83. szám // 2021. Tisztaság fél egészség?
Csecsemőfürdetési tanácsok a 20. század eleji magyar gyermekápolási irodalomban
Enameled Bathtubs and Wooden Troughs: Infant Bathing Counselling in the Hungarian Child Care Literature of the Early Twentieth Century
Bathing and cleaning a baby is part of the daily routines of infant care. However, the precise method of bathing infants is far from self-explanatory: after questions of nutrition, bathing was the leading topic in the increasing number of infant care publications around the turn of the twentieth century. No longer treating them as intuitive routine activities, definitive prescriptions were drawn up, which considered bathing (and infant care in general) a skill that can be both learned and mismanaged. A prescriptive narrative emerged, whereby a well-intentioned but ignorant mother, untrained in the scientifically proven methods of bathing, could endanger not only the life of her own child, but the health of the entire nation.
The study of publications targeting parents ‒ the School for Mothers pamphlets and textbooks for healthcare workers such as the Guide for Mother- and Infant Healthcare Workers ‒ provides an insight into various discourses related to public health and parenting. The advice dispensed reveals the conflict between the popular tradition about the routine and details of bathing (at least of the first bath of a newborn) and the considerations of modern science and antiseptic medicine. At the beginning of the twentieth century, this, too, raised the question whose duty and competence infant care routines such as bathing were. Who had the right to prescribe and control these routines? Finally, what concerns and theories should inform basic infant hygiene guidance and what are the long-term public health and pedagogical aims that they were meant to serve.