It seems to me that there is weight to this objection; and although the cradle has been extensively used without producing any obviously evil effects, I should greatly prefer to have it universally laid aside. As far as mere amusement is demanded, it is quite unnecessary, since there are so many amusements which are far better. As a means of inducing sleep, I am still more strongly opposed to it; for if a child be rationally treated in every other respect, it will never need artificial means to induce it to sleep. Nature will then be the most appropriate directress in this matter.
If there is a cradle in a nursery, it is almost always full of clothes loaded with air more or less impure, and the child is buried in it more than is compatible with health, even in the judgment of the mother or the nurse; for so convenient is its use, and so great the temptation to keep the child in it, that he will often be found soaking there a large proportion of his time. Every one knows that the air has not so free access to a child in the cradle as elsewhere, especially if it have a kind of covering or hood to it, as we often see. Besides, the cradle is a piece of furniture which takes up a great deal of space in the nursery; and every one who has made the trial effectually, will, it seems to me, greatly prefer its room to its company.
If any cradle is to be used, those are best which are suspended by cords, and are swung, rather than rocked. And this swinging should be in a line with the body of the child as much as possible; as this motion is less likely to produce injury than its opposite.
SEC. 2. Carrying in the Arms.
This is the most appropriate exercise for the first two months of existence; and indeed, one of the best for some time afterward.
Although a healthy, thriving child ought to sleep, for some time after birth, from two thirds to three fourths of his time, yet it should never be forgotten that the demand for proper exercise during the rest of the time, is not the less imperious on this account; but probably the more so.
I have already mentioned the importance of bathing, which is one form of exercise, and of gentle motion in the arms, immediately afterward. The same gentle motion should be often repeated during the day; care being taken to hold the child in such a position as will be easy to him, and favorable to the free exercise of all his limbs and muscles.
There are many mothers and nurses, who not only rejoice that the infant inclines to sleep a great deal, since it gives them more liberty, but who take pains to prolong these hours beyond what nature requires, by artificial means. I refer not only to the use of the cradle, but to means still more artificial—the use of cordials and opiates, to which I have already adverted. But whatever the means used may be, they defeat the purposes of nature, and are in the highest degree reprehensible. Nothing but the most chilling poverty should prevent the mother from having the child—for a few weeks of its first existence at least—in her own arms, nearly all the time which is not absolutely demanded for repose. She should even invite it to wakefulness, rather than encourage sleep.