Hints from the Health Department. Leaflet from the archive of the Society of Medical Officers of Health. Credit: Wellcome Collection, London
Annual report on the public health of Finsbury for the year 1910
4. A case of twins. One was asleep clad in wet, dirty and
insufficient clothes, the other was crying and hungry. The room
was dark and cold—there was very little coke fire. The mother
was shown how best to clothe and wash them.
Cleanliness.—To show the mothers how to safely and properly
wash their infants is one of the most acceptable duties of the
health visitors, and it is a service that is much appreciated
by the mothers, and especially by those mothers with their first
children. Mothers who have had many know, of course, from
experience; but the young mother with her first child is almost
helpless. This is one of the lessons in which they seem to take
the greatest interest; it is one of the weighing centre lectures
which is most valued and best attended.
The difficulties encountered are exemplified in the following
1. A mother, feeble minded, with twins and afraid to wash
them. Every utensil in the house, so far as could be ascertained,
was extremely dirty. The beds were not made, the windows not
opened at 12.30 midday. The bedclothes and other clothes were
2. A baby, 3 months old, being bathed by a child of 14 years,
who had accompanied her mother to the weighing centre and
learnt how to do it there. The mother was out at work, the
father was unemployed.
3. A mother, 23 years, ignorant and indolent, getting out
of bed at 11 a.m. The room was extremely dirty, the baby was
very dirty and unwashed. She had had two children, of whom
the first died. She said she would be glad to learn how to rear
her children and to keep them clean.
Many of the babies were verminous—one, 6 months old, had
its hair caked and infested with lice. In these cases the bedding
is all turned out and disinfected, the ticking is boiled and cleansed,
and the room fumigated.