There is certainly nothing which conduces so much to the comfort and health of a child as regular bathing from the first day of its life. The infant should have its first bath im mediately after its birth. The bath should be large enough to permit the child to be covered with water up to the neck. The water should be at the same degree of warmth as the child's body; lukewarm is the best description of it. If regulated by a thermometer, it should be about 98° Fahr. The child's head and face should be first washed with the clean bath water, and then thoroughly dried with a soft towel, the child meantime lying on the nurse's lap on a warmed flannel cloth. The child should then be placed bodily in the bath, supported by the nurse's hand and arm, and gently sponged all over. A small quantity of fine toilet soap should be used. Special care should be taken to cleanse thoroughly the fold of skin at the neck, arm-pits, and groins. After the washing the child should be quickly but carefully dried, and then those parts of the skin which rub against one another, the folds of the groin, arm pit, neck, &c, should be lightly dusted with fine violet powder. A great many nurses are care less in the drying, thinking the dusting powder is put on for this purpose. This is a great mis take. If the powder is put on the skin still damp it forms a cake ; and nothing is more likely to irritate and inflame the child's tender skin and lead to the formation of sores. The skin must be first quite dry, and then the powder applied helps to diminish the friction between the opposing surfaces of the skin. For a similar reason the powder must not be too freely applied, a very fine film of it being all that is necessary.
The bathing process should be performed be fore a fire, draughts being kept off by a screen.
The newly-born infant often has its skin coated in various places, and specially the head and folds near the joints, with a thick whitish scum difficult to wash off. This is most easily removed with oil, olive-oil, sweet-oil, or butter if no oil is at hand. The nurse takes a little oil in the palm of her hand, and rubs it over the part gently but firmly till a sort of lather has been produced. A sponge with clean water and a little soap will then readily cleanse the skin. The eyes of a newly-born infant should be specially looked at, every particle of matter being removed with a clean sponge and pure warm water. Any appearance of matter com
ing from them within the first few days after birth should cause special attention to be di rected to them. (See INFLAMMATION OF THE EYES OF NEWLY-BORN CHILDREN, p. 595.) Children should be bathed twice daily, in the morning immediately after rising and in the evening before going to bed, and always at the same hour. In fact if the same regularity ad vised in regard to the giving of food be practised in regard to the bathing, it will add much to the comfort and general health of the child, and will do a great deal towards making the child bright and active throughout the day, and to wards securing for it sound refreshing sleep throughout the night.
The evening bath should be the principal one of the day, the child's body being then well washed all over, soap being used ; the morning bath need not be much more than a dip in plain water, and sluicing with the sponge. As the child grows, the warmth of the morning bath may be gradually reduced a little, and at six months the child, if it is healthy and vigorous, may be freely sponged in the morning with nearly cold water if the weather is warm. The cool water should only be applied with the sponge, the water in the bath in which the child is set down should be warmer. After the cold sponging the child's body should be well rubbed with a fine towel; and if there is any sign of chilliness or blueness of the skin, the cold sponging should be stopped and not used again till the child is older. No mistaken notion of "hardening the child" should lead to persistence in the use of water manifestly colder than is consistent with the child's comfort.
Food should be given after, not before the bath.
Many mothers and nurses abstain from giving the usual bath for very trifling reasons. If the bath is properly given, and if proper care is taken to guard against chills, which ought always to be done, there are very few cir cumstances, indeed, in which it can do any harm. On the other hand, at the outset of many childish complaints, the warm bath is of the greatest possible benefit. It not only cleanses the skin, and stimulates the activity of the sweat-glands in removing waste substances from the blood, but it causes relaxation of the blood-vessels of the whole surface of the body, and consequently brings the blood to the skin in greatly increased quantity, to the relief of deeper parts.