SLEEP DURING INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD

During infancy.
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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.

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.

During childhood.
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Up to the third or fourth year the child should be permitted to sleep for an hour or so before its dinner. After this time it may gradually be discontinued; but it must be recollected, that during the whole period of childhood more sleep is required than in adult age. The child, therefore, should be put to rest every evening between seven and eight; and if it be in health it will sleep soundly until the following morning. No definite rule, however, can be laid down in reference to the number of hours of sleep to be allowed; for one will require more or less than another.Regularity as to the time of going to rest is the chief point to attend to; permit nothing to interfere with it, and then only let the child sleep without disturbance, until it awakes of its own accord on the following morning, and it will have had sufficient rest.

The amount of sleep necessary to preserve health varies according to the state of the body, and the habits of the individual. Infants pass much the greater portion of their time in sleep. Children sleep twelve or fourteen hours. The schoolboy generally ten. In youth, a third part of the twenty-four hours is spent in sleep. Whilst, in advanced age, many do not spend more than four, five, or six hours in sleep.

It is a cruel thing for a mother to sacrifice her child’s health that she may indulge her own vanity, and yet how often is this done in reference to sleep. An evening party is to assemble, and the little child is kept up for hours beyond its stated time for retiring to rest, that it may be exhibited, fondled, and admired. Its usual portion of sleep is thus abridged, and, from the previous excitement, what little he does obtain, is broken and unrefreshing, and he rises on the morrow wearied and exhausted.

Once awake, it should not be permitted to lie longer in bed, but should be encouraged to arise immediately. This is the way to bring about the habit of early rising, which prevents many serious evils to which parents are not sufficiently alive, promotes both mental and corporeal health, and of all habits is said to be the most conducive to longevity.

A child should never be suddenly aroused from sleep; it excites the brain, quickens the action of the heart, and, if often repeated, serious consequences would result. The change of sleeping to waking should always be gradual.

The bed on which the child now sleeps should be a mattress: at this age a feather bed is always injurious to children; for the body, sinking deep into the bed, is completely buried in feathers, and the unnatural degree of warmth thus produced relaxes and weakens the system, particularly the skin, and renders the child unusually susceptible to the impressions of cold. Then, instead of the bed being made up in the morning as soon as vacated, and while still saturated with the nocturnal exhalations from the body, the bed-clothes should be thrown over the backs of chairs, the mattress shaken well up, and the window thrown open for several hours, so that the apartment shall be thoroughly ventilated. It is also indispensably requisite not to allow the child to sleep with persons in bad health, or who are far advanced in life; if possible, it should sleep alone.

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EXPOSURE OF INFANTS TO OPEN AIR

The respiration of a pure air is at all times, and under all circumstances, indispensable to the health of the infant. The nursery therefore should be large, well ventilated, in an elevated part of the house, and so situated as to admit a free supply both of air and light. For the same reasons, the room in which the infant sleeps should be large, and the air frequently renewed; for nothing is so prejudicial to its health as sleeping in an impure and heated atmosphere. The practice, therefore, of drawing thick curtains closely round the bed is highly pernicious; they only answer a useful purpose when they defend the infant from any draught of cold air.

The proper time for taking the infant into the open air must, of course, be determined by the season of the year, and the state of the weather. “A delicate infant born late in the autumn will not generally derive advantage from being carried into the open air, in this climate, till the succeeding spring; and if the rooms in which he is kept are large, often changed, and well ventilated, he will not suffer from the confinement, while he will, most probably, escape catarrhal affections, which are so often the consequence of the injudicious exposure of infants to a cold and humid atmosphere.” If, however, the child is strong and healthy, no opportunity should be lost of taking it into the open air at stated periods, experience daily proving that it has the most invigorating and vivifying influence upon the system. Regard, however, must always be had to the state of the weather; and to a damp condition of the atmosphere the infant should never be exposed, as it is one of the most powerful exciting causes of consumptive disease. The nurse-maid, too, should not be allowed to loiter and linger about, thus exposing the infant unnecessarily, and for an undue length of time; this is generally the source of all the evils which accrue from taking the babe into the open air.

MOTHERS’ ROLE IN COMBATING DISEASES OF CHILDREN.

The especial province of the mother is the prevention of disease, not its cure. When disease attacks the child, the mother has then a part to perform, which it is especially important during the epochs of infancy and childhood should be done well. I refer to those duties which constitute the maternal part of the management of disease.

Medical treatment, for its successful issue, is greatly dependent upon a careful, pains-taking, and judicious maternal superintendence. No medical treatment can avail at any time, if directions be only partially carried out, or be negligently attended to; and will most assuredly fail altogether, if counteracted by the erroneous prejudices of ignorant attendants. But to the affections of infancy and childhood, this remark applies with great force; since, at this period, disease is generally so sudden in its assaults, and rapid in its progress, that unless the measures prescribed are rigidly and promptly administered, their exhibition is soon rendered altogether fruitless.

The amount of suffering, too, may be greatly lessened by the thoughtful and discerning attentions of the mother. The wants and necessities of the young child must be anticipated; the fretfulness produced by disease, soothed by kind and affectionate persuasion; and the possibility of the sick and sensitive child being exposed to harsh and ungentle conduct, carefully provided against.

Again, not only is a firm and strict compliance with medical directions in the administration of remedies, of regimen, and general measures, necessary, but an unbiased, faithful, and full report of symptoms to the physician, when he visits his little patient, is of the first importance. An ignorant servant or nurse, unless great caution be exercised by the medical attendant, may, by an unintentional but erroneous report of symptoms, produce a very wrong impression upon his mind, as to the actual state of the disease. His judgment may, as a consequence, be biased in a wrong direction, and the result prove seriously injurious to the welldoing of the patient. The medical man cannot sit hour after hour watching symptoms; hence the great importance of their being faithfully reported. This can alone be done by the mother, or some person equally competent.

There are other weighty considerations which might be adduced here, proving how much depends upon efficient maternal management in the time of sickness; but they will be severally dwelt upon, when the diseases with which they are more particularly connected are spoken of.

EARLY DETECTION OF DISEASE IN THE CHILD

It is highly important that a mother should possess such information as will enable her to detect disease at its first appearance, and thus insure for her child timely medical assistance. This knowledge it will not be difficult for her to obtain. She has only to bear in mind what are the indications which constitute health, and she will at once see that all deviations from it must denote the presence of disorder, if not of actual disease. With these changes she must to a certain extent make herself acquainted.

Signs of health.
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The signs of health are to be found, first, in the healthy performance of the various functions of the body; the regular demands made for its supply, neither in excess or deficiency; and a similar regularity in its excretions both in quantity and appearance.

If the figure of the healthy infant is observed, something may be learnt from this. There will be perceived such an universal roundness in all parts of the child’s body, that there is no such thing as an angle to be found in the whole figure; whether the limbs are bent or straight, every line forms a portion of a circle. The limbs will feel firm and solid, and unless they are bent, the joints cannot be discovered.

The tongue, even in health, is always white, but it will be free from sores, the skin cool, the eye bright, the complexion clear, the head cool, and the abdomen not projecting too far, the breathing regular, and without effort.

When awake, the infant will be cheerful and sprightly, and, loving to be played with, will often break out into its merry, happy, laugh; whilst, on the other hand, when asleep, it will appear calm, every feature composed, its countenance displaying an expression of happiness, and frequently, perhaps, lit up with a smile.

Just in proportion as the above appearances are present and entire, health may be said to exist; and just in proportion to their partial or total absence disease will have usurped its place.

We will, however, for the sake of clearness examine the signs of disease as they are manifested separately by the countenance, the gestures, in sleep, in the stools, and by the breathing and cough.

Of the countenance.
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In health the countenance of a thild is expressive of serenity in mind and body; but if the child be unwell, this expression will be changed, and in a manner which, to a certain extent, will indicate what part of the system is at fault.

The brows will be contracted, if there is pain, and its seat is in the head. This is frequently the very first outward sign of any thing being wrong, and will occur at the very onset of disease; if therefore remarked at an early period, and proper remedies used, its notice may prevent one of the most fearful of infantile complaints “Water in the Head.”

If this sign is passed by unheeded, and the above disease be threatened, soon the eyes will become fixed and staring, the head hot, and moved uneasily from side to side upon the pillow, or lie heavily upon the nurse’s arm, the child will start in its sleep, grinding its teeth, and awake alarmed and screaming, its face will be flushed, particularly the cheeks (as if rouged), its hands hot, but feet cold, its bowels obstinately costive, or its motions scanty, dark-coloured, and foul.

If the lips are drawn apart, so as to show the teeth or gums, the seat of the pain is in the belly. This sign, however, will only be present during the actual existence of suffering; if, therefore, there be any doubt whether it exist, press upon the stomach, and watch the eifect on the expression of the countenance.

If the pain arise simply from irritation of the bowels excited from indigestion, it will be temporary, and the sign will go and come just as the spasm may occur, and slight remedial measures will give relief.

If, however, the disease be more serious, and inflammation ensue, this sign will be more constantly present, and soon the countenance will become pale, or sallow and sunken, the child will dread motion, and lie upon its back with the knees bent up to the belly, the tongue will be loaded, and in breathing, while the chest will be seen to heave with more than usual effort, the muscles of the belly will remain perfectly quiescent.

If the nostrils are drawn upwards and in quick motion, pain exists in the chest. This sign, however, will generally be the accompaniment of inflammation of the chest, in which case the countenance will be discoloured, the eyes more or less staring, and the breathing will be difficult and hurried; and if the child’s mode of respiring be watched, the chest will be observed to be unmoved, while the belly quickly heaves with every inspiration.

Convulsions are generally preceded by some changes in the countenance. The upper lip will be drawn up, and is occasionally bluish or livid. Then there may be slight squinting, or a singular rotation of the eye upon its own axis; alternate flushing or paleness of the face; and sudden animation followed by languor.

These signs will sometimes manifest themselves many hours, nay days, before the attack occurs; may be looked upon as premonitory; and if timely noticed, and suitable medical aid resorted to, the occurrence of a fit may be altogether prevented.

The state of the eyes should always be attended to. In health they are clear and bright, but in disease they become dull, and give a heavy appearance to the countenance; though after long continued irritation they will assume a degree of quickness which is very remarkable, and a sort of pearly brightness which is better known from observation than it can be from description.

The direction of the eyes, too, should be regarded, for from this we may learn something. When the infant is first brought to the light, both eyes are scarcely ever directed to the same object: this occurs without any tendency to disease, and merely proves, that regarding one object with both eyes is only an acquired habit. But when the child has come to that age when the eyes are by habit directed to the same object, and afterwards it loses that power, this circumstance alone may be looked upon as a frequent prelude to disease affecting the head.

Of the gestures.
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The gestures of a healthy child are all easy and natural; but in sickness those deviations occur, which alone will often denote the nature of the disease.

Suppose an infant to have acquired the power to support itself, to hold its head erect; let sickness come, its head will droop immediately, and this power will be lost, only to be regained with the return of health; and during the interval every posture and movement will be that of languor.

The little one that has just taught itself to run alone from chair to chair, having two or three teeth pressing upon and irritating the gums, will for a time be completely taken off its feet, and perhaps lie languidly in its cot, or on its nurse’s arm.

The legs being drawn up to the belly, and accompanied by crying, are proofs of disorder and pain in the bowels. Press upon this part, and your pressure will increase the pain. Look to the secretions from the bowels themselves, and by their unhealthy character your suspicions, in reference to the seat of the disorder, are at once confirmed.

The hands of a child in health are rarely carried above its mouth; but let there be any thing wrong about the head and pain present, and the little one’s hands will be constantly raised to the head and face.

Sudden starting when awake, as also during sleep, though it occur from trifling causes, should never be disregarded. It is frequently connected with approaching disorder of the brain. It may forebode a convulsive fit, and such suspicion is confirmed, if you find the thumb of the child drawn in and firmly pressed upon the palm, with the fingers so compressed upon it, that the hand cannot be forced open without difficulty. The same condition will exist in the toes, but not to so great a degree; there may also be a puffy state of the back of the hands and feet, and both foot and wrist bent downwards.

There are other and milder signs threatening convulsions and connected with gesture, which should be regarded: the head being drawn rigidly backwards, an arm fixed firmly to the side, or near to it, as also one of the legs drawn stifly upwards. These signs, as also those enumerated above, are confirmed beyond all doubt, if there be present certain alterations in the usual habits of the child: if the sleep is disturbed, if there be frequent fits of crying, great peevishness of temper, the countenance alternately flushed and pale, sudden animation followed by as sudden a fit of languor, catchings of the breath followed by a long and deep inspiration, all so many premonitory symptoms of an approaching attack.

Of the sleep.
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The sleep of the infant in health is quiet, composed, and refreshing. In very early infancy, when not at the breast, it is for the most part asleep in its cot; and although as the months advance it sleeps less, yet when the hour for repose arrives, the child is no sooner laid down to rest, than it drops off into a quiet, peaceful slumber.

Not so, if ill. Frequently it will be unwilling to be put into its cot at all, and the nurse will be obliged to take the infant in her arms; it will then sleep but for a short time, and in a restless and disturbed manner.

If it suffer pain, however slight, the countenance will indicate it; and, as when awake, so now, if there is any thing wrong about the head, the contraction of the eye-brow and grinding of the teeth will appear; if any thing wrong about the belly, the lips will be drawn apart, showing the teeth or gums, and in both instances there will be great restlessness and frequent startings.

Of the stools.
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In the new-born infant the motions are dark coloured, very much like pitch both in consistence and appearance. The first milk, however, secreted in the mother’s breast, acts as an aperient upon the infant’s bowels, and thus in about four-and-twenty hours it is cleansed away.

From this time, and through the whole of infancy, the stools will be of a lightish yellow colour, the consistence of thin mustard, having little smell, smooth in appearance, and therefore free from lumps or white curded matter, and passed without pain or any considerable quantity of wind. And as long as the child is in health, it will have daily two or three, or even four, of these evacuations. But as it grows older, they will not be quite so frequent; they will become darker in colour, and more solid, though not so much so as in the adult.

Any deviation, then, from the above characters, is of course a sign of something wrong; and as a deranged condition of the bowels is frequently the first indication we have of coming disease, the nurse should daily be directed to watch the evacuations. Their appearance, colour, and the manner in which discharged, are the points principally to be looked to. If the stools have a very curdy appearance, or are too liquid, or green, or dark-coloured, or smell badly, they are unnatural. And in reference to the manner in which they are discharged, it should be borne in mind, that, in a healthy child, the motion is passed with but little wind, and as if squeezed out, but in disease, it will be thrown out with considerable force, which is a sign of great irritation. The number, too, of stools passed within the four-and- twenty hours it is important to note, so that if the child does not have its accustomed relief, (and it must not be forgotten that children, although in perfect health, differ as to the precise number,)

Of the breathing and cough
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The breathing of a child in health is formed of equal inspirations and expirations, and it breathes quietly, regularly, inaudibly, and without effort. But let inflammation of the air-tubes or lungs take place, and the inspiration will become in a few hours so quickened and hurried, and perhaps audible, that the attention has only to be directed to the circumstance to be at once perceived.

Now all changes which occur in the breathing from its healthy standard, however slight the shades of difference may be, it is most important should be noticed early. For many of the complaints in the chest, although very formidable in their character, if only seen early by the medical man, may be arrested in their progress; but otherwise, may be beyond the control of art. A parent, therefore, should make herself familiar with the breathing of her child in health, and she will readily mark any change which may arise.

Whenever a child has the symptoms of a common cold, attended by hoarseness and a rough cough, always look upon it with suspicion, and never neglect seeking a medical opinion. Hoarseness does not usually attend a common cold in the child, and these symptoms may be premonitory of an attack of “croup;” a disease excessively rapid in its progress, and which, from the importance of the parts affected, carrying on, as they do, a function indispensably necessary to life, requires the most prompt and decided treatment.

The following observations of Dr. Cheyne are so strikingly illustrative, and so pertinent to my present purpose, that I cannot refrain inserting them: “In the approach of an attack of croup, which almost always takes place in the evening, probably of a day during which the child has been exposed to the weather, and often after catarrhal symptoms have existed for several days, he may be observed to be excited, in variable spirits, more ready than usual to laugh than to cry, a little flushed, occasionally coughing, the sound of the cough being rough, like that which attends the catarrhal stage of the measles. More generally, however, the patient has been for some time in bed and asleep, before the nature of the disease with which he is threatened is apparent; then, perhaps, without waking, he gives a very unusual cough, well known to any one who has witnessed an attack of the croup; it rings as if the child had coughed through a brazen trumpet; it is truly a tussis clangosa; it penetrates the walls and floor of the apartment, and startles the experienced mother, ‘Oh! I am afraid our child is taking the croup!’ She runs to the nursery, finds her child sleeping softly, and hopes she may be mistaken. But remaining to tend him, before long the ringing cough, a single cough, is repeated again and again; the patient is roused, and then a new symptom is remarked; the sound of his voice is changed; puling, and as if the throat were swelled, it corresponds with the cough,” etc.

How important that a mother should be acquainted with the above signs of one of the most terrific complaints to which childhood is subject; for, if she only send for medical assistance during its first stage, the treatment will be almost invariably successful; whereas, if this “golden opportunity” is lost, this disease will seldom yield to the influence of measures, however wisely chosen or perseveringly employed.

DEFICIENCY OF MILK

Deficiency of milk may exist even at a very early period after delivery, and yet be removed. This, however, is not to be accomplished by the means too frequently resorted to; for it is the custom with many, two or three weeks after their confinement, if the supply of nourishment for the infant is scanty, to partake largely of malt liquor for its increase. Sooner or later this will be found injurious to the constitution of the mother: but how, then, is this deficiency to be obviated? Let the nurse keep but in good health, and this point gained, the milk, both as to quantity and quality, will be as ample, nutritious, and good, as can be produced by the individual.

I would recommend a plain, generous, and nutritious diet; not one description of food exclusively, but, as is natural, a wholesome, mixed, animal, and vegetable diet, with or without wine or malt liquor, according to former habit; and, occasionally, where malt liquor has never been previously taken, a pint of good sound ale may be taken daily with advantage, if it agree with the stomach. Regular exercise in the open air is of the greatest importance, as it has an extraordinary influence in promoting the secretion of healthy milk. Early after leaving the lying-in room, carriage exercise, where it can be obtained, is to be preferred, to be exchanged, in a week or so, for horse exercise, or the daily walk. The tepid, or cold salt-water shower bath, should be used every morning; but if it cannot be borne, sponging the body withsalt-water must be substituted.

By adopting with perseverance the foregoing plan, a breast of milk will be obtained as ample in quantity, and good in quality, as the constitution of the parent can produce, as the following case proves:

I attended a lady twenty-four years of age, a delicate, but healthy woman, in her first confinement. The labour was good. Every thing went on well for the first week, except that, although the breasts became enlarged, and promised a good supply of nourishment for the infant, at its close there was merely a little oozing from the nipple. During the next fortnight a slight, but very gradual increase in quantity took place, so that a dessert spoonful only was obtained about the middle of this period, and perhaps double this quantity at its expiration. In the mean time the child was necessarily fed upon an artificial diet, and as a consequence its bowels became deranged, and a severe diarrhoea followed.

For three or four days it was a question whether the little one would live, for so greatly had it been reduced by the looseness of the bowels that it had not strength to grasp the nipple of its nurse; the milk, therefore, was obliged to be drawn, and the child fed with it from a spoon. After the lapse of a few days, however, it could obtain the breast-milk for itself; and, to make short of the case, during the same month, the mother and child returned home, the former having a very fair proportion of healthy milk in her bosom, and the child perfectly recovered and evidently thriving fast upon it.

Where, however, there has been an early deficiency in the supply of nourishment, it will most frequently happen that, before the sixth or seventh month, the infant’s demands will be greater than the mother can meet. The deficiency must be made up by artificial food, which must be of a kind generally employed before the sixth month, and given through the bottle.

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