Selected Messages Book 2


Chapter 5

In this age of degeneracy, children are born with enfeebled constitutions. Parents are amazed at the great mortality among infants and youth, and say, “it did not use to be so.” Children were then more healthy and vigorous, with far less care than is now bestowed upon them. Yet with all the care they now receive, they grow feeble, wither and die. As the result of wrong habits in parents, disease and imbecility have been transmitted to their offspring. 2SM 465.1

After their birth, they are made very much worse by careless inattention to the laws of their being. Proper management would greatly improve their physical health. But parents seldom pursue a right course toward their infant children, considering the miserable inheritance already received from them. Their wrong course toward their children results in lessening their hold of life, and prepares them for premature death. These parents had no lack of love for their children, but this love was misapplied. One great error with the mother in the treatment of her infant is, she deprives it very much of fresh air, that which it ought to have to make it strong. It is a practice of many mothers to cover their infant's heads while sleeping, and this, too, in a warm room, which is seldom ventilated as it should be. This alone is sufficient to greatly enfeeble the action of the heart and lungs, thereby affecting the whole system. While care may be needful to protect the infant from a draught of air, or from any sudden and too great change, especial care should be taken to have the child breathe a pure invigorating atmosphere. No disagreeable odor should remain in the nursery, or about the child. Such things are more dangerous to the feeble infant than to grown persons. 2SM 465.2

Mothers have been in the practice of dressing their infants in reference to fashion instead of health. The infant wardrobe is generally prepared to look prettily, more for show than for convenience and comfort. Much time is spent in embroidering, and in unnecessary fancy work, to make the garments of the little stranger beautiful. The mother often performs this work at the expense of her own health, and that of her offspring. When she should be enjoying pleasant exercise, she is often bent over work which severely taxes eyes and nerves. And it is often difficult to arouse the mother to her solemn obligations to cherish her own strength, for her own good, as well as that of the child. 2SM 465.3

Show and fashion are the demon altar upon which many American women sacrifice their children. The mother places upon the little morsel of humanity the fashionable dresses which she had spent weeks in making, which are wholly unfit for its use, if health is to be regarded of any account. The garments are made extravagantly long, and in order to keep them upon the infant, its body is girted with tight bands, or waists, which hinder the free action of the heart and lungs. Infants are also compelled to bear a needless weight because of the length of their garments, and thus clothed, they do not have free use of their muscles and limbs. 2SM 466.1

Mothers have thought it necessary to compress the bodies of their infant children to keep them in shape, as though fearful that without tight bandages, they would fall in pieces, or become deformed. Do the animal creation become deformed because nature is left to do her own work? Do the little lambs become deformed because they are not girted about with bands to give them shape? They are delicately and beautifully formed. Human infants are the most perfect, and yet the most helpless, of all the Creator's handiwork, and, therefore, their mothers should be instructed in regard to physical laws, so as to be capable of rearing them with physical, mental, and moral health. Mothers, nature has given your infants forms which need no girts or bands to perfect them. God has supplied them with bones and muscles sufficient for their support, and to guard nature's fine machinery within, before committing it to your care. 2SM 466.2

The dress of the infant should be so arranged that its body will not be the least compressed after taking a full meal. Dressing infants in a fashionable manner, to be introduced into company for visitors to admire, is very injurious to them. Their clothing is ingeniously arranged to make the child miserably uncomfortable, and it is frequently made still more uneasy by passing from one to the other, being fondled by all. But there is an evil greater than those already named. The infant is exposed to a vitiated air, caused by many breaths, some of which are very offensive and injurious to the strong lungs of older people. The infant lungs suffer, and become diseased by inhaling the atmosphere of a room poisoned by the tobacco-user's tainted breath. Many infants are poisoned beyond remedy by sleeping in beds with their tobacco-using fathers. By inhaling the poisonous tobacco effluvia, which is thrown from the lungs and pores of the skin, the system of the infant is filled with the poison. While it acts upon some as a slow poison, and affects the brain, heart, liver, and lungs, and they waste away and fade gradually, upon others it has a more direct influence, causing spasms, fits, paralysis, palsy, and sudden death. The bereaved parents mourn the loss of their loved ones, and wonder at the mysterious providence of God, which has so cruelly afflicted them, when Providence designed not the death of these infants. They died martyrs to the filthy lust of tobacco. Their parents ignorantly, but none the less surely, kill their infant children by the disgusting poison. Every exhalation of the lungs of the tobacco slave, poisons the air about him. Infants should be kept free from every thing which would have an influence to excite the nervous system, and should, whether waking or sleeping, day and night, breathe a pure, cleanly, healthy atmosphere, free from every taint of poison. 2SM 466.3

Another great cause of mortality among infants and youth, is the custom of leaving their arms and shoulders naked. This fashion cannot be too severely censured. It has cost the life of thousands. The air, bathing the arms and limbs, and circulating about the armpits, chills these sensitive portions of the body, so near the vitals, and hinders the healthy circulation of the blood, and induces disease, especially of the lungs and brain. Those who regard the health of their children of more value than the foolish flattery of visitors, or the admiration of strangers, will ever clothe the shoulders and arms of their tender infants. The mother's attention has been frequently called to the purple arms and hands of her child, and she has been cautioned in regard to this health and the life-destroying practice; and the answer has often been, “I always dress my children in this manner. They get used to it. I cannot endure to see the arms of infants covered. It looks old-fashioned.” These mothers dress their delicate infants as they would not venture to dress themselves. They know that if their own arms were exposed without a covering, they would shiver with chilliness. Can infants of a tender age endure this process of hardening without receiving injury? Some children may have at birth so strong constitutions that they can endure such abuse without its costing them life; yet thousands are sacrificed, and tens of thousands have the foundation laid for a short, invalid life, by the custom of bandaging and surfeiting the body with much clothing, while the arms—which are at such distance from the seat of life, and for that cause need even more clothing than the chest and lungs—are left naked. Can mothers expect to have quiet and healthy infants, who thus treat them? 2SM 467.1

When the limbs and arms are chilled, the blood is driven from these parts to the lungs and head. The circulation is impeded, and nature's fine machinery does not move harmoniously. The system of the infant is deranged, and it cries and mourns because of the abuse it is compelled to suffer. The mother feeds it, thinking it must be hungry, when food only increases its suffering. Tight bands and an overloaded stomach do not agree. It has no room to breathe. It may scream, struggle and pant for breath, and yet the mother not mistrust the cause. She could relieve the sufferer at once, at least of tight bandages, if she understood the nature of the case. She at length becomes alarmed, and thinks her child really ill, and summons a doctor, who looks gravely upon the infant a few moments and then deals out poisonous medicines, or something called a soothing cordial, which the mother, faithful to directions, pours down the throat of the abused infant. If it was not diseased in reality before, it is after this process. It suffers now from drug-disease, the most stubborn and incurable of all diseases. If it recovers, it must bear about more or less in its system the effects of that poisonous drug, and it is liable to spasms, heart disease, dropsy on the brain, or consumption. Some infants are not strong enough to bear even a trifle of drug-poisons, and as nature rallies to meet the intruder, the vital forces of the tender infant are too severely taxed, and death ends the scene. 2SM 468.1

It is no strange sight in this age of the world, to view the mother lingering around the cradle of her suffering, dying infant, her heart torn with anguish, as she listens to its feeble wail, and witnesses its expiring struggles. It seems mysterious to her, that God should thus afflict her innocent child. She does not think that her wrong course has brought about the sad result. She just as surely destroyed her infant's hold on life as though she had given it poison. Disease never comes without a cause. The way is first prepared, and disease invited by disregarding the laws of health. God does not take pleasure in the sufferings and death of little children. He commits them to parents, for them to educate physically, mentally and morally, and train them for usefulness here, and for Heaven at last. 2SM 468.2

If the mother remains in ignorance in regard to the physical wants of her child, and, as the result, her child sickens, she need not expect that God will work a miracle to counteract her agency in making it sick. Thousands of infants have died who might have lived. They are martyrs to their parent's ignorance of the relation which food, dress and the air they breathe, sustain to health and life. Mothers in past ages, should have been physicians to their own children. The time she devoted to the extra beautifying of her infant's wardrobe, she should have spent in a nobler purpose—in educating her mind with regard to her own physical wants, and that of her offspring. She should have been storing her mind with useful knowledge, in regard to the best course she could pursue in rearing her children healthfully, with the view that generations would be injured or benefited, by her course of action. 2SM 469.1

Mothers who have troublesome, fretful infants, should study into the cause of their uneasiness. By so doing, they will often see that something is wrong in their management. It is often the case, that the mother becomes alarmed by the symptoms of illness manifested by her child, and hurriedly summons a physician, when the infant's sufferings would have been relieved by taking off its tight clothing, and putting upon it garments properly loose and short, that it may use its feet and limbs. Mothers should study from cause to effect. If the child has taken cold, it is generally owing to the wrong management of the mother. If she covers its head, as well as its body while sleeping, in a short time it will be in a perspiration, caused by labored breathing, because of the lack of pure, vital air. When she takes it from beneath the covering, it is almost sure to take cold. The arms being naked, exposes the infant to constant cold, and congestion of lungs or brain. These exposures prepare the way for the infant to become sickly and dwarfed. 2SM 469.2

Parents are accountable in a great degree, for the physical health of their children. Those children who survive the abuses of their infancy, are not out of danger in their childhood. Their parents still pursue a wrong course toward them. Their limbs, as well as their arms, are left almost naked. Those who value fashion above health, place hoops upon their children. Hoops are not convenient, modest or healthful. They prevent the clothing from falling close about the body. Mothers then dress the upper part of their limbs with muslin pantalettes, which reach about to the knee, while the lower part of their limbs are covered with only one thickness of flannel or cotton, while their feet are dressed with thin-soled gaiter boots. Their garments being kept from the body by hoops, it is impossible for them to receive sufficient warmth from their clothing, and their limbs are continually bathed in cold air. The extremities are chilled, and the heart has thrown upon it double labor, to force the blood into these chilled extremities, and when the blood has performed its circuit through the body, and returned to the heart, it is not the same vigorous warm current which left it. It has been chilled in its passage through the limbs. The heart, weakened by too great labor, and poor circulation of poor blood, is then compelled to still greater exertion, to throw the blood to the extremities which are never as healthfully warm as other parts of the body. The heart fails in its efforts, and the limbs become habitually cold; and the blood, which is chilled away from the extremities, is thrown back upon the lungs and brain, and inflammation and congestion of the lungs or the brain is the result. 2SM 469.3

God holds mothers accountable for the diseases their children are compelled to suffer. Mothers bow at the shrine of fashion, and sacrifice the health and lives of their children. Many mothers are ignorant of the result of their course in thus clothing their children. But should they not inform themselves, where so much is at stake? Is ignorance a sufficient excuse for you who possess reasoning powers? You can inform yourselves if you will, and dress your children healthfully. 2SM 470.1

Parents may give up the expectation of their children's having health while they dress them in cloaks and furs, and load down those portions of the body with clothing where there is no call for such an amount, and then leave the extremities, that should have especial protection, almost naked. The portions of the body, close by the life springs, need less covering than the limbs which are remote from the vital organs. If the limbs and feet could have the extra coverings usually put upon the shoulders, lungs, and heart, and healthy circulation be induced to the extremities, the vital organs would act their part healthfully, with only their share of clothing. 2SM 470.2

I appeal to you mothers, do you not feel alarmed, and heart-sick, in seeing your children pale and dwarfed, suffering with catarrh, influenza, croup, scrofula swellings appearing upon the face and neck, inflammation and congestion of lungs and brain? Have you studied from cause to effect? Have you provided for them a simple nutritious diet, free from grease and spices? Have you not been dictated by fashion in clothing your children? Leaving their arms and limbs insufficiently protected has been the cause of a vast amount of disease and premature deaths. There is no reason why the feet and limbs of your girls, should not be in every way as warmly clad as those of your boys. Boys, accustomed to exercise out of doors, become inured to cold and exposure, and are actually less liable to colds when thinly clad, than the girls, because the open air seems to be their natural element. Delicate girls, accustom themselves to live in-doors, and in a heated atmosphere, and yet they go from the heated room out of doors with their limbs and feet seldom better protected from the cold than while remaining in a close warm room. The air soon chills their limbs and feet, and prepares the way for disease. 2SM 471.1

Your girls should wear the waists of their dresses perfectly loose, and they should have a style of dress convenient, comfortable and modest. In cold weather they should wear warm flannel or cotton drawers, which can be placed inside the stockings. Over these should be warm lined pants, which may be full, gathered into a band, and neatly button around the ankle, or taper at the bottom and meet the shoe. Their dress should reach below the knee. With this style of dress, one light skirt, or at most two, is all that is necessary, and these should be buttoned to a waist. The shoes should be thick-soled, and perfectly comfortable. With this style of dress your girls will be no more in danger in the open air than your boys. And their health would be much better, were they to live more out of doors, even in winter, than to be confined to the close air of a room heated by a stove. 2SM 471.2

It is a sin in the sight of Heaven for parents to dress their children as they do. The only excuse that they can make is, it is fashion. They cannot plead modesty to thus expose the limbs of their children with only one covering drawn tight over them. They cannot plead that it is healthful, or really attractive. Because others will continue to follow this health and life-destroying practice, it is no excuse for those who style themselves reformers. Because everybody around you follow a fashion which is injurious to health, it will not make your sin a whit the less, or be any guarantee for the health and life of your children.—How to Live, No. 5, pp. 66-74. 2SM 471.3