also suffer from the influence which such deranged health would have upon the milk.
When a month or six weeks has elapsed, the child, if healthy, may sleep alone in a cradle or cot, care being taken that it has a sufficiency of clothing, that the room in which it is placed is sufficiently warm, viz. 60 degrees, and the position of the cot itself is not such as to be exposed to currents of cold air. It is essentially necessary to attend to these points, since the faculty of producing heat, and consequently the power of maintaining the temperature, is less during sleep than at any other time, and therefore exposure to cold is especially injurious. It is but too frequently the case that inflammation of some internal organ will occur under such circumstances, without the true source of the disease ever being suspected.
Here, however, a frequent error must be guarded against, that of covering up the infant in its cot with too much clothing throwing over its face the muslin handkerchief and, last of all, drawing the drapery of the bed closely together. The object is to keep the infant sufficiently warm with pure air; it therefore ought to have free access to its mouth, and the atmosphere of the whole room should be kept sufficiently warm to allow the child to breathe it freely: in winter, therefore, there must always be a fire in the nursery.
The child up to two years old, at least, should sleep upon a feather bed, for the reasons referred to above. The pillow, however, after the sixth month, should be made of horsehair; for at this time teething commences, and it is highly important that the head should be kept cool.
Bathing and Cleanliness
Cleanliness is essential to the infant's health. The principal points to which especial attention must be paid by the parent for this purpose are the following:
First few weeks
At first the infant should be washed daily with warm water; and a bath every night, for the purpose of thoroughly cleaning the body, is highly necessary.
To bathe a delicate infant of a few days or even weeks old in cold water with a view "to harden" the constitution (as it is called), is the most effectual way to undermine its health and entail future disease. By degrees, however, the water with which it is sponged in the morning should be made tepid, the evening bath being continued warm enough to be grateful to the feelings.
Few months later
A few months having passed by, the temperature of the water may be gradually lowered until cold is employed, with which it may be either sponged or even plunged into it, every morning during summer.
If plunged into cold water, however, it must be kept in but a minute; for at this period, especially, the impression of cold continued for any considerable time depresses the vital energies, and prevents that healthy glow on the surface which usually follows the momentary and brief action of cold, and upon which its usefulness depends.
With some children, indeed, there is such extreme delicacy and deficient reaction as to render the cold bath hazardous; no warm glow over the surface takes place when its use inevitably does harm: its effects, therefore, must be carefully watched.
The surface of the skin should always be carefully and thoroughly rubbed dry with flannel, indeed, more than dry, for the skin should be warmed and stimulated by the assiduous gentle friction made use of. For this process of washing and drying must not be done languidly, but briskly and expeditiously; and will then be found to be one of the most effectual means of strengthening the infant.
It is especially necessary carefully to dry the arm-pits, groins, and nates; and if the child is very fat, it will be well to dust over these parts with hair-powder or starch: this prevents excoriations and sores, which are frequently very troublesome. Soap is only required to those parts of the body which are exposed to the reception of dirt.
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