Written by Carolyn Castiglia for Babble.com
Previously I introduced you to the 1870 advice book The Physical Life of Woman. In it, Dr. George H. Napheys shared advice for "the maiden, wife and mother" that proved indispensable for ladies of his day. His advice on dating, love, marriage and divorce proved quite entertaining to read, and though much of it is laughably outdated, there are plenty of nuggets that still hold true.
Napheys's advice on pregnancy and nursing is -- on the other hand -- totally insane (see below), but much of his child-rearing advice still applies. I especially love his take on child discipline. Enjoy:
On a mother's influence over what the baby looks like
A lady in the third month of her pregnancy was very much horrified by her husband being brought home one evening with a severe wound of the face, from which the blood was streaming. The shock to her was so great that she fainted, and subsequently had a hysterical attack, during which she was under Dr. Hammond's care. Soon after her recovery she told him that she was afraid her child would be affected in some way, and that even then she could not get rid of the impression the sight of her husband's bloody face had made upon her. In due time the child, a girl, was born. She had a dark red mark upon the face, corresponding in situation and extent with that which had been upon her father's face. She also proved to be idiotic.
How to ensure the sex of your baby
Whenever intercourse has taken place in from two to six days after the cessation of the menses, girls have been produced; and whenever intercourse has taken place in from nine to twelve days after the cessation of the menses, boys have been produced.
Don't worry about labor -- or else
A tranquil mind is of the first importance to the pregnant woman. Gloomy forebodings should not be encouraged. Pregnancy and labor are not, we repeat, diseased conditions. They are healthful processes, and should be looked upon as such by every woman. Bad labors are very infrequent. It is as foolish to dread them, as it is for the railway traveller to give way to misgivings in regard to his safety. Instead of desponding, science bids the woman to look forward with cheerfulness and hope to the joys of maternity.
How to have beautiful children
During pregnancy the mother should often have some painting or engraving representing cheerful and beautiful figures before her eyes, or often contemplate some graceful statue. She should avoid looking at, or thinking of ugly people, or those marked with disfiguring diseases. She should take every precaution to escape injury, fright, and disease of any kind, especially chicken-pox, erysipelas, or such disorders as leave marks on the person. She should keep herself well nourished, as want of food nearly always injures the child. She should avoid ungraceful positions and awkward attitudes, as by some mysterious sympathy these are impressed on the child she carries. Let her cultivate grace and beauty in herself at such a time, and she will endow her child with them. As anger and irritability leave imprints on the features, she should maintain serenity and calmness.
On having smart kids
It is a matter of daily observation, that parents gifted with bright minds, cultivated by education, generally engender intelligent children; while the offspring of those steeped in ignorance are stupid from birth. It may be objected, that men the most remarkable in ancient or modern times, as Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Shakspeare, Milton, Buffon, Cuvier, etc., have not transmitted their vast intellectual powers to their progeny. In explanation, it has been stated that what is known as genius is not transmissible. The creation of a man of genius seems to require a special effort of Nature, after which, as if fatigued, she reposes a long time before again making a similar effort.
It has been asserted that compound pregnancies are more frequent in certain years than in others. But that which seems to exert the greatest actual influence over the production of twins is the age of the mother. Very extensive statistics have demonstrated that, from the earliest child-bearing period until the age of forty is reached, the fertility of mothers in twins gradually increases. Between the ages of twenty and thirty, fewest wives have twins. The average age of the twin-bearer is older than the general run of bearers. It is well known that by far the greater number of twins are born of elderly women. While three-fifths of all births occur among women under thirty years of age, three-fifths of all the twins are born to those over thirty years of age. Newly-married women are more likely to have twins at the first labour the older they are. The chance that a young wife from fifteen to nineteen shall bear twins is only as one to one hundred and eighty-nine; from thirty-five to thirty-nine the chance is as one to forty-five,--that is, the wives married youngest have fewest twins; and there is an increase as age advances, until forty is reached.
Race seems to have some influence over plural births. They occur relatively oftener among the Irish than among the English.
On how to get your figure back after the baby is born
This is a matter of great anxiety with many women; and it is proper that it should be, for a flabby, pendulous abdomen is not only destructive to grace of movement and harmony of outline, but is a positive inconvenience. To avoid it, be careful not to leave the bed too early. If the walls of the abdomen are much relaxed, the bed should be kept from two to three weeks. Gentle frictions daily with spirits and water will give tone to the muscles. But the most important point is to wear for several months a well-fitting bandage--not a towel pinned around the person, but a body-case of strong linen, cut bias, setting snugly to the form, but not exerting unpleasant pressure.
Rules for nursing
The new-born child should be nursed about every second hour during the day, and not more than once or twice at night. Too much ardor may be displayed by the young mother in the performance of her duties. Not knowing the fact that an infant quite as frequently cries from being overfed as from want of nourishment, she is apt to give it the breast at every cry, day and night. In this manner her health is broken down, and she is compelled perhaps to wean her child, which, with more prudence and knowledge, she might have continued to nurse without detriment to herself. It is particularly important that the child shall acquire the habit of not requiring the breast more than once or twice at night. This, with a little perseverance, can readily be accomplished, so that the hours for rest at night, so much needed by the mother, may not be interfered with.
On the influence of breastmilk
Nervous agitation may so alter the quality of the milk as to make it poisonous. A fretful temper, fits of anger, grief, anxiety of mind, fear, and sudden terror, not only lessen the quantity of the milk, but render it thin and unhealthful, inducing disturbances of the child's bowels, diarrhœa, griping, and fever. Intense mental emotion may even so alter the milk as to cause the death of the child. A physician states, in the Lancet, that, having removed a small tumour from behind the ear of a mother, all went on well until she fell into a violent passion. The child being suckled soon afterwards, it died in convulsions.
On bathing the baby
An infant should be immersed in its tub every morning. Besides the regular morning bath, it is often advisable to put the child for a few minutes in tepid water in the evening. This will quiet the nervous system, and induce sleep. The bath should not be too long a one, for fear of exciting perspiration; nor, for the same reason, should the water be too warm. If the child be of a delicate constitution, the evening bath will be especially useful, and can be made more so by the addition of two table-spoonfuls of salt to the water necessary for the bath.
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