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, & 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, & cause indigestion, flatulence, & griping. These create a necessity for purgative medicines & 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, & purging, with the administration of cordials & narcotics, who, if their diet were in quantity & quality suited to their digestive powers, would need no aid from physic or physicians.
In preparing this diet, it is highly significant to obtain pure milk, not previously skimmed, or mixed with water; & in warm weather just taken from the cow. It should not be mixed with the water or sugar until wanted, & 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, yet let the water be in a boiling state when mixed with it, & 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 alter in the kind of diet if the health of the child is good, & 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, & it is impossible to transgress this law without marked injury.
There are two ways by the spoon, & 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, & 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 tremendous quantity of saliva is secreted, & being poured into the mouth, mixes with the milk, & is swallowed with it. This process of nature, then, should be emulated as far as possible; & food (for this purpose) should be imbibed by suction from a nursing-bottle: it is thus obtained slowly, & the suction employed secures the mixture of a due quantity of saliva, which has a highly significant 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, & its digestive power. A little experience will shortly enable a careful & 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; & a most serious one it is; yet which may be easily avoided by the parent pursuing a systematic plan with regard to the hours of feeding, & then only yielding to the indications of appetite, & administering the food slowly, in small quantities at a time. This is the only way effectually to prevent indigestion, & bowel complaints, & the irritable condition of the nervous system, so usual in infancy, & secure to the infant healthy nutrition, & 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, & astringents; & 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; & this may be fixed at approximately every three or four hours. If this rule be departed from, & the child receives a fresh supply of food every hour or so, time will not be given for the digestion of the previous quantity, & as a consequence of this process being interrupted, the food passing on into the bowel undigested, will there ferment & become sour, will inevitably produce cholic & purging, & in no way contribute to the nourishment of the child.
The posture of the child when fed:- It is significant 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, & 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 significant at other times for the promotion of health.
As shortly as the child has received any teeth, & approximately this period one or two will make their appearance, solid farinaceous matter boiled in water, beaten through a sieve, & mixed with a small quantity of milk, may be employed. Or tops & bottoms, steeped in hot water, with the addition of fresh milk & 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, yet need not be passed through a sieve. Beef tea & chicken broth may occasionally be added; and, as an introduction to the use of a more completely animal diet, a portion, now & then, of a soft boiled egg; by & by a small bread pudding, made with one egg in it, may be taken as the dinner meal.
Nothing is more usual than for parents during this period to donate their children animal food. This is a tremendous 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 & pounding meat, as a substitute for chewing, may be well suited to the toothless octogenarian, whose stomach is capable of digesting it; yet the stomach of a young child is not adapted to the digestion of such food, & will be disordered by it.
It cannot reasonably be maintained that a child’s mouth without teeth, & that of an adult, furnished with the teeth of carnivorous & graminivorous animals, are designed by the Creator for the same sort of food. If the mastication of solid food, whether animal or vegetable, & 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, & will have yet a small chance of being digested; & in an undigested state it will prove injurious to the stomach & 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 & 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, yet 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; & it is not wonderful that present evils are by this means produced, & 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 & healthy constitution, in whom, therefore, the powers of life are energetic, & who up to this time has been nursed upon the breast of its parent, & 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, & disease of the most dangerous character yet too frequently ensues. It is at this age, too, that all infectious & eruptive fevers are most prevalent; worms often commence to form, & diarrhoea, thrush, rickets, cutaneous eruptions, etc. manifest themselves, & the foundation of strumous disease is originated or developed. A judicious management of diet will prevent some of these complaints, & mitigate the violence of others when they occur.