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Life and Health

June 1, 1905

Healthful Dress for Children

Mrs. E. G. White

How to Dress the Babies

Mothers should dress their babies with reference to health. In the preparation of the little one's wardrobe, convenience and comfort should be sought before fashion or a desire to excite admiration. The mother often spends much time in embroidery and fancy work to make the little garments beautiful, doing this unnecessary work at the expense of her own health and that of the child. She bends over sewing that severely taxes eyes and nerves, when she should be enjoying pleasant exercise; and often she does not realize her obligation to cherish her strength, that she may be able to meet the demands that will be made upon her.

These garments which have consumed so much time are often wholly unfit to be placed on the little one, if its health is regarded. They are extravagantly long, preventing the free use of the muscles; and in addition, the body is girded with tight bands or waists, which hinder the action of the heart and lungs.

Many mothers think it necessary to compress the bodies of their infants to keep them in shape, as if, without tight bandages, they would be in danger of falling to pieces or becoming deformed. Are lambs and other young animals deformed because nature is left to do her work unhindered?—No; they are delicately and beautifully formed, and need no bands to give them shape. And God has molded the forms of babies also, and supplied them with bones and muscles sufficient for their support and to guard the delicate organs and limbs, before committing them to a mother's care. The infant should be dressed so that its body will not be the least compressed after taking a full meal. But often its clothing is ingeniously arranged to make it miserably uncomfortable.

Another wrong practise in the dressing of babies, which still prevails in some countries, is the custom of leaving bare the shoulders and arms. The air, coming in direct contact with the arms and circulating about the armpits, chills the sensitive portions of the body, and hinders the circulation of the blood. If the mother's neck and arms were thus exposed, she would shiver with cold; and how can she think that a delicate babe can endure the exposure? Some children may have at birth so strong a constitution that they can endure these exposures and live; but thousands of lives are sacrificed, and in tens of thousands of cases, the foundation is laid for a short invalid life, by bandaging the trunk and loading it with clothing while the shoulders and arms are left naked. The custom can not be too severely censured.

Mothers who thus treat a tender infant can not expect it to be quiet and healthy. The child frets and cries, and the mother, thinking it must be hungry, feeds it; but food only increases its suffering. Tight bands allow it no room to breathe. It screams, struggles, and pants for breath, and yet the mother does not suspect the cause.

The first garments to be worn by the child should be made of fine, soft material, with long sleeves, and little loose bodices, or waists, to support them from the shoulders. Thus warmth, protection, and comfort will be secured, and one of the chief causes of irritation and restlessness will be removed. The baby will have better health, and the mother will not find the care of her child so heavy a tax on her strength and time.

The Dress of Older Children

The waists of growing girls should not be compressed, or the limbs left with but slight protection, at an age when the forces of nature need every advantage to enable them to perfect the physical frame. With this insufficient protection, the girls can not be out of doors much unless the weather is mild. So they are kept in, often in ill-ventilated rooms, for fear of the cold. If they were comfortably clothed, it would benefit them to exercise freely in the open air, summer or winter.

Little boys also are often dressed so as to leave the lower limbs with far less protection than the upper part of the body. The limbs, being remote from the center of circulation, demand greater protection instead of less. They were not made to endure exposure, as was the face.

The arteries that convey the blood to the extremities are large, providing for a sufficient quantity of blood to afford warmth and nutrition. But when the limbs are insufficiently clad, the arteries and veins become contracted. Double labor is thrown upon the heart to force the blood into these chilled extremities. Weakened by too great labor, the heart gradually fails in its efforts. The limbs are never so healthfully warm as other parts of the body, and they soon become habitually cold, and, through lack of nutrition, do not attain their natural development. The blood, chilled away from the extremities, is thrown back upon the brain, the lungs, and other vital organs, and inflammation or congestion is the result.

Mothers who desire their boys and girls to possess the vigor of health, should dress them properly. Turn away from the fashion-plates, and study the human organism. It will require effort to break away from the chains of custom, and dress and educate the children with reference to health; but the result will amply repay the cost. When the children are properly dressed, they can go out in the open air, and enjoy health and happiness; and they will secure the physical development that will be a blessing to them to the end of life.

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