Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/616

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
598
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

ing that way, they would feel ashamed to be sick, or to have sick children."

A vestige of the hygienic insight which in savages appears to be a gift of Nature, would, indeed, almost obviate the necessity of a treatise on the diseases of infancy; nay, wherever people have got rid of four or live of the grossest physiological prejudices, the art of preserving the health of a healthy-born child is even now a sort of intuition with every true mother; but nurses, physicians, and foster-parents, are often called upon to mend the mistakes of their predecessors, and to undertake a task whose less intuitive duties may be facilitated by some of the following hints on remedial education:

Shakespeare's "mewling and puking" representative of babyhood was probably overfed. The representative nurse believes in cramming; babies, like prize-pigs, are most admired when they are ready to die with fatty degeneration. The child is coaxed to suckle almost every half-hour, day after day, till habit begets a morbid appetite, analogous to the dyspeptic's stomach distress which no food can relieve till over-repletion brings on a sort of gastric lethargy.

"Many hand-fed infants, weighing about ten pounds, will swallow one and a half quart of cow's milk in one day," says Dr. Page;[1] "now, considering the needs of a moderately working man to be equal in proportion to size, a man weighing one hundred and fifty pounds should take 'fifteen times the quantity swallowed by the infant, or twenty-two and a half quarts—a quart for nearly every hour of the day and night!"

Vomiting, restlessness, and gross fatness, are some of the symptoms of the surfeit-disease, and its proper cure is—not soothing-sirups, but—fasting. Four nursings a day are enough, five more than enough, and the ejection of milk after suckling is a sure sign that the quantity given at each meal should be diminished. A pint of milk a day is about as much as a dyspeptic infant can really digest, and to cram it merely in order to stop its crying is quite mistaking the cause of its restlessness; a half-starved child will not cry, because the languor of insufficient nutrition is a pleasure compared with the gastric torments of the surfeit-disease. Children actually perishing with hunger will utter from time to time a peculiar sharp cry, almost like the call of a hungry nest-bird, but the first mouthful of food makes them relapse into a sort of dreamy silence.

There are nurslings who get at least four times more milk and pap than they can possibly assimilate, and whose digestive organs have to reject the surplus in a way that would make life intolerable to an adult, though most nurses seem to consider retching and "dripping" as a normal phase of infant life.

Drugs only complicate the disorder: many children whose constitution would have resisted the cramming process succumb to opiates, "surfeit-water" and ipecacuanha; but, unless foul dormitories still fur-

  1. "How to feed a Baby to make it healthy and happy," p. 23.