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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/349

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PHYSICAL EDUCATION.

activity (or emotion), or by the process of rapid assimilation, as during the first years of growth and during the recovery from an exhausting disease. The weight of a new-born child increases more rapidly than that of a eupeptic adult, enjoying a liberal diet after a period of starvation, and, though an infant is incapable of forming abstract ideas, we need not doubt that the variety of new and bewildering impressions must overtask its little sensorium in a few hours. Nurslings should therefore be permitted to sleep to their full satisfaction; weakly babies, especially, need sleep more than food, and it is the safest plan never to disturb a child's slumber while the regularity of his breathing indicates the healthfulness of his repose; there is little danger of his "oversleeping" himself in a moderately warmed, well-ventilated room. Never mind about meal-times: hunger will awaken him at the right moment, or teach him to make up for lost time. Three or four nursings in the twenty-four hours are enough; Dr. C. E. Page, who has made the problem of infant diet his special study, believes that fifty per cent, of the enormous number of children dying under two years of age are killed by being coaxed to guzzle till they are hopelessly diseased with fatty degeneration.[1]

The healthfulness of village-children is partly due to the tranquillity of their slumber in the comfortable nooks of a quiet homestead, or in the shade of a leafy tree, while their parents are at work in a way rather incompatible with the habit of fondling the baby all night. In houses where there is plenty of room, the nursery and the infant's dormitory ought to be two separate apartments: the play-room can not be too sunny; for the bedroom a shady and sequestered location is, on the whole, preferable. Next to out-door exercise, silence and a subdued light are the best hypnotics. But under no circumstances should insomnia be overcome by cradling or narcotics. Stupefaction is not slumber. The lethargy induced by rocking and cradling is akin to the drowsy torpor of a sea-sick passenger, and the opium-doctor might as well benumb his patient by a whack on the head. The morbid sleeplessness of children may be owing to several causes which can be generally recognized by the symptoms of their modus operandi; impatient turning from side to side, as if in a vain attempt to obtain a much-needed repose, means that the room is too stuffy or too warm; long wakefulness, combined with squalling-fits and petulant movements, indicates acidity in the stomach (overfeeding, or too much "soothing-sirup")—let the little kicker exercise his muscle on the floor; in malignant cases, skip a meal or two, or give water instead of

  1. "The only wonder is that any infant lives sixty days from birth. Fed before birth but three times a day he is after birth subjected to ten or twenty meals in the twenty-four hours, until chronic dyspepsia or some acute disease interferes. . . . So far from admitting a possible error in advising three meals only, I am convinced that, for a hand fed baby especially, two would often be better than three." ("How to feed a Baby to make it healthy and happy," p. 55.)