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Page:Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.djvu/2111

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Duties of the Head Nurse.—The nursery is of great importance in every family; and in families of distinction, where there are several young children, it is an establishment kept apart from the rest of the family, under the charge of an upper nurse, assisted by under nursery-maids proportioned to the work to be done. The responsible duties of upper nursemaid commence with the weaning of the child. It must now be separated from the mother or wet-nurse, at least for a time, and the cares of the nurse, which have hitherto been only occasionally put in requisition, are now to be entirely devoted to the infant. She washes, dresses, and feeds it; walks out with it; supplies and regulates all its wants; and, even at this early age, many good qualities are requisite to perform these duties in a satisfactory manner. Patience and good temper are indispensable; truthfulness, purity of manners, minute cleanliness, and docility and obedience are almost as essential. The nurse ought also to be acquainted with the art of ironing and getting up small fine things, and be handy with her needle.

Carrying Infants.—There is a considerable art in carrying an infant with comfort to itself and to the nursemaid. If it is carried always seated upright on her arm and pressed too closely against her chest, the stomach of the child is apt to get compressed, and the back fatigued. For her own comfort, a good nurse will frequently vary this position by changing the child from one arm to the other, and sometimes by laying it across both, raising the head a little. When teaching it to walk, and guiding it by the hand, she should change the hand from time to time, to avoid raising one shoulder higher than the other. This is the only way in which a child should be taught to walk; leading-strings and other foolish inventions, which force an infant to make efforts, with its shoulders and head forward, before it knows how to use its limbs, will only render it feeble, and retard its progress.

Bad Habits.—Most children have some bad habit, of which they must be broken; but this is never accomplished by harshness without developing worse evils. Kindness, perseverance, and patience in the nurse, are here of the utmost importance. When finger-sucking is one of these habits, the fingers should be rubbed with bitter aloes, or some equally disagreeable substance. Others have dirty habits, which are only to be changed by patience, perseverance, and, above all, by regularity in the nurse. She should never be permitted to inflict punishment on these occasions, or, indeed, on any occasion. But, if punishment is prohibited, it is still more necessary that all kinds of indulgence and flattery be equally forbidden. To yield to all the whims of a child to pick up its toys when thrown away in mere wantonness, etc., is extremely foolish. A child should never be led to think others inferior to it, to beat a dog or even the stone against which it has fallen, as some children are taught to do by silly nurses. Neither should the nurse affect or show alarm at any of the little accidents must inevitably happen; if a child fall, treat the incident as a