Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

When Childhood Was `Simple'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

When Childhood Was `Simple'

Article excerpt

BREAST OR bottle - it remains one of the central questions each new mother has to answer for herself.

But no matter what factors she considers, at least she does not have to calculate the difference between using milk from one dependable cow or a milk from a herd.

Anna Steese Richardson favored a healthy herd in order to spread the risk around. "Baby ailments," she cautioned, "have been traced to the milk which came from a cow that was chased by a dog and became overheated."

Now we chuckle. But back in 1914, when Richardson wrote her pamphlet "What Every Mother Wants To Know About Her Baby," "summer complaint" - a group of digestive ailments thought to be associated with bad milk - accounted for about 200,000 infant deaths a year in the United States. No wonder her readers were eager for tips on:

How to prepare milk ("with infinite care and cleanliness").

How to pasteurize milk at home.

How to build your own refrigerator.

My friend Jane recently stumbled across the pamphlet, which Richardson prepared for the Better Babies Bureau of Woman's Home Companion magazine. Today, it's every bit as engrossing as it must have been to Richardson's readers, if not exactly for the same reasons.

It's fascinating to see how much of her advice still makes sense. If your baby screams through bath-time, by all means, check to see if the water is too hot or too cold. When rashes occur, avoid clothes that are starchy or edged with trims that chafe. Get your baby vaccinated. (Richardson, of course, was talking only about smallpox, but the idea remains the same: "Take no chances.")

She even sounds sensible and modern when she is discussing issues that no longer ring any bells. For example, she was firmly against the practice of swathing a baby's face in veils. There are better ways, she assures her readers, to shield the baby from harsh sunlight or drafts.

Drafts - actually, "draughts" - were a big issue for Richardson. Sometimes they conflicted with another big concern, "airing. …

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