Bringing Up Baby

Kingsley Water Baby

As advised by Mrs Beeton in the 1880 edition of her Household Management:

First: The Crying Baby – a ‘vexed question’ between mother and nurse

The mother, in her natural anxiety, maintaining that her infant must be ill to cause it to cry so much or so often, and the nurse insisting that all children cry and that nothing is the matter with it and that crying does good and is, indeed, an especial benefit to infancy.  The anxious and unfamiliar mother [gives] the nurse credit for more knowledge and experience on this head than she can have, contentedly resigns herself to the infliction as a thing necessary to be endured for the good of the baby, but thinking it at the same time an extraordinary instance of the imperfectability of Nature as regards the human infant; for her mind wanders to what she has observed in her childhood with puppies and kittens who, except when rudely torn from their nurse, seldom give utterance to any complaining.

We undoubtedly believe that crying, to a certain extent, is not only conducive to health, but positively necessary to the full development and physical economy of the infant’s being.  But though holding this opinion, we are far from believing that a child does not very often cry from pain, thirst, want of food, and attention to its personal comfort; but there is as much difference in the tone and expression of a child’s cry as in the notes of an adult’s voice; and the mother’s ear will not be long in discriminating between the sharp peevish whine of irritation and fever, and the louder intermitting cry that characterizes the want of warmth and sleep.  All these shades of expression in the child’s inarticulate voice every nurse should understand, and every mother will soon teach herself to interpret them with an accuracy equal to language…


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