Every one’s experience may also remind him, that what produces at best a momentary pain to himself, cannot otherwise than be painful to the infant. In making a comparison between adults and infants, however, in this respect, we should remember that the lungs of the infant do not get into full and vigorous action until some time after birth; and that, on this account, the hold they have on life is so feeble, that any powerful shock, and especially that given by the cold bath, is ten times more dangerous to them than to adults, or even to infants themselves, after a few months have elapsed.
It is surprising to me that so sensible a writer as Rousseau generally is on education, should have encouraged this dangerous practice; and still more so that many fathers even now, blinded by theory, should persist in it, notwithstanding the pleadings of the mother or the nurse, and the plainest dictates of common sense and common prudence.[Footnote: Nothing is intended to be said here, which shall encourage unthinking nurses or mothers in setting themselves against measures which have been prescribed by higher authority,—I mean the physician. There are cases of this kind, where it requires all the resolution which a father, uninterrupted, can summon to his aid, to administer a dose or perform a task, on which he knows the existence of his child may be depending: but when the thoughtless entreaties of the mother or nurse are interposed, it makes his condition most distressing. Mothers, in such cases, ought to encourage rather than remonstrate. They who do not, are guilty of cruelty, and—perhaps—of infanticide.]
A child plunged into cold water at birth, by those whose theories carry them so far as to do it even in the coldest weather, has sometimes been twenty-four hours in recovering, notwithstanding the most active and judicious efforts to restore it. In other instances the results have been still more distressing. Dr. Dewees is persuaded that he has “known death itself to follow the use of cold water,” in this way—I believe he means immediate death—and adds, with great confidence, that he has “repeatedly seen it require the lapse of several hours before reaction could establish itself; during which time the pale and sunken cheeks and livid lips declared the almost exhausted state” of the infant’s excitability.[Footnote: “Dewees on children” p. 72.]
We need not hesitate to put very great confidence in the opinion here expressed; for besides being a close and just observer of human nature, Dr. D. has had the direction and management, in a greater or less degree, of several thousands of new-born infants.
Nothing, indeed, in the whole range of physical education, seems better proved, than that while some few infants, whose constitutions are naturally very strong, are invigorated by the practice in question, others, in the proportion of hundreds for one, who are less robust, are injured for life; some of them seriously.