The respiration of a pure air is at all times, and under all circumstances, indispensable to the health of the infant. The nursery therefore should be large, well ventilated, in an elevated part of the house, and so situated as to admit a free supply both of air and light. For the same reasons, the … Continue reading “EXPOSURE OF INFANTS TO OPEN AIR”

The respiration of a pure air is at all times, and under all circumstances, indispensable to the health of the infant. The nursery therefore should be large, well ventilated, in an elevated part of the house, and so situated as to admit a free supply both of air and light. For the same reasons, the room in which the infant sleeps should be large, and the air frequently renewed; for nothing is so prejudicial to its health as sleeping in an impure and heated atmosphere. The practice, therefore, of drawing thick curtains closely round the bed is highly pernicious; they only answer a useful purpose when they defend the infant from any draught of cold air.

The proper time for taking the infant into the open air must, of course, be determined by the season of the year, and the state of the weather. “A delicate infant born late in the autumn will not generally derive advantage from being carried into the open air, in this climate, till the succeeding spring; and if the rooms in which he is kept are large, often changed, and well ventilated, he will not suffer from the confinement, while he will, most probably, escape catarrhal affections, which are so often the consequence of the injudicious exposure of infants to a cold and humid atmosphere.” If, however, the child is strong and healthy, no opportunity should be lost of taking it into the open air at stated periods, experience daily proving that it has the most invigorating and vivifying influence upon the system. Regard, however, must always be had to the state of the weather; and to a damp condition of the atmosphere the infant should never be exposed, as it is one of the most powerful exciting causes of consumptive disease. The nurse-maid, too, should not be allowed to loiter and linger about, thus exposing the infant unnecessarily, and for an undue length of time; this is generally the source of all the evils which accrue from taking the babe into the open air.


It should be as like the breast-milk as possible. This is obtained by a mixture of cow’s milk, water, and sugar, in the following proportions.

Fresh cow’s milk, two thirds; Boiling water, or thin barley water, one third; Loaf sugar, a sufficient quantity to sweeten.

This is the best diet that can be used for the first six months, after which some farinaceous food may be combined.

In early infancy, mothers are too much in the habit of giving thick gruel, panada, biscuit-powder, and such matters, thinking that a diet of a lighter kind will not nourish. This is a mistake; for these preparations are much too solid; they overload the stomach, and cause indigestion, flatulence, and griping. These create a necessity for purgative medicines and carminatives, which again weaken digestion, and, by unnatural irritation, perpetuate the evils which render them necessary. Thus many infants are kept in a continual round of repletion, indigestion, and purging, with the administration of cordials and narcotics, who, if their diet were in quantity and quality suited to their digestive powers, would need no aid from physic or physicians.

In preparing this diet, it is highly important to obtain pure milk, not previously skimmed, or mixed with water; and in warm weather just taken from the cow. It should not be mixed with the water or sugar until wanted, and not more made than will be taken by the child at the time, for it must be prepared fresh at every meal. It is best not to heat the milk over the fire, but let the water be in a boiling state when mixed with it, and thus given to the infant tepid or lukewarm.

As the infant advances in age, the proportion of milk may be gradually increased; this is necessary after the second month, when three parts of milk to one of water may be allowed. But there must be no change in the kind of diet if the health of the child is good, and its appearance perceptibly improving. Nothing is more absurd than the notion, that in early life children require a variety of food; only one kind of food is prepared by nature, and it is impossible to transgress this law without marked injury.

There are two ways by the spoon, and by the nursing-bottle. The first ought never to be employed at this period, inasmuch as the power of digestion in infants is very weak, and their food is designed by nature to be taken very slowly into the stomach, being procured from the breast by the act of sucking, in which act a great quantity of saliva is secreted, and being poured into the mouth, mixes with the milk, and is swallowed with it. This process of nature, then, should be emulated as far as possible; and food (for this purpose) should be imbibed by suction from a nursing-bottle: it is thus obtained slowly, and the suction employed secures the mixture of a due quantity of saliva, which has a highly important influence on digestion. Whatever kind of bottle or teat is used, however, it must never be forgotten that cleanliness is absolutely essential to the success of this plan of rearing children.

Te quantity of food to be given at each meal ust be regulated by the age of the child, and its digestive power. A little experience will soon enable a careful and observing mother to determine this point. As the child grows older the quantity of course must be increased.

The chief error in rearing the young is overfeeding; and a most serious one it is; but which may be easily avoided by the parent pursuing a systematic plan with regard to the hours of feeding, and then only yielding to the indications of appetite, and administering the food slowly, in small quantities at a time. This is the only way effectually to prevent indigestion, and bowel complaints, and the irritable condition of the nervous system, so common in infancy, and secure to the infant healthy nutrition, and consequent strength of constitution. As has been well observed, “Nature never intended the infant’s stomach to be converted into a receptacle for laxatives, carminatives, antacids, stimulants, and astringents; and when these become necessary, we may rest assured that there is something faulty in our management, however perfect it may seem to ourselves.”

The frequency of giving food must be determined, as a general rule, by allowing such an interval between each meal as will insure the digestion of the previous quantity; and this may be fixed at about every three or four hours. If this rule be departed from, and the child receives a fresh supply of food every hour or so, time will not be given for the digestion of the previous quantity, and as a consequence of this process being interrupted, the food passing on into the bowel undigested, will there ferment and become sour, will inevitably produce cholic and purging, and in no way contribute to the nourishment of the child.

The posture of the child when fed:- It is important to attend to this. It must not receive its meals lying; the head should be raised on the nurse’s arm, the most natural position, and one in which there will be no danger of the food going the wrong way, as it is called. After each meal the little one should be put into its cot, or repose on its mother’s knee, for at least half an hour. This is essential for the process of digestion, as exercise is important at other times for the promotion of health.

As soon as the child has got any teeth, and about this period one or two will make their appearance, solid farinaceous matter boiled in water, beaten through a sieve, and mixed with a small quantity of milk, may be employed. Or tops and bottoms, steeped in hot water, with the addition of fresh milk and loaf sugar to sweeten. And the child may now, for the first time, be fed with a spoon.

When one or two of the large grinding teeth have appeared, the same food may be continued, but need not be passed through a sieve. Beef tea and chicken broth may occasionally be added; and, as an introduction to the use of a more completely animal diet, a portion, now and then, of a soft boiled egg; by and by a small bread pudding, made with one egg in it, may be taken as the dinner meal.

Nothing is more common than for parents during this period to give their children animal food. This is a great error. “To feed an infant with animal food before it has teeth proper for masticating it, shows a total disregard to the plain indications of nature, in withholding such teeth till the system requires their assistance to masticate solid food. And the method of grating and pounding meat, as a substitute for chewing, may be well suited to the toothless octogenarian, whose stomach is capable of digesting it; but the stomach of a young child is not adapted to the digestion of such food, and will be disordered by it.

It cannot reasonably be maintained that a child’s mouth without teeth, and that of an adult, furnished with the teeth of carnivorous and graminivorous animals, are designed by the Creator for the same sort of food. If the mastication of solid food, whether animal or vegetable, and a due admixture of saliva, be necessary for digestion, then solid food cannot be proper, when there is no power of mastication. If it is swallowed in large masses it cannot be masticated at all, and will have but a small chance of being digested; and in an undigested state it will prove injurious to the stomach and to the other organs concerned in digestion, by forming unnatural compounds. The practice of giving solid food to a toothless child, is not less absurd, than to expect corn to be ground where there is no apparatus for grinding it. That which would be considered as an evidence of idiotism or insanity in the last instance, is defended and practised in the former. If, on the other hand, to obviate this evil, the solid matter, whether animal or vegetable, be previously broken into small masses, the infant will instantly swallow it, but it will be unmixed with saliva. Yet in every day’s observation it will be seen, that children are so fed in their most tender age; and it is not wonderful that present evils are by this means produced, and the foundation laid for future disease.”

The diet pointed out, then, is to be continued until the second year. Great care, however, is necessary in its management; for this period of infancy is ushered in by the process of teething, which is commonly connected with more or less of disorder of the system. Any error, therefore, in diet or regimen is now to be most carefully avoided. ‘Tis true that the infant, who is of a sound and healthy constitution, in whom, therefore, the powers of life are energetic, and who up to this time has been nursed upon the breast of its parent, and now commences an artificial diet for the first time, disorder is scarcely perceptible, unless from the operation of very efficient causes. Not so, however, with the child who from the first hour of its birth has been nourished upon artificial food. Teething under such circumstances is always attended with more or less of disturbance of the frame, and disease of the most dangerous character but too frequently ensues. It is at this age, too, that all infectious and eruptive fevers are most prevalent; worms often begin to form, and diarrhoea, thrush, rickets, cutaneous eruptions, etc. manifest themselves, and the foundation of strumous disease is originated or developed. A judicious management of diet will prevent some of these complaints, and mitigate the violence of others when they occur.


Disorder of the stomach and bowels is one of the most fruitful sources of the diseases of infancy. Only prevent their derangement, and, all things being equal, the infant will be healthy and flourish, and need not the aid of physic or physicians.

There are many causes which may give rise to these affections; many of them appertain to the mother’s system, some to that of the infant. All are capable, to a great extent, of being prevented or remedied. It is, therefore, most important that a mother should not be ignorant or misinformed upon this subject. It is the prevention of these affections, however, that will be principally dwelt upon here; for let the mother ever bear in mind, and act upon the principle, that the prevention of disease alone belongs to her; the cure to the physician. For the sake of clearness and reference, these disorders will be spoken of as they occur:

To the infant at the breast.


The infant’s stomach and bowels may become deranged from the breast-milk becoming unwholesome. This may arise from the parent getting out of health, a circumstance which will be so manifest to herself, and to those more immediately interested in her welfare, that it is only necessary just to allude to it here. Suffice it to say, that there are many causes of a general kind to which it may owe its origin; but that the most frequent is undue lactation, and the effects both upon mother and child fully dwelt upon.

Anxiety of mind in the mother will cause her milk to be unhealthy in its character, and deficient in quantity, giving rise to flatulence, griping, and sometimes even convulsions in the infant. A fit of passion in the nurse will frequently be followed by a fit of bowel complain in the child. These causes of course are temporary, and when removed the milk becomes a healthy and sufficient for the child as before.

Sudden and great mental disturbance, however, will occasionally drive away the milk altogether, and in a few hours. A Mrs. S., aet. 29, a fine healthy woman, of a blonde complexion, was confined of a boy. She had a good time, and a plentiful supply of milk for the child, which she continued to suckle till the following January, a period of three months, when her milk suddenly disappeared. This circumstance puzzled the medical attendant, for he could not trace it to any physical ailment; but the milk never returned, and a wet-nurse became necessary. In the following spring the husband of this lady failed, an adversity which had been impending since the date when the breast-milk disappeared, upon which day the deranged state of the husband’s affairs was made known to the wife, a fact which at once explained the mysterious disappearance of the milk.

Unwholesome articles of diet will affect the mother’s milk, and derange the infant’s bowels. Once, I was called to see an infant at the breast with diarrhoea. The remedial measures had but little effect so long as the infant was allowed the breast-milk; but this being discontinued, and arrow-root made with water only allowed, the complaint was quickly put a stop to. Believing that the mother’s milk was impaired from some accidental cause which might now be passed, the infant was again allowed the breast. In less than four-and-twenty hours, however, the diarrhoea returned. The mother being a very healthy woman, it was suspected that some unwholesome article in her diet might be the cause. The regimen was accordingly carefully inquired into, when it appeared that porter from a neighbouring publican’s had been substituted for their own for some little time past. This proved to be bad, throwing down, when left to stand a few hours, a considerable sediment; it was discontinued; good sound ale taken instead; the infant again put to the breast, upon the milk of which it flourished, and never had another attack.

In the same way aperient medicine, taken by the mother, will act on the child’s bowels, through the effect which it produces upon her milk. This, however, is not the case with all kinds of purgative medicine, nor does the same purgative produce a like effect upon all children. It is well, therefore, for a parent to notice what aperient acts thus through her system upon that of her child, and what does not, and when an aperient becomes necessary for herself, unless she desire that the infant’s bowels be moved, to avoid the latter; if otherwise, she may take the former with good effect.

Again; the return of the monthly periods whilst the mother is a nurse always affects the properties of the milk, more or less, deranging the stomach and bowels of the infant. It will thus frequently happen, that a few days before the mother is going to be unwell, the infant will become fretful and uneasy; its stomach will throw up the milk, and its motions will be frequent, watery, and greenish. And then, when the period is fully over, the milk will cease to purge. It is principally in the early months, however, that the infant seems to be affected by this circumstance; for it will be generally found that although the milk is certainly impaired by it, being less abundant and nutritious, still, after the third or fourth month it ceases to affect the infant. Is then a mother, because her monthly periods return after her delivery, to give up nursing? Certainly not, unless the infant’s health is seriously affected by it; for she will generally find that, as the periods come round, by keeping the infant pretty much from the breast, during its continuance, and feeding him upon artificial food, she will prevent disorder of the child’s health, and be able in the intervals to nurse her infant with advantage. It must be added, however, that a wet- nurse is to be resorted to rather than any risk incurred of injuring the child’s health; and that, in every case, partial feeding will be necessary at a much earlier period than when a mother is not thus affected.

The milk may also be rendered less nutritive, and diminished in quantity, by the mother again becoming pregnant. In this case, however, the parent’s health will chiefly suffer, if she persevere in nursing; this, however, will again act prejudicially to the child. It will be wise, therefore, if pregnancy should occur, and the milk disagree with the infant, to resign the duties of a nurse, and to put the child upon a suitable artificial diet.

The infant that is constantly at the breast will always be suffering, more or less, from flatulence, griping, looseness of the bowels, and vomiting. This is caused by a sufficient interval not being allowed between the meals for digestion. The milk, therefore, passes on from the stomach into the bowels undigested, and the effects just alluded to follow. Time must not only be given for the proper digestion of the milk, but the stomach itself must be allowed a season of repose. This evil, then, must be avoided most carefully by the mother strictly adhering to those rules for nursing.

The bowels of the infant at the breast, as well as after it is weaned, are generally affected by teething. And it is fortunate that this is the case, for it prevents more serious affections. Indeed, the diarrhoea that occurs during dentition, except it be violent, must not be subdued; if, however, this is the case, attention must be paid to it. It will generally be found to be accompanied by a swollen gum; the freely lancing of which will sometimes alone put a stop to the looseness: further medical aid may, however, be necessary.

At the period of weaning.


There is great susceptibility to derangements of the stomach and bowels of the child at the period when weaning ordinarily takes place, so that great care and judgment must be exercised in effecting this object. Usually, however, the bowels are deranged during this process from one of these causes; from weaning too early, from effecting it too suddenly and abruptly, or from over-feeding and the use of improper and unsuitable food. There is another cause which also may give rise to diarrhoea at this time, independently of weaning, viz. the irritation of difficult teething.

The substitution of artificial food for the breast-milk of the mother, at a period when the digestive organs of the infant are too delicate for this change, is a frequent source of the affections now under consideration.

The attempt to wean a delicate child, for instance, when only six months old, will inevitably be followed by disorder of the stomach and bowels. Unless, therefore, a mother is obliged to resort to this measure, from becoming pregnant, or any other unavoidable cause, if she consult the welfare of her child, she will not give up nursing at this early period.

Depriving the child at once of the breast, and substituting artificial food, however proper under due regulations such food may be, will invariably cause bowel complaints. Certain rules and regulations must be adopted to effect weaning safely, the details of which are given elsewhere.

If too large a quantity of food is given at each meal, or the meals are too frequently repeated, in both instances the stomach will become oppressed, wearied, and deranged; part of the food, perhaps, thrown up by vomiting, whilst the remainder, not having undergone the digestive process, will pass on into the bowels, irritate its delicate lining membrane, and produce flatulence, with griping, purging, and perhaps convulsions.

Then, again, improper and unsuitable food will be followed by precisely the same effects; and unless a judicious alteration be quickly made, remedies will not only have no influence over the disease, but the cause being continued, the disease will become most seriously aggravated.

It is, therefore, of the first importance to the well-doing of the child, that at this period, when the mother is about to substitute an artificial food for that of her own breast, she should first ascertain what kind of food suits the child best, and then the precise quantity which nature demands. Many cases might be cited, where children have never had a prescription written for them, simply because, these points having been attended to, their diet has been managed with judgment and care; whilst, on the other hand, others might be referred to, whose life has been hazarded, and all but lost, simply from injudicious dietetic management. Over-feeding, and improper articles of food, are more frequently productive, in their result, of anxious hours and distressing scenes to the parent, and of danger and loss of life to the child, than almost any other causes.

The irritation caused by difficult teething may give rise to diarrhoea at the period when the infant is weaned, independently of the weaning itself. Such disorder of the bowels, if it manifestly occur from this cause, is a favourable circumstance, and should not be interfered with, unless indeed the attack be severe and aggravated, when medical aid becomes necessary. Slight diarrhoea then, during weaning, when it is fairly traceable to the cutting of a tooth (the heated and inflamed state of the gum will at once point to this as the source of the derangement), is of no consequence, but it must not be mistaken for disorder arising from other causes. Lancing the gum will at once, then, remove the cause, and generally cure the bowel complaint.