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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

GROWING PAINS: Mom's Thoughts Cool On Dousing Daughter

I remember it vividly as part of my daily routine at my old apartment.

Every morning as I left home for the office, even if it was freezing cold outside, I heard a splash behind me as I got into the car. I would look around and see my neighbor, wearing a swimsuit and dousing himself with a bucket of water. Looking satisfied with himself, my neighbor then emptied a bucket of water on his 10-year-old son, who was also nearly naked.

With all due respect for their courage, I find such methods of strengthening the body rather risky. But last winter, my daughter, Dasha, who was 8 months old, fell ill three times in a row. For the first time in my eight-year career as a parent, I started seriously thinking of zakalivaniye, or improving her immunity by dipping her in cold water.

Most Russian books on child care contain a chapter on taking cold showers, one of the most popular Russian ways of making children's bodies stronger. Traditional medicine advises parents to pour some water over a child every day after a bath, gradually lowering the temperature of the water by one degree per day.

I was summoning my courage to start the procedure when a friend of mine stopped me. "It's a sure way for your baby to catch cold," she said emphatically. "You should pour cold water on her straight off, without any gradual lowering of the temperature. The shock caused by the difference in temperatures will make her organism use all its defenses. That way, it will be impossible for her to catch cold."

She knew what she was talking about. She's been taking cold showers every morning since childhood, and now she administers them to her two sons, a 2-year-old and a 3-month-old. For further fortification of the healthy effect, the boys sleep on a balcony most of the year.

Just the thought that I would pour freezing water over somebody - much less my little girl - made me shiver. I decided to perform an experiment on myself first; if I survived, I would consider dousing Dasha.

In the meantime, I shared my doubts with another friend, a mother of two and a devoted follower of the Waldorf principles in raising children, a theory that brings together all elements of child development - intellectual, artistic and spiritual.

"Never do that to anybody," she said. "It can destroy the thermal envelope that covers the body. A cold shower is an invasion of the child's organism." She said the best thing parents can do for their children's health is to dress them in woolen clothes, on their bare skin, in any season.

The more I delve into the problem, the more questions I have. And now that it's becoming warmer outside, the temptation is growing: What if I postpone the application of this "healthy" method for a bit and confine myself to using some gentle, natural methods of improving my children's health - like taking them, say, for long walks in the park?