Sunday, December 17

Our Children In Regard To Health And Fitness

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“Look over the bills of mortality. Almost half of those who fill up that black list, die under five years of age; so that half the people that come into the world go out
of it again, before they become of the least use to it or to themselves. To me, this seems to deserve serious consideration.
“It is ridiculous to charge it upon nature, and to suppose that infants are more subject to disease and death than grown persons; on the contrary, they bear pain and
disease much better—fevers especially; and for the same reason that a twig is less hurt by a storm than an oak.
“In all the other productions of nature, we see the greatest vigor and luxuriancy of health, the nearer they are to the egg or bud. When was there a lamb, a bird, or a
tree, that died because it was young? These are under the immediate nursing of unerring nature; and they thrive accordingly.
“Ought it not, therefore, to be the care of every nurse and every parent, not only to protect their nurslings from injury, but to be well assured that their own officious
services be not the greatest evils the helpless creatures can suffer?
“In the lower class of mankind, especially in the country, disease and mortality are not so frequent, either among adults or their children. Health and posterity are the
portion of the poor—I mean the laborious. The want of superfluity confines them more within the limits of nature; hence they enjoy the blessings they feel not, and are
ignorant of their cause.
“In the course of my practice, I have had frequent occasion to be fully satisfied of this; and have often heard a mother anxiously say, ‘the child has not been well
ever since it has done puking and crying.’
“These complaints, though not attended to, point very plainly to the cause. Is it not very evident that when a child rids its stomach of its contents several times a day,
it has been overloaded? While the natural strength lasts, (for every child is born with more health and strength than is generally imagined,) it cries at or rejects the
superfluous load, and thrives apace; that is, grows very fat, bloated, and distended beyond measure, like a house lamb.
“But in time, the same oppressive cause continuing, the natural powers are overcome, being no longer able to throw off the unequal weight. The child, now unable
to cry any more, languishes and is quiet.
“The misfortune is, that these complaints are not understood. The child is swaddled and crammed on, till, after gripes, purging, &c., it sinks under both burdens into
a convulsion fit, and escapes farther torture. This would be the case with the lamb, were it not killed, when full fat.
“That the present mode of nursing is wrong, one would think needed no other proof than the frequent miscarriages attending it, the death of many, and the ill health
of those that survive. But what I am going to complain of is, that children, in general, are over-clothed and over-fed, and fed and clothed improperly. To these causes I
attribute almost all their diseases.
“But the feeding of children is much more important to them than their clothing. Let us consider what nature directs in the case. If we follow nature, instead of
leading or driving her, we cannot err. In the business of nursing, as well as physic, art, if it do not exactly copy this original, is ever destructive.
“If I could prevail, no child should ever be crammed with any unnatural mixture, till the provision of nature was ready for it; nor afterwards fed with any ungenial
diet whatever, at least for the first three months; for it is not well able to digest and assimilate other elements sooner.
“I have seen very healthy children that never ate or drank anything whatever but their mother’s milk, for the first ten or twelve months. Nature seems to direct to this,
by giving them no teeth till about that time. The call of nature should be waited for to feed them with anything more substantial; and the appetite ought ever to precede
the food—not only with regard to the daily meals, but those changes of diet which opening, increasing life requires. But this is never done, in either case; which is one
of the greatest mistakes of all nurses.
“When the child requires more solid sustenance, we are to inquire what and how much is most proper to give it. We may be well assured there is a great mistake
either in the quantity or quality of children’s food, or both, as it is usually given them, because they are made sick by it; for to this mistake I cannot help imputing nine
in ten of all their diseases.
“As to quantity, there is a most ridiculous error in the common practice; for it is generally supposed that whenever a child cries, it wants victuals: it is accordingly fed
ten or twelve or more times in a day and night. This is so obvious a misapprehension, that I am surprised it should ever prevail.
“If a child’s wants and motions be diligently and judiciously attended to, it will be found that it never cries, but from pain. Now the first sensations of hunger are not
attended with pain; accordingly, a very young child that is hungry will make a hundred other signs of its want, before it will cry for food. If it be healthy, and quite
easy in its dress, it will hardly ever cry at all. Indeed, these signs and motions I speak of are but rarely observed, because it seldom happens that children are ever
suffered to be hungry.[Footnote: That which we commonly observe in them, in such cases, and call by the name of hunger, the Doctor, I suppose would regard as
morbid or unnatural feeling, wholly unworthy of the name of HUNGER.]
“In a few, very few, whom I have had the pleasure to see reasonably nursed, that were not fed above two or three times in twenty-four hours, and yet were perfectly
healthy, active, and happy, I have seen these signals, which were as intelligible as if they had spoken.
“There are many faults in the quality of children’s food.
“1. It is not simple enough. Their paps, panadas, gruels, &c. are generally enriched with sugar, spices, and other nice things, and sometimes a drop of wine—none
of which they ought ever to take. Our bodies never want them; they are what luxury only has introduced, to the destruction of the health of mankind.
“2. It is not enough that their food should be simple; it should also be light. Many people, I find, are mistaken in their notions of what is light, and fancy that most
kinds of pastry, puddings, custards, &c. are light; that is, light of digestion. But there is nothing heavier, in this sense, than unfermented flour and eggs, boiled hard,
which are the chief ingredients in some of these preparations.
“What I mean by light food—to give the best idea I can of it—is, any substance that is easily separated, and soluble in warm water. Good bread is the lightest thing I
know, and the fittest food for young children. Cows’ milk is also simple and light, and very good for them; but it is often injudiciously prepared. It should never be
boiled; for boiling alters the taste and properties of it, destroys its sweetness, and makes it thicker, heavier, and less fit to mix and assimilate with the blood.”

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