As the child grew, regulated contact could be tolerated. "At the age of two weeks, the child may be systematically carried about in the arms 2 to 3 times a
day, as a means of furnishing additional change in position," is the precise advice of Dr. JP Crozer Griffith in 1900.
Even bowel movements were regimented. "Children under one year of age should have two movements of the bowels in the twenty-four hours, and those from one
to three years at least one stool a day," wrote Napheys. Should the baby not conform to these healthy perimeters, the same books prescribed any number of
enemas, draughts, and oils to make things more shipshape.
As for "crying it out," the advice of the early manuals was unanimous. A spoiled baby will be miserable its entire life, prone to hysterics and weakness,
unable to cope with the life's hard turns. And the first and worst way to spoil a baby is to hold it when it cries. Per the Sadlers:
We run into many snags when we undertake to discipline the nervous baby. The first is that it will sometimes cry so hard that it will get black in the
face and may even have a convulsion; occasionally a small blood vessel may be ruptured on some part of the body, usually the face. When you see the little
one approaching this point, turn it over and administer a sound spanking and it will instantly catch its breath.
There comes a time in every parent's journey, when, after doing everything they can, they simply must close the door on a secured but screaming baby and
walk away. Few make a habit of it, and fewer still would see their newborn's face turning black and convulsing with ruptured blood vessels as a "snag"
worthy of a spanking.
Dr. Rima Apple is a professor emerita of human ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the author of
Perfect motherhood: Science and childrearing in America
. When I talked to Dr. Apple about the bizarre parenting practices of the past, one of the first things she asked me to do was stop using the word
Searchlights on Health
Because those parents, and those experts, they weren't stupid. Apple summed it up in a single sentence: "It made sense in their time."
According to the CDC, in the year 1900, 10 to 30 percent of all American babies born
died before their first birthday. They died from things we don't think about. They died because their drinking water was too close to their sewers. Because
the cow's milk they drank was unpasteurized. They died of measles and whooping cough and all the diseases that now cause four minutes of hard crying in a
nurse's office and a Batman Band-Aid, instead of death. That was the time these writers, and the mothers they wrote for, lived in.
They were frightened.
They didn't know why their babies died, or screamed, or sickened; and they clung desperately to anyone who claimed to have the knowledge to prevent it.