Dress serves three important purposes:—1. To cover us; 2. To defend us against cold; 3. To defend our bodies and limbs from injury. There is one more purpose of dress; in case of deformity, it seems to improve the appearance.
In all our arrangements in regard to dress, whether of children or of adults, we should ever keep in mind the above principles. The form, fashion, material, application, and quantity of all clothing, especially for infants, ought to be regulated by these three or four rules.
The subject of this chapter is one of so much importance, and embraces such a variety of items, that it will be more convenient, both to the reader and myself, to consider it under several minor heads.
SEC. 1. Swathing the Body.
Buffon, in his “Natural History,” says that in France, an infant has hardly enjoyed the liberty of moving and stretching its limbs, before it is put into confinement. “It is swathed,” says he, “its head is fixed, its legs are stretched out at full length, and its arms placed straight down by the side of its body. In this manner it is bound tight with cloths and bandages, so that it cannot stir a limb; indeed it is fortunate that the poor thing is not muffled up so as to be unable to breathe.”
All swathing, except with a single bandage around the abdomen, is decidedly unreasonable, injurious and cruel. I do not pretend that the remarks of M. Buffon are fully applicable to the condition of infants in the United States. The good sense of the community nowhere permits us to transform a beautiful babe quite into an Egyptian mummy. Still there are many considerable errors on the subject of infantile dress, which, in the progress of my remarks, I shall find it necessary to expose.
The use of a simple band cannot be objected to. It affords a general support to the abdomen, and a particular one to the umbilicus. The last point is one of great importance, where there is any tendency to a rupture at this part of the body—a tendency which very often exists in feeble children. And without some support of this kind, crying, coughing, sneezing, and straining in any way, might greatly aggravate the evil, if not produce serious consequences.
But, in order to afford a support to the abdomen in the best manner, it is by no means necessary that the bandage should be drawn very tight. Two thirds of the nurses in this country greatly err in this respect, and suppose that the more tightly a bandage is drawn, the better. It should be firm, but yet gently yielding; and therefore a piece of flannel cut “bias,” as it is termed, or, obliquely with respect to the threads of which it is composed, is the most appropriate material.