Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/126

This page has been validated.
116
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

"Popular Science"), while granting the soundness of Dr. Oswald's position as to the "millions of infants who from the moment of birth are overfed and drug-poisoned," viz., that we have here a sufficient cause of dyspepsia, asks: "Well, what of the millions that are not? Are they the ones who do not show any such tendency, despite the fact that some of their progenitors do?" Would Dr. Black have us believe that, outside of "baby-farms," a single babe, of all the millions who live to be born, escapes being constantly overfed and (in consequence) occasionally medicated? I assert that, as to the first count in the indictment, an infant is about as sure to be excessively fed as he is to be born. The only exception in general practice is where the babe is nourished at the breast, and the supply happens to be short of an excess, and even in these cases all haste is made to supplement his natural aliment with the bottle; for mothers are unhappy unless their babies are growing obese at the rate of a pound or more a week. Infants usually measure more round the body, arms, and legs, and weigh more, at some period during their first year—often at six months—than at the age of two and a half or three years. No growing thing, in either the animal or vegetable kingdom, can, under natural conditions, exhibit anything of this sort. Parents, no more than the average "druggist," are aware of the fact that the normal or true growth of an infant is never more than three to five ounces per week, and that all the gain above this is from fat, representing excess, though seldom all of the excess more or less being daily purged away by the bowels, or excreted through other outlets. All this produces or constitutes disease, leads on to sickness, and probably dosing. While we have to admit that only about forty or fifty per cent are, before the age of five years, stamped out by this combination a method of getting rid of the weakling[1] far more cruel than the Spartan plan, of freezing them, or the African, of feeding to the crocodiles ninety-nine in every hundred are made sick by overfeeding, and few of these escape being more or less drugged. Having made the question of infant dietetics a specialty for the past ten years, I find that to hold to cow's milk as the exclusive diet of bottle-babes (a portion of the cream to be removed in case the milk is very rich in this constituent), limiting the number of meals to three, and somewhat restricting the amount at each meal, and allowing nurslings three to five meals (according as the breast may or may not require the "stimulation" of frequent drawing), is an almost absolute guarantee against the gastrointestinal disorders which are popularly supposed to be unavoidable at this period of life.

Considerable restriction is essential with bottle-babies; for a greedy infant will at any age swallow at two "sittings" a full physiological ration for twenty-four hours, and, if there is to be no restriction as to the quantity taken at each meal, no more than two should be offered. Furthermore, every infant who is not fed ad nauseam will be "greedy." In case of infants nourished at the breast, the flow, if excessive, must be diminished by regulating the mother's diet; for in such cases the excess is due to an over-stimulating or slop diet, which affects the nursing-woman as a "driving" diet does our dairy cows, causing a large yield of unnaturally constituted, though perhaps "rich" milk. In order to show the wide contrast between the universal cramming and a truly wholesome diet, I will cite the case of my own infant, now a "stout, strapping boy" of twelve months, who is one of a number known to me as having enjoyed a really fair chance for proving their fitness to survive. His allowance at this time is a coffee-cupful, or about eighteen tablespoonfuls, at each meal. It is usual for infants to swallow as much, often more than, three such cupfuls, every day, at the age of three or four months, except when nausea or lack of appetite prevents. They are either "constantly" fed, or at least have a meal every two or three hours. This is the practice with the "million," by which I presume Dr. Oswald meant all "civilized" infants, including Dr. Black's, if he has been blessed with such "troublesome comforts," as they are universally called—a term, by-the-way, in itself very significant in this connection; for, again referring to the few infants who have been exceptinoally fed, "breathed," clad, and exercised, i. e.—1. Fed in the manner I have described as constituting a physiological diet; 2. Given the breath of life, viz., out-door air twenty-four hours a day, whether the babe is in-doors or out; 3. Saved from sweltering clothing—allowing the skin to "breathe"; 4. Rationally "neglected," or, in other words, instead of being constantly held, tended, or wheeled, early allowed the opportunity, on the floor or lawn, of rolling, tumbling, stretching out, and learning to creep at an early age, thus earning a good digestion, and avoiding one of the principal causes of infantile dyspepsia, by being, like kittens, puppies, and young monkeys, largely "self-supporting," and like them developing naturally in all parts of the frame—by these means, I would say, it has been shown to be entirely practicable to insure for the "infant race" a condition as comfortable,

  1. Quoth Dr. Black. "Now, we nurse them (the weaklings) to adult life!" In fact, only about fifty to sixty per cent of all infants arrive at adult age, and these have been fitly described as "too tough to kill." Even these, to the last one, would make healthier men and women, if saved the abuses we have named.