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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/318

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

themselves would conspire to further its purposes and bar the boundary between virtue and vice which conscience often guards in vain. The temptations that beset the path of the adult convert do not exist for the wards of Nature. To the palate of a normal child, alcohol is as unattractive as corrosive sublimate; the enforced inactivity of our limbs, which afterward becomes dyspeptic indolence, is as irksome to a healthy boy as to a wild animal, and a young Indian would prefer the open air of the stormiest winter night to the hot miasma of our tenement-houses. Few smokers can forget the effects of the diffident first attempt—the revolt of the system against the incipience of a virulent habit. The same with other abuses of our domestic and social life. If we would preserve the purity of our physical conscience, we might refer all hygienic problems to an unerring oracle of Nature.

The appearance of the eye-teeth (cuspids) and lesser molars marks the end of the second year as the period when healthy children may be gradually accustomed to semi-fluid vegetable substances. Till then, milk should form their only sustenance. As a substitute for the nourishment of their mother's breast, cow's-milk, mixed with a little water and sugar, is far superior to all patent paps, Liebig's compounds, and baby-soups, which often induce a malignant attack of the dysenteric complaint known as "bowel-fever" or "weaning-brash," unless palliated by still more condemnable astringents and soothing-sirups. In France the professional wet-nurses of the Pays de Vaud are generally engaged as nourrices de deux arts; but mothers whose employment does not interfere with their inclination in this respect may safely nurse their children for a much longer period. The wives of the sturdy Argyll peasants rarely wean a bairn before its claim is disputed by the next youngster; and the stoutest urchin of five years I ever saw was the son of a poor Servian widow, who still took him to her breast like a baby. Animals suckle their young till they are able to digest the unmodified solid food of the species; and the best method with weanlings, therefore, is perhaps that of the Ionian-Islanders, whose toddling infants, as Dr. Bodenstedt noticed, partake of the simple repast of their parents—unleavened maize-cakes and dried figs—and are often permitted to exercise their teeth on a fresh-plucked ear of sugar-corn. But, in countries where the repast of parents is anything but simple, the best food for young children is a porridge of milk and boiled rice or oatmeal, with a little sugar, perhaps, or a few spoonfuls of apple-butter in summer-time. Of such simple dishes a child may be permitted to eat* its fill, but they should be served at regular intervals and never be taken hot. Heating our food is one of the many devices for disguising its natural taste, and sipping hot and cold drinks, turn about, is far more injurious to the teeth than the penchant for sweetmeats which children share with savages and monkeys. Beginning with five light meals a day, the number may be gradually reduced to three, after which a system of fixed hours should be strictly observed, till the symptoms of