Children's sleep: sketching historical change.
The brasher social historians have long contended that any human activity subject to change is open to historical inquiry, and can be illuminated by this inquiry. Sleep may prove no exception, and this article intends to help expose the subject to wider historical examination, while pinpointing one specific set of changes. Some aspects of American sleep habits altered considerably between the 19th and 20th centuries - the source of new levels of concern. Exploring this shift helps explain subsequent patterns and problems while inviting fuller understanding of how, why and to what extent 19th-century sleep was so different. After establishing the surprisingly distinctive 19th-century baseline, we move to the first signs of change, the change in full flower, and the causes, before turning to specific consequences and wider ramifications. This is a first effort at an inherently difficult topic, another case where historians can move into territories thus far dominated by psychologists and scientists by showing variability over time. We will admittedly learn far more, in this effort, about attitudes toward sleep than about sleep itself, but from this starting point more mature probes can readily emerge.
Sleep issues did not loom large during the middle decades of the 19th century. Manuals for parents, produced in abundance, simply did not deal with children's sleep - in marked contrast to their counterparts by the 1920s.(1) Medical researchers did not study sleep extensively - another point noted when sleep research began to accelerate a half-century later. Popular health columns in women's magazines addressed sleep, whether for adults or for children, only rarely. Whether actual sleeping was easier in the 19th century than it would be later on - as some 20th-century commentators would implicitly claim - one point is clear: it was less contested and less orchestrated.
Most comments that did address sleep, including children's sleep, focused on physical health issues and on material arrangements. Recurrent snippets of advice in health columns in Godey's Lady's Book and the Ladies' Home Journal dealt primarily with health precautions during sleep, rather than with sleep itself. Thus there was discussion of how much covering to place on the child, with concern both about overheating and underprotection. Cold feet were to be avoided, and some authorities recommended that this was the final matter to deal with before leaving a child to sleep; "neglect of this has often resulted in a dangerous attack of croup, diptheria, or fatal sore throat." Excessive pillows were discouraged, partly for the sake of the quality of rest but mostly to prevent smothering and to facilitate the action of the heart. Infant positions were discussed. A doctor noted in 1863 how important it was not to place infants on their backs, because the head remained compressible and could be pushed in when the infant is on his back: "this pressure upon the brain is the cause of that most serious and generally fatal affection - the lock-jaw of infants." On a less dire note, feather mattresses came in for adverse comment; hair or straw were preferable, because they were less likely to overheat and because they shaped the body better. Recurrent warnings focused on the danger of opiates administered to children; here again, fatal health problems could result. Finally, a few commentators addressed nursery arrangements, urging appropriate ventilation but also avoidance of objects that could cause accidents.(2)
Sleep, in these infrequent excursions, was rarely dealt with in itself. It was widely assumed that children slept easily and would properly regulate the amount of sleep they obtained. Problems - sometimes surrounded with appropriate menace in a literature that delighted in goading parents through fear and guilt - were dangers of disease or harm associated with the environment of sleep, more than with the act itself. To be sure, children's sleep problems could be noted. Novels like David Copperfield referred to troubled sleep - though in a fairly offhand fashion. And women's magazines occasionally addressed the fitful child. Restlessness might be caused by overheating or overfeeding, or simply trying to put the child to bed too early. A baby might need a change in position, though mothers were warned not to pick an infant up every time it fussed at night. Occasional pieces also urged regularity in children's sleep arrangements - "never limit a healthy child as to sleeping or eating . . . but compel regularity as to both; it is of great importance" - a theme taken up much more systematically in the 20th century.(3)
Another impulse cropped up recurrently in 19th-century commentary on sleep, emphasizing moral compensation. Sleep troubles - referred to usually briefly, in an article on health - could be countered by proper self-discipline. Adults who slept badly admittedly needed help, noted an editor in 1865, for the drain on the constitution could be "terrible . . . prostrating the victim for a whole day"; "besides the loss of rest, the loss of appetite, energy, temper and good looks are all included in the loss of our sleep at night." But though the problem was granted unusual severity, the remedy was simple: exercise in the open air, for "nature would give the relief of sleep to the body when sufficiently fatigued by exercise." Rising early continued to receive comment, as doctors purported scientifically to verify the old Benjamin Franklin adage. To be sure, sick people might hurt themselves by trying to get up too early, for the body was more vulnerable to disease at that point and nervous people might feel a bit shaky in the morning; but generally getting up before sunrise both reflected and promoted good health. There was even a suggestion of bad habits on the part of those who did not sleep well: "idleness is not the least frequent cause. . . . Healthy people always sleep well." Godey's argued that curing restlessness was easy: simply get more exercise (run up and down stairs right before going to bed), or rub down with a coarse towel, or take regular baths. But, while noting that sleep problems were more common than one might expect and caused great misery, the editors feared that the people who needed remedies would not take them, because of their ingrained bad habits. Sleeplessness, in this sense, was more often than not "self-inflicted." So admitting sleep problems might involve admitting some personal fault - in contrast to a 20th-century culture that often liked to highlight sleep problems as a badge of zeal or undeserved misery. And again, the dominant approach suggested ease of remedy: if not exercise, a brisk cold bath would put everything to rights. Children, assumed to be innocent, actually came in for less comment than adults - physical arrangements aside - precisely because of the moral assumptions involved.(4)
A striking feature of 19th-century attitudes toward sleep, finally, involved surprisingly modest requirements of amount. Authorities urging early rising recommended going to bed by 10, but then getting up as soon as was compatible with not feeling sleepy or lethargic the next day. Children were held to tolerant rations. Infants, having slept uninterruptedly for nine months in the womb, should sleep at least 12 hours (some said most of the time), but after six months of age the amounts could quickly diminish. Afternoon naps could be abandoned around two years of age, according to one authority, who admitted that children might, as a result, be a bit tired after dinner; children might however be given a nap after dinner, which would then allow them to stay up later. By age three, children should sleep no more than twelve hours, and after this sleep time should be shortened by one hour per year - thus a seven-year-old should sleep eight hours and certainly no more than nine. Adolescents required less sleep still, and authorities explicitly discussing sleep sometimes advocated no more than 6-7 hours for adults. As late as 1901, even when concern about sleep was beginning to intensify, the Ladies' Home Journal urged that anything above six hours was fine, citing a "nerve specialist" who claimed that not very much sleep was really essential and that worrying about sleeping more than six hours was a waste of time.(5)
Nineteenth-century attitudes toward sleep differed from those of the 20th century in a number of respects. Surely the general optimism about sleep, and the startling minimization of sleep needs, concealed many real-life sleep problems, just as 20th-century culture may tend to overplay the problems that exist. Nineteenth-century conditions may, at the same time, actually have promoted better sleep than we are accustomed to, at least in the middle-class circles to whom health columns were addressed. More regular exercise, particularly walking, and the amorphous possibility of "less stress" could play a role for children and adults alike. Different sleeping arrangements, as we will see, might factor in for children. Unscheduled napping was easier than it was to become in the more regimented work world of the 20th century. Napping was a prime use of leisure time, and even factory workers into the 1890s might comment on the possibility of sneaking naps on the job. Into the 20th century, as Dagwood Bumstead of the comic strip "Blondie" routinely suggested, sleeping on white collar jobs was a treasured escape valve. Children's formal sleep needs might be similarly limited by the possibility of ad hoc naps, given less regular and shorter school days. Finally, for those troubled in sleep, the easy access to and wide use of opiates surely reduced the need for extensive expert comment on what to do to fight insomnia. The sleep patterns and problems of the century past invite further exploration, but there seems little doubt that elements of the configuration differed from our own.
Indeed, signs of change began to develop by the 1880s and 1890s. Attention to neurasthenia in the 1880s called forth new concern for the adequacy of sleep. Doctors noted the importance of sleep in building up "nerve force" in neurasthenic patients, urging also that insomnia be combatted by artificial means if necessary. Hypnotics were particularly recommended for sleepless patients, though drugs were often prescribed in the period as well, coming under more critical scrutiny by physicians only in the 1890s.(6)
Commentary on children's sleep, though still not abundant, picked up in this context as well. A number of authorities started to attack the practice of putting children in cradles or at least of rocking them, lest they become overdependent on attention; this same critical expertise began to press toward having children sleep alone. This launched the movement toward urging strength and self-sufficiency through new sleep habits. Ironically, though as we will see not accidentally, it was also at this time that problems of adequacy in sleep, however ill-defined, began to be noted: "Late hours hinder both mental and physical growth." The Ladies' Home Journal began to grant more space to doctors who explained why sleep was so essential to children's growth and mental wellbeing. Attention to physical surroundings continued, but now the issue was sleep itself. "The state of general repose which accompanies sleep, is of especial value to the organism in allowing the nutrition of the nervous tissue to go on at a greater rate than its destructive metamorphasis." "The more active the mind the greater the necessity for sleep" - a clear link to the new literature on neurasthenia and the stress of modern life. Problems of children's insomnia began to receive explicit attention, with recommendations of special feeding and other measures including an ice bag at the back of the neck. Separate beds were urged for children who were restless sleepers and disturbed each other. Quiet time before bed was now seen as essential, because the process of settling down could not be taken as automatic. One "mother's suggestion" in 1896 even began to raise the possibility of a night light for children afraid of the dark, though urging that sleep in darkness was preferable. "Nervous babies" might require this remedy, along with mothers' prompt attention to any cry. At the same time, revealingly, the frequency and fervor of advice against using opiates for children increased - obviously, if parents assimilated this warning, they might readily become more concerned about what other remedies to employ. Not surprisingly, letters from parents asking about what to do became more frequent, suggesting an emerging audience for a new approach to sleep, including children's sleep, and possibly a stimulus for some of the expert rethinking that was beginning to occur.(7)
For, hesitantly, sleep was beginning to be presented as a possible problem for all ages, even as its healing necessity received new emphasis. Though still rare, detailed articles on what to do to combat adult insomnia appeared around 1900. The Warmans recommended a number of exercises to be done sequentially until one fell asleep. During this process, worries about business or other cares must be set aside, as blood must be removed from "the overfed brain." An article on children's sleep needs warned about convulsions and brain disease that might result from insufficient rest. Dramatically, the lunatic Damien, tortured and finally killed for the attempted assassination of Louis XV, was quoted as saying that his greatest torment - among pincers, boiling oil, the use of the rack - was simply being deprived of sleep. And babies, the doctor-author subtly noted, need even more sleep than adults. Clearly, the context for discussing sleep was beginning to change considerably.(8)
Yet the first years of the 20th century saw a partial lull in this current, and it was only around 1920 that a consistent new level of concern about children's sleep began to emerge in the prescriptive literature, in an intensification that would persist for several decades. By this point too, letters and reactions from actual parents suggested that popularized expertise either caused or reflected real anxieties. From the expert side, at least, came a new sense of the importance but also the fragility of children's sleep; from this side as well issued a new sense of scheduling for sleep, that could create problems of its own. Responses from middle-class parents echoed these priorities, including the desirability of regularizing the timing involved, given new demands in adult life. After assessing this innovation in prescriptive literature - in the manuals written for parents and in popular periodicals like Parents' Magazine - we can return to the evaluation of change and causation, where the real issues of dealing with sleep as a partially historical phenomenon take shape.
Systematic expressions of concern about children's sleep emerged clearly between 1910 and 1920, building on some of the themes sketched in the 1890s. A more regular stream of popularized comments, including some dramatic new labels and increasingly detailed suggestions, developed during the 1920s, and set a pattern which extended well past World War II. A few changes intervened during this period, particularly as we will see about scheduling, but the basic themes - and the significance attached to sleep as a problem - remained remarkably consistent.
A doctor, William R. P. Emerson, offered a characteristic comment on children's sleep in a Woman's Home Companion article in 1919, reflecting the growing effort to identify a problem. "There is another condition [along with malnutrition] which we assume as a necessary cause of immediate discomfort, but too often fail to appreciate as a fundamental cause of permanent injury. This is the condition of overfatigue." Children, said Emerson, are too often overstimulated and overentertained - for example, when they are kept up to see father on his nighttime return from work. Individual children - particularly the youngest of a brood, or an only child - are given too much adult attention, and become afraid of being left alone. Night lights are one result, which in turn cause poor sleep and wakefulness. Children are also kept too long at school lessons, sometimes supplemented by musical training or odd jobs. Physical exertion was one thing - easy to recover from - but overfatigue, in the sense of perpetual deprivations of the proper amount of time for sleep, "carries the child each time farther from his normal condition and makes his return to health and strength a more difficult task." Exciting stories, excessive reading, and movies were other causes of children's stimulation and avoidance of sleep. In general, parents had the responsibility of shielding children from their own instincts, by insisting on lots of sleep in regular intervals, with due acknowledgment of children's individual requirements. In a later article Dr. Emerson drove the point home further: children need 11-12 hours of sleep into their teens, and more before the age of 10. "The fundamental requirement is to keep the child free from over-fatigue every hour of the day."(9)
A number of articles in the 1920s and 1930s, highlighting the frequency of sleep deprivation among children, pinned the blame on modern schools. The public school system, "with its long hours and its procrustean methods of forcing all children, regardless of physical and mental ability, through the same processes," imposed a virtual tyranny on grade-school children. While some hoped that school days could be cut down, citing experiments that proved shorter days to yield heavier and healthier children, more advice focused on parental responsibility. Mothers must teach infants proper sleep habits, featuring "long hours of sleep interrupted only by regular feedings, baths in water and sunlight, and the 'mothering' permissible for a few minutes before each feeding." That infant was best, clearly, who slept the most - a sentiment echoed in numerous advice manuals and, apparently, by parents who sought doctors' help in getting recalcitrant newborns to sleep through most of the day and night. For children after infancy, early bedtimes - 6 or more commonly 7 in the evening was often mentioned - remained essential. "Children should be put to bed early and required to lie down in the middle of the day." Popularizers delighted in claiming that middle-class parents, by pushing their children too hard and neglecting their sleep, could easily produce just as much ill-health as the worst slums. "Both [middle-class children] are brought eventually to the pediatrician, underweight, pale, dark circles about the eyes - even as was Jimmy of the two-room tenement."(10)
By the 1920s, in fact, manuals and magazines featured a new term - "chronic fatigue" - to highlight the widespread neglect of children's sleep needs. Dr. Max Seham, for example, published a piece in the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal in the mid-1920s, duly summed up in the AMA's popular health magazine Hygeia, emphasizing how school routines were contributing to chronic fatigue. He defined the state itself as "a mixture of actual tiredness of the tissues, of a decrease in the person's average mental achievement, of an actual decrease in his average physical strength and endurance, and, perhaps, of some emotional unbalance." Schools created mental strain, taking young children out of a "natural atmosphere" of sun and fresh air. Dr. Fritz Talbot of the Harvard Medical School concurred: "the care of the tired child [is] the most common problem that concerns the specialist in diseases of children." Naps were being dropped far too early, and children were being permitted to stay up "for useless and unnecessary reasons." Schools were not the only culprits. "The intensity of modern civilization is apt to soften or deaden the vigor of children unless they are taught to apply widely the principles of rest and sleep." And there were specifics as well. Girls were reading too much at night. Boys indulged a craze for radio listening, remaining awake "to tune in on midnight concerts from distant stations." To prevent chronic fatigue, children in grade school required at least twelve hours a day; 14-year-olds still needed at least nine and a half. Not only hours spent but also environment was crucial, if the dreaded symptoms of chronic fatigue were to be avoided: "Quiet and serenity of environment are absolutely necessary if the child is to fall asleep readily." Good ventilation but also uncrowded bedrooms were essential. Teachers as well as parents had responsibilities in preventing chronic fatigue, according to the relentless experts. Teachers must avoid overworking children or making them tense; they must also report insidious symptoms such as eyestrain or headaches. The Journal of the National Education Association duly editorialized on the problem, seeing chronic fatigue as "one of the major causes of school failure and breakdown."(11)
The focus on sleep and fatigue stressed children's emotional and physical well-being but also lifelong consequences. Lack of sleep left the young prey to infectious diseases. Learning suffered when attention was deflected due to drowsiness. But the standard message also invoked adult issues. Childhood was the training ground for the ability to sleep properly, and this was a lifelong necessity. The whole discussion took on greater urgency given assumptions that habits set in childhood would last a long time, for better or worse. And parental responsibilities increased by the same token: good guardianship would not only promote smooth childhoods but healthy adult experience as well.
A key feature of most commentary involved the attention given to the nervous or emotional underpinnings and consequences of sleep. Physical factors played a role, to be sure, particularly in treatments of the functions of proper rest in assuring healthy growth. But nerves held center stage, and with this new parental responsibilities for assuring tranquillity. Thus Dorothy Canfield Fisher, in 1932: inadequate sleep causes more nervous behavior in children, but at the same time it results, almost always, from emotional tension. It was crucial for parents to provide a calm, happy atmosphere at bedtime, along with assuring of a predictable routine. A number of authorities directly associated sleep difficulties with the stimulus of modern life. Children in cities thus were less inclined to rest spontaneously than were those who lived in "somewhat less complex environments." Contemporary adults were sometimes to blame, for they often bragged about staying up as though going to bed were something to be ashamed of, or even took pride in their own sleep difficulties as if they were the emblems of a richly busy life. Certainly, 20th-century children and adults both suffered from daily nervous tensions, which in turn created the most common barriers to sleep. The distinction, for children, was that they might not know better; here was one area where parents must take a firm hand, as precisely those children who resisted sleep most vigorously usually had the greatest need of it.(12)
Aside from the explicit emphasis, the highlighting of emotional or nervous components and the extensive discussions of sleep issues, the focus on fatigue - whether labeled "chronic" or not - brought two additional innovations. First, advice pointed to an increase in the time allotted to children's sleep, over apparent 19th-century levels even within the middle class. One of the first 20th-century proclamations on sleep, by Dr. L. Emmet Holt in his capacity as member of a Child Health Committee in 1910, argued that "The American child is kept on a starvation ration of sleep." The problem was not simply modern life or modern schooling, but a deficiency in 19th-century standards that now became obvious when children's drowsiness and ill health showed up in the classroom. Child labor, remnants of which hung on in the early 20th century, was partly the villain, but simple ignorance was at fault as well. The 1910 table, backed by the federal Department of Interior in its Bureau of Education, insisted on 13 hours of sleep for children 5-6, 12 for those 6-8, 11 for those 10-12, 10 1/2 for those 12-14, 10 for those 14-16, and still 9 1/2 up to 18. These were admittedly demanding requirements, against what was described as the more cavalier approach of the 19th century. Several authorities correctly noted that 19-century advice had pointed to a mere 8 hours for children (along with 6 for adult men). The idea of set allotments of considerable amounts of sleep persisted. A 1931 table differed only slightly from its predecessor, calling for 14-16 hours for infants, 13-14 for toddlers, 12-13 still until 8 years of age, on down to 9 for 16-year olds. The importance of regular naps for young children was part of this routine, again with the suggestion that the Victorians had neglected naps save in ad hoc fashion. Naps were crucial not simply to provide enough sleep, but as lifetime training. "This attitude toward sleep is a good habit to be developed, not just through childhood but throughout the rest of a busy, active life." "Good sleeping habits should be stimulated when the child is still a baby." Again, a commitment to extensive sleep was vital for the health of a growing child, against the danger of chronic fatigue, but also served as preparation for a healthy adult life.(13)
Along with a claimed increase in the amount of sleep children (and, by implication, many adults) required, came a strong impulse to impose regular schedules. Here was the second innovation associated with the new emphasis on children's sleep as a serious issue. Regularization was particularly visible in the 1920s and 1930s, when the behaviorist approach of psychologist John Watson heavily influenced popular advice. "Make the baby's time-table fit yours" was the standard recommendation. "It is wise to start him on [a regular schedule] when he's tiny; most hospitals will help you work out such a schedule and train the new baby to it for a few days before he goes home." Mothers, so busy with household chores, absolutely required the assurance that there would be set periods available for their tasks, with children reliably napping; and children themselves, needing sleep so urgently, fared best on a fixed routine. A number of authorities noted that, with household help now at a premium, parents must take advantage of the trainability of young children simply to find time for the rest of their own lives.
The big point, however, was the desirability of regularity for the children themselves; here was the key both to providing enough sleep and to engendering durable sleep habits. Watson, convinced of children's malleability and the adult (and therefore avoidable) sources of most of their problems, emphasized rigidity. Children must be put to bed at set times with no coddling; any deviation would upset them and lead to new demands. Children had no natural fears of the dark or of being alone; they needed no rocking or hugging. They did need ritual and quiet, and a set schedule was vital. Late afternoon was time for a tepid bath, with a fairly serious atmosphere and no toys or games. Then 7 o'clock to bed, with a wake up call at 6:30 to relieve the bladder, followed by a half hour of play in bed. Naps were set for 11 to 12:30 until age 5. "Modern training calls for an orderly life." Watson admitted that insisting on this kind of scheduling could be a bit of a struggle, but it was essential for a happy child who follows society's rules. "The only person who is effectively original is the person who has a routine and has mastered a technique."(14)
Watson, of course, was a unique figure in the annals of American childrearing advice, and it is risky to assume too much influence for his strict views. The idea of set schedules for sleep, however, did catch on through the 1930s; they were reechoed in popular family magazines and seemingly attracted parents who stood to benefit from predictability but who duly worried if their progeny proved idiosyncratic. Sidney and Margaret Blanton, leaders in the child guidance movement, insisted on set schedules for naps and bedtimes alike. The American Medical Association's popular outlet intoned: "Whatever bedtime the mother sets, it should be regular at all costs. Nothing should interfere with the bedtime habits - neither evening shows nor guests." And lest some latitude had been implied, the article went on to say that 6 o'clock was sleep time for infants, 7 for young children. "Pampering the child at this time postpones sleep and does not allow him to get into the unbroken bedtime habit." Schedule variations not only jeopardized sleep, but also set the stage for other dreadful habits: "A half-hour variation from this schedule . . . may induce masturbation, surreptitious reading in bed, restlessness, and inability to concentrate in school." Popularizers recognized that their emphasis was novel: "But the thing that most distinguishes the modern baby from his old-fashioned counterpart is that the former has a schedule. He is healthier because he is trained to . . . sleep regularly. This helps him to perform all of his bodily functions with equal regularity." Children, in this vision, were extremely trainable, but also fragile; deviations from routine put them at emotional risk and clouded their sense of security. Schedules also were seen as vital to the parent, "to suit her convenience." "It is not my aim to discourage the new mother. There is a good deal of joy in taking care of a new baby which does not appear on a time card. But she should realize that in order to give her baby ideal care, she too must have a schedule . . . which will give her a degree of freedom within her limitations." Everybody won. "A regular bedtime is more important than you think," while set naptimes, however much the child might protest, must be enforced, giving mothers a chance for rest as well, to the benefit of their own health.(15)
By the late 1930s discussions of sleep began to modify Watsonian rigor. Parents reported that certain children became more nervous, even ill, when forced to live by a single clock routine. Parents and popularizers alike began to boast about setting schedules based on the individual tastes of the child - the routine was fixed, but based initially on the child's own proclivities. One mother put her daughter back to bed after breakfast. "Originally I did this in order to be unhampered in feeding the rest of the family, but I found that Brenda often took a short nap directly after her breakfast. This early nap serves a double purpose. I can get my own work done in short order, and then when I am free to play with her she is in fine spirits." The idea of a "self-demand" schedule gained attention. "Why be so anxious about his rest periods? Why not be guided by the child's expressed needs?" Dr. Spock's post-World War II manual, genially relaxed, similarly urged that children might vary in their sleep patterns without harm. The main thing was to keep bedtime happy, not rigid, with parents maintaining an air of cheerful certainty. This revised tone was important. It suggested that the set recommendations of the interwar decade had erred through undue rigidity, and that some children might in fact need less sleep than others. But while flexibility was now in style, the idea of some scheduling persisted. Spock wanted children to be cosseted when they went to bed, and he avoided the set pieces about 7 o'clock bedtimes until age five, but he too wanted a standard, so that both parents and children would know what the accepted routine was to be. And the self-demand concept, again by definition variable from case to case, easily fit the notion of a fixed pattern for each individual child - simply one that the child's rhythms helped determine.(16)
Repeated insistence on children's sleep as a major issue for health and education; the related effort to expand what many families had regarded as normal amounts of sleep for the young; and the strong impulse to regularize combined to generate a spate of manuals and articles directed to parents on how to get their children to sleep well. While the tenor of advice in the 1920s and 1930s was particularly striking, with the insistence on rigid routines, subsequent decades retained the basic emphasis on the importance but also the problematic qualities of children's sleep. Here, clearly, was a subject parents should worry about a good bit, unless their children readily fit the norms.
Women's and family magazines carried standard essays on children's sleep from the 1920s onward, often unusually long and detailed pieces for this particular genre. Advice included when to feed in relation to sleep times; the need to learn children's individual peculiarities; the importance of not using sleep as a punishment, but rather of surrounding the process of going to bed with elaborate love, ritual and reassurance (though not, for Watson, any bed toys or outright hugging). Children must be calmed in advance of sleep, and also informed that nothing interesting was going to happen with the rest of the family once they drifted off. Caffeine of course was off limits, well past puberty. Night fears and dreams came in for extensive comment. Predominant advice urged against night lights, and certainly children must be firmly told to stay in bed when it was time. Behaviorists warned over and over again the a fussing baby must not be picked up; sleep training knew of no exceptions, though a worried parent could peek in to see if there was any special problem. But - particularly as advice softened following the behaviorist years - assurance was also essential.
In general, parents were told that if they provided a properly loving environment, children should not have big problems over any extensive period of time - one of the characteristic prescriptive pressures, in which parental guilt was meant to add to any unusual difficulties children might have, since a child with sleep problems reflected directly on adult adequacy. Prayer was a major item: the idea was fine so long as "no prayer is used which will leave any fears or cause any anxiety. Many a child has gone to bed worried because of the nightly repetition of the prayer, common a generation ago, which included the clause, 'If I should die before I wake.' "Noise, of course, should be carefully controlled. While parents must be firm about sleep, children should not be punished for problems, for this would simply associate sleep with tension and would spark resistance. As with sleep time itself, routine was essential. Children should know what their parents will do if they call out, so that they will not increase their wakefulness out of sheer uncertainty. Firmness, without outright punishment, would work: a child who gets out of bed must be taken back and told to stay there, and "eventually" he will. There must be no use of drugs. Finally, of course, appropriate physical arrangements were vital, even at some expense: proper ventilation, covers, mattress and where possible isolation. The goal was a good, long sleep which parents would help orchestrate but for which the child himself must be responsible. Anything encouraging dependence on others would be a disservice to the sleep habits that must be developed early. "Certainly one would never want to teach a child to be dependent on being held or rocked to sleep." Even toys should be varied, at least according to the sterner school, lest a child become overreliant - and of course Watson wanted no toys at all, claiming obscurely that they could become a problem with adulthood. "The child who feels secure and happy seldom clings very long to any other forms of comfort."(17)
Told how important sleep was and how elaborate the necessary arrangements, urged additionally that adult health as well as successful childhood depended on sleep habits, parents naturally responded with frequent concerns and questions. They wrote letters to the magazines, recounting their particular difficulties. They bombarded doctors with queries, wondering why their own child seemed so difficult and what this meant in terms of his or her health and (between the lines) the quality of the family environment. Sleep issues seemed to be one of the real preoccupations of parents, particularly when children were young - and this concern both reflected and encouraged the frequent advice on the subject.
Children's sleep thus became a new kind of issue from around the 1920s - "problematized," to use a useful current neologism. Nineteenth-century parents had undoubtedly worried about their charges' sleep, at least in particularly difficult cases. But available advice had been offhand, as we have seen, tending to imply that any sleep problems resulted from bad habits on the part of the offending party and suggesting simple corrective measures.(18) Not so after 1920. Specific advice not only mushroomed in volume and urgency, but also increased the amount of sleep held to be essential and the explicit scheduling required.
The obvious question is: why? Children had been sleeping for hundreds of thousands of years, with considerable apparent success. Why the new fuss, and new directives, early in this century? Several factors contributed, including actual changes in sleep settings that may have created some of the irregularities the new advice was designed to resolve.
Factor 1: The impact of new expertise. The rise of zealous specialists on children, eager to export the findings of science and to sell books and articles to a parental audience, unquestionably helps explain why sleep, and a host of other issues, began to be seen as childrearing problems in the early 20th century. Writers on children's issues in the 19th century tended to be moralists, not too concerned with practical daily concerns. Not so the new breed. Psychological experiments had produced new data on children's disturbed sleep, for example, in the later 19th century. Work by G. Stanley Hall and members of the Child Study Association highlighted the unexpected frequency of random night terrors, leading to a new sense of children's psychic fragility in this regard. French work in this area was also widely cited. Discussions of fear, in turn, contributed to the growing sense that parents must become more active in helping their children sleep. Watson and the behaviorists attacked these findings, claiming that there were no natural fears of the dark, only anxieties that bumbling parents created. But they, too, trotted out presumably reliable data. And the unwitting ploy of having one generation of experts score points by attacking the beliefs of its predecessor was well launched in the sleep category. None of this is meant to question the sincerity of most experts. The fact remains that not only their findings, but their need to convince parents that traditional childrearing methods would not work (or, soon, that the recommendations of just a few years back were dangerously wrongheaded), helps explain why behaviors became problems. Rhetoric tended to be hyperbolic; parents had to be scared a bit, so they would buy the book or read the article, concerned that their ignorance might really damage their child. When Spock and his generation then made hay by urging a slightly more relaxed approach, they too (whatever the merits of their new advice) were playing the game, telling parents that the way they had been raised was wrong, that they must read new materials to be sure they did things right.
The new approach to children's sleep certainly illustrates a familiar process of medicalization, in which doctors and kindred experts extend their authority over new domains. Pediatrics was just becoming established, and it was doubtless quite useful - amid the best of intentions - to urge parents to check up on their offspring's sleep habits. "Parents who attempt to combat night terrors without consulting a physician do their children a profound disservice."(19)
The qualities of new childrearing expertise thus help account for the tone of sleep advice, and for the sense that an age-old phenomenon must now be treated as a major problem. This does not mean that the expertise was insignificant, merely because it was somewhat manipulative. Parents could have been spurred, by the dozens of annual articles on the hazards of children's sleep in outlets like Parents' Magazine, to take a new approach. At the same time, it is unlikely that expert comment alone was involved. Parents were perfectly capable of ignoring some expert arguments - they undoubtedly modified the most severe elements in Watson's anti-coddling approach, for example - when their own interests were different. We have also seen signs of parental concern in advance of the bombardments by experts. To explain both why experts seized on sleep as a key issue, and why parents seemed to listen to them, the other, more substantive ingredients come into play.
Factor 2: Changes in health and help. The early part of the 20th century coincided with major improvements in infant health, as deaths in childbirth dwindled to unprecedentedly low levels. One result, understandable if somewhat ironic, was an increase of both public and personal attention to health concerns. Now that families might avoid the deaths of any children born, it became increasingly essential to achieve that result; death or serious illness was no longer inevitable, and there was no fatalism to cushion the blow. If a child suffered, someone - most probably the parents - must be at fault. Medical commentary reflected this new mood, while also intensifying it. And it became harder to avoid medical scrutiny. School health programs, eager to report problems such as fatigue or malnutrition, drove home to parents that there were standards to live up to. Issues that could be reasonably identified as relevant to children's health - and sleep was certainly presented in this fashion - inevitably drew attention. Their importance increased, and so did openness to suggestions of new procedures. Rapidly declining birth rates, further, made protection of those children born all the more vital, an obvious issue in a middle class now bent on sponsoring only one or two births. Sleep issues were part of a general increase in anxiety about children's fragile well-being from the 1890s onward, while heightening this anxiety in turn.
At the same time as the parental stake in children's health increased, their involvement with children intensified as well - particularly at night. By the 1920s 3 traditional sources of assistance with children were declining, for the middle class and to an extent generally. First, live-in servants were becoming a thing of the past. Middle-class families might still employ some day help, but this was more for housecleaning than for child care and it offered nothing for nighttime in any event. Watson, true to form, specifically noted that "perfect" homes had no outsiders dealing with infants. Second, grandparents were beginning to move out, to set up or maintain households of their own. It became much less common for parents to have a widowed mother living in. And finally, falling birth rates meant that there were fewer older children around to help out with a new baby, while increased school attendance cut into this source of assistance as well.(20)
Parents, in sum, were increasingly on their own. This meant mothers, for the most part, though the involvement of middle-class fathers seems to have expanded modestly as well. At the same time, the attractions of a bit of social life beyond care for children went up. Husbands and wives began to expand their expectations of each other's company, including listening to the radio, entertaining a bit, and getting out of the house occasionally. Here was an obvious set of pressures on children's sleep. A restless child could no longer be fobbed off on a live-in maid - one reason that regular scheduling now became much more attractive. Obtaining a reliable baby sitter (and having confidence that one could leave a child in such care) might depend on predictable sleep habits. Even the notion of increasing the amount of time children slept, while responding to the growing concerns about doing everything possible to promote good health and growth, appealed to the unstated desire to get the little darlings out of parental hair now that there was less supplemental help and some new leisure alternatives. The rhetoric of naps, referring directly to the needs of harassed mothers to have some time to themselves, invoked this motive fairly directly, if more gently.
Factor 3: Sleeping alone. The most direct cause of the new concern about sleep, and a fascinating shift in its own right, involved the spread and assimilation of a novel arrangement for children's beds and bedding. Changes in sleep in the early 20th century, and the growing perception of sleep as a problem, involved the interaction between a radically new environment and the new anxieties and advice.
Middle-class children were increasingly placed in individual bedrooms, in contrast to the 19th-century pattern in which same-sex children had commonly slept together, usually sharing beds, even in the upper middle class. Throughout the 19th century, middle- and upper-middle-class children slept near parent or nurse during infancy, and then were moved to share a bed with a sibling (sometimes in a room with other bedded pairs) thereafter. The results unquestionably differentiated sleep patterns from those that would emerge in the 20th century in several respects. Most obviously, 19th-century adults were much more comfortable sharing a bed with others - a common practice in hotels for middle-class men for example - than most contemporaries would be. The same augmented sleep sensibility generated the move toward twin beds for married couples from the 1920s onward - even as interest in recreational sex increased. For children themselves, bed-sharing provided a companionable quality to sleep. Memoirs suggest that settling down to sleep would often be delayed by boisterousness, including fights over the soft bolster used to divide the bed. But given a more relaxed attitude toward sleep and its regularity, even caring parents did not object. And the ease and quality of sleep overall may well have benefited - one reason for the rareness of expressed concern about children's sleep disturbances.(21)
Patterns began to shift by the 1890s. Infants were increasingly isolated from adults for sleep, by being placed in separate bedrooms fairly early on - separate not only from parents, but also from an adult nurse who was becoming an increasingly rare breed in middle-class homes save for a week or so following a birth. Further, to make this isolation of infants possible and safe, traditional cradles declined in favor of cribs. The change here was dramatic. Cribs fenced a young child in for sleep. They were relatively immobile, which made placement in a separate room seem both logical and essential; unlike cradles, cribs could not be moved about depending on where a parent was. Only for a brief time, in the crib regime, was a basket used, that could associate the sleeping baby with a parent at work or asleep. The sleeping infant was now separated from parental activities, not informally linked as was common when cradles were standard furniture. Cribs also eliminated the casual rocking motion that cradles had facilitated. Finally, for an older infant, cribs provided safeguards from falling or wandering around; previously, many toddlers had graduated from cradle to sleeping with an older sibling whose presence has offered the necessary protection. A significant change in children's furniture, in sum, altered the age gradations of sleeping arrangements and above all prepared the experience of sleeping alone.
Experiments with children's beds began to proliferate in the later 19th century, at the point when the idea of separate bedrooms was beginning to come into vogue. The Scientific American discussed a number of new crib designs in the 1890s, many of which won patents. Some early cribs, interestingly, were meant to be attached to the railing of the parental bed, but the main emphasis focused on self-standing devices. By 1915 cradles were being advertised with nostalgia - "the very plainest cradle possesses a subtle sense of soul, a nameless individuality that distinguishes it from any other piece of furniture." Soon, they were noted as outright antiques. Crib design improved steadily in the 1920s and 1930s, and was widely discussed in family magazines. Cribs offered firm mattresses, unlike the often "squishy" cushioning that had been put in cradles. Here was a major advance for baby's spine and posture. Different sheet sizings and sleeping bags and the opportunity to lower crib mattresses extended crib use for younger and older infants; even newborns could be nested in them. Better springs facilitated bed making, which helped mothers who of course now knew how often sheets had to be changed and washed. New styling, it was argued, fit in "with present decorative trends." "In such a bed any healthy baby should sleep not only soundly but correctly without a peep out of him. . . . Restful sleep, with body relaxed and well supported, is vital to health."(22)
The larger emphasis on isolating children for sleep gained ground steadily as well. Watson praised the decline of cradles: "It is true that parents have got away from rocking their children to sleep." This had the added advantage of freeing mothers for better housework plus bridge and shopping. But the even more important point was the individual room, which was something that responsible parents absolutely owed each child. "When the 25 million American homes come to realize that the child has a right to a separate room and adequate psychological care there will not be nearly so many children born," the behaviorist added smugly. Other comments were a bit more flexible, acknowledging that some families might not be able to isolate each child from birth: "if you're fortunate enough to have a separate nursery. . . ." But recurrent asides as well as explicit advice made it clear that sleeping alone was preferable. "Do you sleep in a bed all by yourself? It is much better to sleep by yourself. You can rest better and breathe fresher air if you have a bed all your own."(23)
Child development experts were adamant about the new rules for sleeping solo. Of course they stressed that infants must quickly be removed from the parental bedroom, and even earlier from the parental bed. Blanton and Blanton insisted that even young children should also not share a bed with any child of the opposite sex and if possible not with one of the same sex. Moving the child to separate sleeping quarters became a new rule for parents. In contrast to 19th-century assumptions, experts now argued that the presence of others would in fact make sleep more difficult, but their goals also included the inculcation of desirable self-reliance in sleep and in character.(24)
What was happening here, rather quietly, was a genuine revolution in traditional sleeping arrangements for children. The arguments stressed health, with some bow to parental convenience. It was assumed that children slept better alone; having other children around involved potential noise, different waking times, and other disturbances. And there is no reason to believe that most parents, working hard to provide separate bedrooms and following the new fashion of cribs instead of cradles, did not accept this reasoning at face value. Yet the change is fascinating, given its departure from a long history of associating infant sleep with adult presence and of encouraging children to sleep together.
A number of impulses conjoined to promote the new styles. Less domestic help increased the desire to have a separate room and a fenced bed in which to place a child. Adult housework now became noisier, thanks to equipment like vacuum cleaners and sewing machines - another reason to move sleeping children away. (One of the fears Watson did highlight, in talking about the sleep environment, was noise, and his emphasis was unwittingly historically perceptive - certain kinds of noises were increasing.) Adult activities in the evening might also be noisy - the radio - and were certainly surrounded by more vivid lighting, thanks to electricity. The dark corners of candle- or gaslit rooms were banished, and adults themselves may have been tempted to stay up later - both good reasons to separate children's sleep. Increasing interest in pleasurable sex as a fundamental part of marriage, along with the widespread belief that sexuality must be kept secret from children, created new needs for privacy from another angle. Overall, a growing focus on recreational aspects of marriage, including home-based parties and card games, made nighttime juxtaposition with drowsy children less desirable. A number of family entertainments associated with the evening and with sleep demonstrably declined. Reading aloud by father or mother, for example, disappeared save as bedtime stories briefly recaptured the pastime. Middle-class families in the 19th century often whiled away evenings by family reading, during which children would grow sleepy, and sometimes actually fall asleep (without being whisked straight to bed by sleep- and regularity-conscious parents). This mood was gone, as adults increasingly sought greater separation from children after dinner. In this new recreational context, it was better to banish children, and the new sleep advice both reflected and rationalized this impulse.
Combining siblings in sleep also became less practical. Sleeping with siblings was less feasible when there were fewer siblings around; it was increasingly unlikely to have a same-sex sibling available, thanks to heightened birth control. It also smacked of poverty - a successful family could surely afford more bedrooms, or at least a bunk bed. The rejection of shared quarters may also - though the issue was not mentioned - have tapped into growing concerns about homosexuality. And shared arrangements certainly contradicted the growing emphasis on the child as individual, with its own possessions and its own personality - and with its own obligation to need to learn to sleep as an individual as well.
So the major change occurred in where and with whom infants and children slept. And this change surely helps explain, in turn, why parents as well as experts went through an extended period in which sleep was treated as a major issue. New arrangements required guidelines, and even when the novelty was not mentioned it provided a vital context. The experts, of course, argued that the new arrangements promoted better sleep, as well as sounder health and morals. Disturbance would be minimized. Particularly given the shifts in adult living arrangements, including the new lighting, this may have been quite accurate. But it is impossible not to wonder if some vital comforts were lost in the process, particularly for toddlers now isolated not only in a separate room but in a fenced crib. Surely they cried more often, out of insecurity and loneliness, which is why so much advice was now needed about how to deal with such issues. Sleep was in fact a greater problem than it had been when a cradle was at one's foot for a lulling rocking, at least until the desired training took hold. Even when individuated sleep was established, might there have been more regressions, more cases of tension, than when children slept together? The conclusion is clear to a point: sleep was a new issue because families and children were getting accustomed to very novel, and in terms of historical traditions counterintuitive, arrangements. A possible conclusion goes further: sleep was a new issue, and an enduring one, because the novel arrangements were less reassuring to a fair number of children, particularly in later infancy but to some extent, at least recurrently, through childhood and beyond.
Factor 4: Adult anxieties. Dramatic new concerns about children's problems sometimes reflect changes in adult experience. The rise of emphasis on sibling rivalry during the 1920s, for example, resulted in part from a displacement of romantic jealousy, at a time when sexual interests were increasing but at the same time the sheltering of women was diminishing. If children could be taught not to be jealous, their lives as adults would be easier - and in the process their parents could work out some of the jealousy issues troubling them. The new discussions of sleep had some similar ingredients. There were important intrinsic reasons for emphasizing the amount and organization of children's sleep; but adult sleep patterns, though harder to discuss, were involved as well. The child-rearing experts who condemned the tensions of modern life or new adult boasts about night life made the connection directly, whether or not their claims were accurate. Insistence that proper childhood training was essential for good adult sleep habits pointed in the same direction, while, also, implying that adult ease might be hard to come by. Were the parents who accepted the new responsibilities for children's sleep suffering new disturbances, or at least anxiety, which they sought to displace by regulating their children?
Certainly, the same decades that witnessed the widespread discussion of children's sleep saw a new spate of research on adult sleep - after several decades in which the subject had not elicited major interest in the United States.(25) Sleep disorders had, of course, been part of the analysis of neurasthenia, that very popular American disease invention of the 1880s and 1890s, when Americans were already being told that their frenzied pace of life created nervous tensions that might show up, among other places, in sleep difficulties.(26) So the topic was not new. We have seen that the theme of a clash between "modern civilization" and ease of sleep showed up in the problematic of children's sleep as well. It was also revealing that a growing trickle of experimental work on sleep issues in adults accompanied the new attention to children's sleep problems, suggesting the not-uncommon, if complex, relationship between science and public concern. Experts worked anew on a human problem even as a general public began to mobilize, in a pattern that would ultimately prove mutually reinforcing. By the 1920s scientists could note increasingly imaginative experiments while appealing for new attention on the part of the wider medical community on the grounds both of new knowledge and of surprisingly pervasive human difficulties. It was not sleep that required study so much as insomnia, a maladjustment that could now be assumed, given the climate shared by experts and the public that viewed sleep performance as problematic.(27)
There were specific reasons for returning to adult sleep in the 1920s and 1930s besides growing scientific momentum. Technology could intrude on adults as on children: automobile and household noise and artificial lighting might induce some new sleep problems. The 1920s also saw increased involvement in urban, corporate employment, with its concomitant requirements of promptness and (in principle) alertness on the job. Sleep experts commented that inflexibility - the need to get up and get going at fixed points - was one of the features they increasingly noted in adult insomniacs.(28) Here, the link with growing insistence on training children for scheduled sleep was both obvious and significant: the adult world required this skill, and its absence caused increasingly visible distress.
Traditional sleep remedies were also under attack. Opiates, that reliable option for 19th-century Americans, were now regulated and widely criticized for their addictive qualities. The basic regulation occurred early in the 20th century, but many middle-class people continued to find it relatively easy to obtain opiate prescriptions into the 1920s, when medical opinion began to crack down more definitively. Certainly the renewed discussions of adult sleep disturbance regularly included long diatribes against medication. This new complication for sleep showed up in the explicit attacks on any use of drugs for children. It also encouraged the broader concerns about children's sleep, as parents, often newly anxious about their own sleep and what might be done if it failed them, wanted their offspring securely bedded down.(29)
What, finally, were the results of the heightened efforts to worry about, lengthen and regularize children's sleep? Sleep concerns unquestionably fed into a wider set of worries about children and stress, that showed up, for example, in a substantial crusade against homework during the early decades of the 20th century. Several major cities abolished homework in all or most of the elementary grades, and the anti-homework crusade gained ground thereafter, even for middle-school students. Edward Bok, editor of Ladies' Home Journal, picked up the campaign - even urging limitations to an hour for high-school students - specifically on grounds that it overstimulated the brain and prevented decent sleep. "There are thousands of mothers and fathers throughout this enlightened land of ours who wonder why their children toss themselves about in bed, why they mumble and talk in their sleep, why they are frightened by their dreams, and why they are so afraid of the dark." Night study must be eliminated. Doctors, concerned about sleep issues, widely concurred. Sleep worries, thus, became a new facet of the endemic American belief in children's vulnerability and need for protection - not a new theme in the national culture, but one now given a novel support. Manifestations in the homework field ultimately receded, to be sure, but the notion that children's sleep needs special protection did not.(30)
Adult fussing could impinge on children themselves, even after homework regained some hold. For some children, certainly, one result was a new complication of childhood, as adults hovered about urging sleep when none was wanted. Standard kindergarten routines, in which naptimes were required complete with a rug from home, may have allowed children better to survive the early stages of schooling, but they could also fuel boredom and resentment. At home, without question, sleep became one of those areas where children might be heedlessly bossed about; well-meaning parents could now deprive children of power over their own sleep, or at least over their own confinement in bedrooms, with a clear conscience. Ordering sleep extended parental control, with reassuringly benign overtures, at a time when their control was challenged in other areas. And one wonders about the isolating effects of the new sleep regime, as children had to combine assurances of adult affection with the experience of being sent away and shut in. Certainly, it became newly possible, for children and youth, to see defiance of sleep as a major expression of personal independence. Staying up was a newly-precise privilege of maturity, while access to greater freedom - as in going off the college - might more commonly result in deliberate defiance of the galling childhood sleep rules. Bragging about sleep deprivation became a revealing sidelight of 20th-century adult life.
Sleep isolation and the decline of siblings also helped create a new children's goal, at least in the later 20th century and particularly for girls (as the gender less suspected of homosexuality). Sleepovers, temporarily relieving privacy, providing opportunities for staying up well past regular hours, and trying the patience of many parents, could re-evoke a 19th-century sleep context of which children had no direct knowledge.
Most important, the redefinitions of children's sleep raise vital questions about adult sleep experience. The goal was, of course, to train children so well for sleep that they would carry secure patterns through the rest of their lives. But surrounding sleep with rules and anxiety could be counterproductive. Certainly it became more difficult, for many adults, to sleep in strange environments or with other people save, perhaps, where sexual coupling was involved. The 19th-century ease of sharing rooms and beds with strangers - a common feature of middle-class travel, for example - was a victim of the new fussiness in childhood. But adult issues might reach further still. Childhood regimes, with parents carefully telling children how indispensable long, regular sleep was, could certainly set up a new adult intolerance for even mild insomnia. Doctors began to report, not surprisingly, that adult patients regarded even moderate sleep disturbances as "calamitous," requiring immediate remedy and redress. One specifically noted that "sleep neurosis" was on the rise in the United States. Conventional outlets such as Reader's Digest began to treat sleep problems routinely, urging more relaxation and less worry. And, of course, by the 1930s, the old regime of opiates was being replaced by a deluge of prescription and over-the-counter soporifics, sold and used on the premise that sleep was both vital and difficult. By the 1950s, these medicines had become the most widely prescribed of all drugs.(31)
Another telling result of the heightened cultural awareness of sleep - again, demanding further exploration - involves the legitimization of fatigue as an ailment beyond personal fault. Efforts to identify chronic adult symptoms reflected this impact in the later 20th century. So did increased tolerance for fatigue-based exemptions from otherwise demanding work commitments. The notion that work stress might prevent proper sleep, or sleep problems inhibit work - though surely realities for many 19th-century workers - gained growing middle-class acceptance, from the neurasthenia craze onward, extending through the various definitions of overwork as our century wore on.
It is not yet possible to sketch the modern history of adult sleep, but the deep changes in children's sleep environment, and the new worry lavished upon it, suggest a richness to the historical perspective. Taught novel and elaborate sleep rules by parents eager to use sleep to build not only health but self-reliance, and possibly nervous about their own sleep, some 20th-century children may have been implicitly trained to associate new and complex perceptions with the sleep experience. The realization that as children they had slept well, or should have done were they properly raised, might infuse their reactions to the vagaries of sleep in adulthood. A problem, in this context, could become a comment on personal adequacy, one more thing to worry about when one could not live up to the modern rules of sufficiency and regularity in sleep.
Department of History Pittsburgh, PA 15213
1. See for example: T. S. Arthur, The Mother's Rule (Philadelphia, 1856); Catharine Sedgwick, Home (Boston, 1841); Felix Alder, Moral Instruction of Children (New York, 1901). Even into the 20th century this silence could continue: William Forbush, Calendar of Childhood and Youth (New York, 1913).
2. Dr. J. S. Wilson, "Important Suggestions about Children," Godey's Lady's Book (June 1862): 404; "Rearing Children," Godey's Lady's Book (Aug. 1862): 98; Elisabeth Scovil, "The Child and Its Mother," Ladies' Home Journal (Oct. 1899): 44; Dr. J. S. Wilson, "Position of Children in Sleep," Godey's Lady's Book (Dec. 1863): 579; "Hints about Health," Godey's Lady's Book (Feb. 1865): 96; Dr. J. S. Wilson, "Health Department," Godey's Lady's Book (Feb. 1859): 82 and ibid (Dec. 1859): 467; Annie Ramsey, "Nursery Furnishing," Ladies' Home Journal (Feb. 1896): 24.
3. Charles Dickens, David Copperfield (New York, 1982 [orig. 1850]), pp. 13, 18, 54; The Practical Housekeeper, Ladies' Home Journal (Apr. 1885): 46.
4. "Hints about Health: Sleepless Nights," Godey's Lady's Book (Dec. 1865): 448; "Health Department: Early Rising," Godey's Lady's Book (Mar. 1875): 285.
5. "Some Hints on the Management of Children," Godey's Lady's Book (Mar. 1876): 283; E. B. Warman and Mrs. Warman, "Answers to Questions about Health," Ladies' Home Journal (Apr. 1901): 44.
6. F. G. Gosling, Before Freud: Neurasthenia and the American Medical Community, 1870-1910 (Urbana, IL, 1987).
7. E. H. Ada, "Mother's Corner," Ladies' Home Journal (Dec. 1887): 3; Dr. William Hammond, "The Necessity for Sleep," Ladies' Home Journal (Feb. 1889): 7; Elisabeth Scovil, "The Child and Its Mother," Ladies' Home Journal (Nov. 1859): 41; Mrs. A. P. R., "Suggestions for Mothers," Ladies' Home Journal (Nov. 1896): 31; Elisabeth Scovil, "Suggestions for Mothers," Ladies' Home Journal (Mar. 1898): 301 and (Dec. 1894): 37; Dr. E. L. Coolidge, "Why Four Babies Could Not Sleep," Ladies' Home Journal (Jan. 1904): 37.
8. Beulah Stevens, "Baby's Nap," Ladies' Home Journal (Aug. 1889): 7; Warman and Warman, "Answers," p. 34; Hammond, "Necessity," p. 7.
9. William R. P. Emerson, "Does Your Child Get Tired?" Good Housekeeping (Dec. 1923): 36-39, and "Around the Clock," Good Housekeeping (Oct. 1923): 25.
10. Marian O. Lerrigo, "Sleep, Daddy, Sleep!" Today's Health (Feb. 1951): 34; Wingate Johnson, "The Tired Child," Hygeia (Mar. 1936): 217-18; "Growth is Accelerated While Child Sleeps," Hygeia (Apr. 1931): 386; Rachel Ash, "Overtired Children," Hygeia (Jan. 1930): 32.
11. Morris Fishbein, "The Tired Child," Hygeia (July 1926): 406-7; Max Seham, "Rest and Sleep," Hygeia (Oct. 1926): 567-8; Max Seham and Grete Seham, "The Tired Child," Journal of National Education Association (Dec. 1928): 271-3; "Chronic Fatigue," Journal of the National Education Association (May 1928): 148.
12. Dorothy Canfield Fisher, Our Children (New York, 1932); Millie Almhy, Child Development (New York, 1955), pp. 114, 206-7; Smiley Blanton and Margaret Gray Blanton, Child Guidance (New York, 1927), pp. 77ff.
13. Lucy Wood Collier, "The Child, Its Bed and the School," Sunset Magazine (July 1923): 33, 56-7; Morris Fishbein, "The Child's Sleeping Habits," Hygeia (Dec. 1931): 1121.
14. John Watson, Care of Infant and Child (New York, 1928), pp. 114-18.
15. "Growth is Accelerated," p. 386; Billie Wyer, "A Schedule for the New Mother," Parents' Magazine (Jan. 1937): 22; Josephine H. Kenyon, Healthy Babies Are Happy Babies (Boston, 1938), p. 258; Blanton and Blanton, Child Guidance, pp. 70ff.
16. W. Schweisheimer M.D., "When Sleep is Difficult," Parents' Magazine, (Oct. 1937): 32; Sybil Rauis, "When is Naptime," Parents' Magazine (Oct. 1943): 179; Elsieliese Thorpe, "Don't Make Naptime into Scraptime," Parents' Magazine (Aug. 1950): 100; Benjamin Spock, Common Sense Book of Baby and Childcare (New York, 1947). A major effort to switch scheduling from parental convenience to baby's own needs was Margaret Ribble, The Rights of Infants (New York, 1943).
17. Bruno Bettelheim, "Does Your Child Fight Sleep?" Parents' Magazine (Oct. 1951): 54, 83-4; Josephine Kenyon, "Sleep Problems in Childhood," Good Housekeeping (Nov. 1951): 30ff; Dorothy Barclay, "Cradle and Crib Sleeping Problem," New York Times Magazine (Mar. 1950): 58; Grace Langdon, "Training a Baby to Sleep," Parents' Magazine (Feb. 1943): 19, 40; Artie Appleton, "If He Won't Nap," Parents Magazine (Apr. 1942): 21; Grace Langdon, "Willingly to Bed," Parents' Magazine (May 1945): 35; Josephine Kenyon, "How Does Your Baby Sleep?" Good Housekeeping (Oct. 1941): 158-9; Oliver T. Osborne, "Children Should Not Drink Coffee or Tea," Good Housekeeping (Oct. 1924): 284.
18. "Sick Room and Nursery," Godey's Lady's Book (May 1855): 463.
19. Joseph Collins, Insomnia: How to Combat It (New York, 1930), p. 25; G. Stanley Hall, "A Study of Fear," American Journal of Psychology 8 (1897): 147-249; Peter N. Stearns and Timothy Haggerty, "The Role of Fear: Transitions in American Emotional Standards for Children, 1850-1950," American Historical Review 96 (1991): 82-4. For another case where new expertise helped create a problem, sibling rivalry, see Peter N. Steams, Jealousy: The Evolution of an Emotion in American History (New York, 1989), ch. 4.
20. Daniel E. Sutherland, Americans and Their Servants: Domestic Service in the United States from 1800 to 1920 (Baton Rouge, LA., 1981); Daniel Scott Smith, "Accounting for Change in the Families of the Elderly in the United States, 1900-Present," in Old Age in Bureaucratic Society, David Van Tassel and Peter N. Stearns, eds. (Westport, CT., 1988), pp. 87-105. The impact of more extensive parental contact with infants, against a backdrop of previously established high expectations of family harmony, is also explored in Steams, Jealousy, ch. 3. Note that reallocation of parental time, while applying particularly to mothers, also touched fathers; Margaret Marsh explored the 1920s survey literature on parental time allocations in "Suburban Men and Masculine Domesticity, 1870-1919," Mark Carnes and Clyde Griffen, eds., Meanings of Manhood (Chicago, 1990). On changes in living arrangements, see David Handlin, The American Home: Architecture and Society, 1815-1915 (Boston, 1979), pp. 479-502. A number of studies point to the importance of sleeping with siblings in nineteenth-century reactions and of the corresponding results of new sleeping patterns around 1900; see E. Anthony Rotundo, "Romantic Friendship: Male Intimacy and Middle-Class Youth in the Northern United States, 1800-1900," Journal of Social History 23 (1989): 1-26.
21. Ethel Spencer, The Spencers of Amberson Avenue (Pittsburgh, 1993), p. 11.
22. "A Folding Cradle," Scientific American (Sept. 10, 1898): 164; "'Soft and Easy Cradle': Nest for the World's Babies," The Craftsman 29 (Dec. 1915): 241; Dolly Carr, "Bed for the Baby," Parents' Magazine 14 (Oct. 1939): 26, 107.
23. Watson, Care, pp. 9-73; Collier, "The Child," p. 58.
24. Blanton and Blanton, Child Guidance; Agatha H. Bowley, The Natural Development of the Child (Edinburgh, 1942), p. 25.
25. R. D. Gillespie, Sleep and the Treatment of Its Disorders (New York, 1930); Collins, Insomnia.
26. Gosling, Before Freud.
27. Nathaniel Kleitman, "The Effects . . ." Studies in the Psychology of Sleep, American Journal of Physiology. ed. D.R. Hooker. Vol. 66. (Baltimore, 1923).
28. Collins, Insomnia, p. 16.
29. Caroline J. Acker, "From All Purpose Anodyne to Marker of Deviance: Physicians' Attitudes Towards Opiates in the U.S. from 1890-1940," in Roy Porter and Mikulas Teich, eds, Drugs and Narcotics in History (Cambridge, forthcoming); Ernest Hartman The Sleeping Pill (New Haven, 1978).
30. Steven Schlossman, "The Great Homework Wars," talk prepared for The History Channel. I am most grateful to Professor Schlossman for permission to cite his ongoing work. See also Brian Gill and Steve Schlossman, "'A Sin Against Childhood': The Crusade Against Homework, 1897-1941," unpublished ms.; Edward Bok, "A National Crime at the Feet of American Parents," Ladies' Home Journal (Jan. 1900): 16.
31. Gillespie, Sleep, p. 29.