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Raising a Child: Then and Now (Part I- Babies’ Growth and Health)

[This is a guest post written by Risa Tanji, a Student Assistant in Special Collections & University Archives, who works primarily in the Prange Collection.]

I started researching for this blog series by comparing the Average Standard Growth chart (see chart 2-1 on p.10) published by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to the chart published in Mitsuo Moriya’s Child Raising Psychology (Prange Call No. 2019-0019). According to this data, babies in the early post-World War II years were much smaller and lighter than babies now, regardless of their gender. Though the birth weights are approximately the same, babies grow much faster now and are significantly heavier than babies in the late 1940s. In terms of height, babies are born larger and continue to grow at a faster rate nowadays, so there is an even larger difference in size.

What remains unchanged over the years, however, may be the anxiety that parents feel for their children’s health and sensitivity to their conditions. Considering the hygienic conditions and medical technology after the war, it is no surprise that there were many mothers who assumed that anything could be a sign of a deadly illness or something that causes one.

Ikuji no joshiki (Prange Call No. 2019-0013) front cover

Dr. Yasumichi Yamamoto states in his book, The Common Sense of Child Rearing (Prange Call No. 2019-0013), that night sweats and a sensitive personality were signs of diseases.  Today, babies’ night sweats are considered indications of a good metabolism and linking personalities with physical illnesses is rather uncommon. Drooling was also considered a sign of mental deficiency.  Recent research shows that drooling by infants has benefits for their immune system (Saitama Maternity Hospital, 2009).

Dr. Yamamoto claims that autotoxemia, which was uncommon during wartime, became more prevalent after the war because children were exposed to a wider variety of foods, as opposed to a limited number of foods during the war (often anything that could be scavenged).

Ikuji no joshiki (Prange Call No. 2019-0013) pp.182-183

Growing up in the city was another reason for concern in the early post-war period. It was feared that it would make children overweight, because they did not have to do physical work to obtain food.  It was also thought to worsen symptoms of catarrhal diathesis, and, ultimately, those children would grow to have a weak constitution. It is still the general consensus that living in the countryside is better for one’s health, but this does not mean that living in the city would be considered a sole cause of illnesses. 

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