Ellen G. White Writings

<< Back Forward >>

«Back «Prev. Pub. «Article   Article» Next Pub.» Forward»

The Health Reformer

January 1, 1872

Words to Christian Mothers

Treatment of Infant Children

The Medical Reporter, under the caption of “Dress of Children,” has the following lucid and pointed remarks:

“The chief cause of infantile mortality is not more the weather or foul air than the ignorance and false pride of the mothers. Children are killed by the manner in which they are dressed, and by the food that is given them, as much as by any other causes. Infants of the most tender age, in our changeable and rough climate, are left with bare arms and legs and with low-necked dresses. The mothers, in the same dress, would shiver and suffer with cold, and expect a fit of sickness as the result of their culpable carelessness. And yet the mothers could endure such a treatment with far less danger to health and life than their tender infants.

“A moment's reflection will indicate the effects of this mode of dressing, or want of dressing, on the child. The moment the cold air strikes the bare arms and legs of the child, the blood is driven from these extremities to the internal and more vital organs of the body. The result is congestion, to a greater or less extent, of these organs. In warm weather the effect will be congestion of the bowels, causing diarrhea, dysentery, or cholera infantum. We think this mode of dressing must be reckoned as one of the most prominent causes of summer complaints, so called. In colder weather, congestion and inflammation of the lungs, congestion and inflammation of the brain, convulsions, etc., will result. At all seasons, congestion, more or less is caused, the definite effects depending upon the constitution of the child, the weather, and various circumstances.

“It is painful, extremely so, to any one who reflects upon the subject, to see children thus decked like victims for sacrifice, to gratify the insane pride of foolish mothers. Our most earnest advice to all mothers is to dress the legs and arms of their children warmly at all events. It would be infinitely less dangerous to life and health to leave their bodies uncovered, than to leave their arms and legs as bare as is the common custom.”

In this age of degeneracy, children are born with enfeebled constitutions. Parents are amazed at the great mortality among infants and youth, and say, “It did not use to be so.” Children were then more healthy and vigorous, with far less care than is now bestowed upon them. Yet with all the care they now receive, they grow feeble, sicken, and die. As the result of wrong habits in parents, disease and imbecility have been transmitted to their offspring. And after their birth, they are made very much worse by careless inattention to the laws of their being. Proper management would greatly improve their physical health. But parents seldom pursue a right course toward their infant children. Their wrong course toward their children results in lessening their hold of life, and prepares them for premature death. These parents had no lack of love for their children; but this love was misapplied. One great error with the mother in the treatment of her infant is, she deprives it very much of fresh air, that which it ought to have to make it strong. It is a practice with many mothers to cover their infants’ heads while sleeping, and this, too, in a warm room, which is seldom ventilated as it should be. This alone is sufficient to greatly enfeeble the action of the heart and lungs, thereby affecting the whole system. While care may be needful to protect the infant from a draught of air, or from any sudden and too great change, especial care should be taken to have the child breathe a pure, invigorating atmosphere. No disagreeable odor should remain in the nursery, or about the child. Such things are more dangerous to the feeble infant than to grown persons.

Mothers have been in the habit of dressing their infants with reference to fashion instead of health. The infant wardrobe is generally prepared more for show than for convenience and comfort. Much time is spent in embroidering, and in unnecessary fancy work, to make the garments of the little stranger beautiful. The mother often performs this work at the expense of her own health, and that of her offspring. When she should be enjoying pleasant exercise, she is often bent over work which severely taxes eyes and nerves. And it is often difficult to arouse the mother to her solemn obligations to cherish her own strength, for her own good, as well as that of the child.

Show and fashion are the demon altar upon which many American women sacrifice their children. The mother places upon the little morsel of humanity the fashionable dresses which she has spent weeks in making, which are wholly unfit for its use, if health is to be regarded of any account. The garments are made extravagantly long, and in order to keep them upon the infant, its body is girted with tight bands, or waists, which hinder the free action of the heart and lungs. Infants are also compelled to bear a needless weight on account of the length of their garments, and thus clothed, they do not have free use of their muscles and limbs.

Mothers have thought it necessary to compress the bodies of their infant children to keep them in shape, as though fearful that without tight bandages, they would fall in pieces, or become deformed. Do the young of dumb animals become deformed because nature is left to do her own work? Do the little lambs become deformed because they are not girted about with bands to give them shape? They are delicately and beautifully formed. Human infants are the most perfect, and yet the most helpless, of all, and, therefore, their mothers should be instructed in regard to physical laws so as to be capable of rearing them properly. Mothers, nature has given your infants forms which need no girts or bands to perfect them. God has supplied them with bones and muscles sufficient for their support, and to guard nature's fine machinery within, before committing them to your care. The dress of the infant should be so arranged that its body will not be the least compressed after taking a full meal. Dressing infants in a fashionable manner, to be introduced into company for visitors to admire, is very injurious to them. Their clothing is ingeniously arranged to make the child miserably uncomfortable, and it is frequently made still more uneasy by passing from one to the other, being fondled by all.

But there is an evil greater than those already named. The infant is exposed to a vitiated air, caused by many breaths, some of which are very offensive and injurious to the strong lungs of older people. The infant lungs suffer, and become diseased by inhaling the atmosphere of a room poisoned by the tobacco user's tainted breath. Many infants are poisoned beyond remedy by sleeping in beds with their tobacco-using fathers. By inhaling the poisonous tobacco effluvia, which is thrown from the lungs and pores of the skin, the system of the infant is filled with poison. While it acts upon some infants as a slow poison, and affects the brain, heart, liver, and lungs, and they waste away and fade gradually, upon others, it has a more direct influence, causing spasms, fits, paralysis, and sudden death. The bereaved parents mourn the loss of their loved ones, and wonder at the mysterious providence of God which has so cruelty afflicted them, when Providence designed not the death of these infants. They died martyrs to filthy lust for tobacco. Every exhalation of the lungs of the tobacco slave, poisons the air about him. Infants should be kept free from everything which would have an influence to excite the nervous system, and should, whether waking or sleeping, day and night, breathe a pure, cleanly, healthy atmosphere, free from every taint of poison.

Another great cause of mortality among infants and youth, is the custom of leaving their arms and shoulders naked. This fashion cannot be too severely censured. It has cost the life of thousands. The air, bathing the arms and limbs, and circulating about the armpits, chills these sensitive portions of the body, so near the vitals, and hinders the healthy circulation of the blood and induces disease, especially of the lungs and brain. Those who regard the health of their children of more value than the flattery of visitors, or the admiration of strangers, will ever clothe the shoulders and arms of their tender infants. The mother's attention has been frequently called to the purple arms and hands of her child, and she has been cautioned in regard to this health-and-life-destroying practice; and the answer has always been “I always dress my children in this manner. They get used to it. I cannot endure to see the arms of infants covered. It looks old-fashioned.”

These mothers dress their delicate infants as they would not venture to dress themselves. They know that if their own arms were exposed without a covering they would shiver with chilliness. Infants of a tender age cannot endure this process of hardening without receiving injury. Some children may have at their birth so strong constitutions that they can endure such abuse without its costing them life; yet thousands are sacrificed, and tens of thousands have the foundation laid for a short, invalid life, by the custom of bandaging and surfeiting the body with much clothing, while the arms which are at such distance from the seat of life, and for that cause need even more clothing than the chest and lungs, are left naked. Can mothers expect to have quiet and healthy infants, who thus treat them?

When the limbs and arms are chilled, the blood is driven from these parts to the lungs and head. The circulation is unbalanced, and nature's fine machinery does not move harmoniously. The system of the infant is deranged, and it cries and mourns because of the abuse it is compelled to suffer. The mother feeds it, thinking it must be hungry, when food only increases its suffering. Tight bands and an over-loaded stomach do not agree. It has no room to breathe. It may scream, struggle and pant for breath, and yet the mother mistrust not the cause. She could relieve the sufferer at once, at least of tight bandages, if she understood the nature of the case. She at length becomes alarmed and thinks her child really ill, and summons a doctor, who looks gravely upon the infant for a few moments, and then deals out poisonous medicines, or something called a soothing cordial, which the, mother, faithful to directions, pours down the throat of the abused infant. If it was not diseased in reality before, it is after this process. It suffers now from drug disease, the most stubborn and incurable of all diseases. If it recovers, it must bear about more or less in its system the effects of that poisonous drug, and it is liable to spasms, heart disease, dropsy of the brain, or consumption. Some infants are not strong enough to bear even a trifle of drug poisons, and as nature rallies to meet the intruder, the vital forces of the tender infant are too severely taxed, and death ends the scene.

It is no strange sight in this age of the world, to view the mother lingering around the cradle of her suffering, dying infant, her heart torn with anguish, as she listens to its feeble wail, and witnesses its expiring struggles. It seems mysterious to her that God should thus afflict her innocent child. But she does not think that her wrong course has brought about the sad result. She just as surely destroyed her infant's hold on life as though she had purposely given it poison. Disease never comes without a cause. The way is first prepared, and disease invited by disregarding the laws of health. God does not take pleasure in the sufferings and death of little children. He commits them to parents, for them to educate physically, mentally, and morally, and train them for unselfishness here, and for Heaven at last.

If the mother remains in ignorance in regard to the physical wants of her child, and, as the result, her child sickens, she need not expect that God will work a miracle to counteract her agency in making it sick. Thousands of infants have died who might have lived. They are martyrs to their parent's ignorance of the relation which food, dress, and the air they breathe, sustain to health and life. Mothers should be physicians to their own children. The time she devotes to the extra beautifying of her infant's wardrobe, she should spend in educating her mind with regard to her own physical wants, and that of her offspring. She should store her mind with useful knowledge in regard to the best course to pursue in rearing her children healthfully.

Mothers who have fretful infants, should study into the cause of their uneasiness. By so doing, they will often see that something is wrong in their management. It is often the case that the mother becomes alarmed by the symptoms of illness manifested by her child, and hurriedly summons a physician, when the infant's sufferings can be relieved by taking off its tight clothing, and putting upon it garments properly loose and short, that it may use its feet and limbs. Mothers should study from cause to effect. If the child has taken cold, it is generally owing to the wrong management of the mother. If she covers its head, as well as its body, while sleeping, in a short time it will be in a perspiration, caused by labored breathing, because of the lack of pure, vital air. When she takes it from beneath the covering, it is almost sure to take cold. The arms being naked, exposes the infant to constant cold, and congestion of the lungs or brain. These exposures prepare the way for the infant to become sickly and dwarfed.

Parents are accountable in a great degree, for the physical health of their children. Those children who survive the abuses of their infancy, are not out of danger in their childhood. Their parents still pursue a wrong course toward them. Their limbs, as well as their arms, are left almost naked. Mothers dress the upper part of their limbs with muslin drawers, which reach about to the knee, while the lower part of their limbs are covered with only one thickness of flannel or cotton, and their feet are dressed with thin soled gaiter boots. The extremities are chilled, and the heart has thrown upon it double labor, to force the blood into these chilled extremities, and when the blood has performed its circuit through the body, and returned to the heart, it is not the same vigorous, warm current which left it. It has been chilled in its passage through the limbs. The heart, weakened by too great labor, and poor circulation of poor blood, is then compelled to still greater exertion, to throw the blood to the extremities which are never as healthfully warm as other parts of the body. The heart fails in its efforts, and the limbs become habitually cold; and the blood, which is chilled away from the extremities, is thrown back upon the lungs and brain, and inflammation and congestion of the lungs or the brain is the result.

God holds mothers accountable for many of the diseases their children are compelled to suffer. Mothers bow at the shrine of fashion, and sacrifice the health and lives of their children. Many mothers are ignorant of the result of improperly clothing their children. But should they not inform themselves, where so much is at stake? Is ignorance a sufficient excuse for you who possess reasoning powers? You can inform yourselves if you will, and dress your children healthfully.

Parents may give up the expectation of their children's having health, while they dress them in cloaks and furs, and load down those portions of the body with clothing where there is no call for such an amount, and then leave the extremities, that should have especial protection, almost naked. The portions of the body, close by the life springs, need less covering than the limbs which are remote from the vital organs. If the limbs and feet could have the extra coverings usually put upon the shoulders, lungs, and heart, and healthy circulation be induced to the extremities, the vital organs would act their part healthfully, with only their share of clothing.

I appeal to you, mothers; do you not feel alarmed at seeing your children pale and dwarfed, suffering with catarrh, influenza, croup, scrofula swellings appearing upon the face and neck, inflammation and congestion of lungs and brain? Have you studied from cause to effect? Have you provided for them a simple, nutritious diet, free from grease and spices? Have you not been dictated by fashion in clothing your children? Leaving their arms and limbs insufficiently protected has been the cause of a vast amount of disease and premature deaths. There is no reason why the feet and limbs of your girls should not be, in every way, as warmly clad as those of your boys. Boys, accustomed to exercise out of doors, become inured to cold and exposure, and are actually less liable to colds when thinly clad than the girls, because the open air seems to be their natural element. Delicate girls accustom themselves to live in-doors, and in a heated atmosphere, and yet they go from the heated room out of doors with their limbs and feet seldom better protected from the cold than while remaining in a close, warm room. The air soon chills their limbs and feet, and prepares the way for disease.

Your girls should wear the waists of their dresses perfectly loose, and they should have a style of dress convenient, comfortable, and modest. In cold weather they should wear warm flannel or cotton drawers, which can be placed inside the stockings. Over these should be warm, lined pants. Their dress should reach below the knee. With this style of dress, one light skirt, or at most two, is all that is necessary, and these should be buttoned to a waist. The shoes should be thick-soled and perfectly comfortable. With this style of dress, your girls will be no more in danger in the open air than your boys. And their health would be much better, were they to live more out of doors, even in winter, than to be confined to the close air of a room heated by a stove.

It is a sin in the sight of Heaven for parents to dress their children as some do. The only excuse that they can make is, it is fashion. They cannot plead modesty to thus expose the limbs of their children with only one covering drawn tight over them. They cannot plead that it is healthful, or really attractive. Because others will continue to follow this health-and-life-destroying practice, it is no excuse for those who style themselves reformers. Because everybody around you follows a fashion which is injurious to health, it will not make your sin a whit the less, or be any guarantee for the health and life of your children.

E. G. W.

January 1, 1872

Beware of the Spare Bed

In our itinerant life we have suffered much by sleeping in beds that were not daily used. Beds that are not daily exposed to the air and sunlight, will gather dampness. And there are but very few who understand the necessity of having the sun and air come freely into their sleeping rooms, that bed and bedding may be kept perfectly dry and free from impurities.

Beds that have been left unused for days, and even weeks, in the damp season of the year are dangerous to the health and life of those who sleep in them. When visitors are expected, the parlor stove may be for the first time set up, and a fire kindled in it, and the parlor bedroom opened. And this is considered sufficient preparation to make the friends comfortable. But the bed and bedding, if not carefully separated and aired, are not safe for any one to use.

I have had a very afflicting experience in sleeping in damp beds. I slept with my infant two months old in a north bedroom. The bed had not been used for two weeks. A fire was kindled in the room, and this was considered all that was necessary. Next morning, I felt that I had taken cold. My babe seemed to be in great pain when moved. His face began to swell, and he was afflicted with erysipelas of the most aggravating form. My dear babe was a great sufferer for four weeks, and finally died, a martyr to the damp bed.

A few weeks later, I accompanied my husband to fill appointments in several places. In four of these places we had the misfortune to be assigned the spare bed in rooms opening from the parlor. The stove was set up in the parlor adjoining these bedrooms the very day we were expected. Dampness had entered every part of these unheated, unventilated rooms. The windows had not been raised, and were carefully covered with paper curtains, and outside of these drapery, and the blinds were carefully closed. The air had not been permitted to circulate freely through the house, and the precious sunlight was excluded as though it was an enemy. Why was there need of windows at all when they were not used? It would have saved expense to have made these houses without windows. Our good-hearted friends received us cordially, and we should have enjoyed our visit, had it not been for the dreaded spare bed.

At the first two places we visited, we took severe colds by sleeping in their damp, unused beds, and we suffered greatly with rheumatism; but tried to fill our appointments. In the third damp bed, we lay nearly one hour trying to get warm; but the clothing was literally wet. We were under the unpleasant necessity of calling our friends; for we felt that it would be positively fatal to life and health to remain in that damp bed. Our friends cheerfully renewed their fires, and the bedding was removed from the bed and thoroughly dried.

We returned home from that journey, and exposure, to suffer for months. I feared that I should be a cripple for life. My husband was afflicted with pain in the chest and lungs, and he had a severe cough for months. After three months of almost helpless suffering, and careful treatment, by the mercy of God, I was able to walk.

We have been exposed on our late journey to “death in the spare bed.” We have taken colds, which have settled upon the lungs, causing soreness of the flesh. Since our fears have been aroused, we have been careful, and have been under the necessity of close questioning in regard to our beds. In some cases, we have removed the bed clothing, and have dried it by the fire, before we ventured to sleep. This may have given the impression that we were very particular, and perhaps notional. We own that we are particular. We value life which God has preserved, by a miracle of his mercy, from the death in the spare, damp, and moldy beds.

In the case of all these beds, where the air has not circulated through the rooms daily, the bedding should be removed and thoroughly dried by the fire, before being slept in. Sleeping rooms should have the windows raised everyday, and the air should circulate freely through the rooms. The curtains should be withdrawn from the windows. The blinds should be fastened back. And the blessed sunlight should thus be invited in, to brighten and purify every bedroom in the house.

The Northwestern Christian Advocate speaks touchingly upon this subject under the caption of

“Death in the Spare Bed

“On one occasion, having need to see a minister early the morning after conference adjourned, I went to his boarding place, one of the choicest in the city. He and his room-mate were making their toilet, and revealed their presence by hoarse and almost incessant coughing. Their entertainment had been most hospitable; but they had been assigned to the ‘spare room,’ in that case an elegant apartment, reserved for favored guests. The spacious and yielding bed had an inviting look, but a damp and moldy smell. Indeed, the whole apartment revealed an alarming unfamiliarity with sunshine. But it was the ‘best room,’ and any intimation from them that both room and bed were damp had seemed rude and ungrateful. So they occupied the room and bed, and contracted colds, from the effects of which one has since died, and the other still suffers.

“Said a pale and haggard sufferer not long since, ‘I think I should be able to visit my appointments at least a few times more, if friends would not persist in putting me away in their chilly spare rooms and damp beds.’ When such cases have run their course, doctors may say, ‘died of hepatized lungs;’ but more will understand them if they say, ‘died of sleeping in spare beds.’

“The motives of good people cannot be questioned; but unwittingly they literally ‘kill with kindness.’ In the name of the brotherhood, I protest if we are to occupy the ‘spare room,’ and sleep in the ‘spare bed,’ they should be dry and well aired. We certainly do not elect to be suicides from courtesy, and you would not give us death for a bed-fellow!“

E. G. W.

«Back «Prev. Pub. «Article   Article» Next Pub.» Forward»