Breast has always been best!

THE most suitable food for infants is that of Nature's own providing - mothers' milk. In very exceptional instances is this supply shortcoming during the first few weeks after child-birth. If, unhappily, the contrary should be the case, a delicate infant can seldom be successfully reared without the aid of a wet-nurse.
    The only circumstances which should prevent a mother from suckling her offspring are a too excitable temperament, or a consumptive state of constitution. Ordinary debility, consequent on recent confinement, is rarely an impediment to the fulfilment of one of the highest instincts of human nature, and one no less productive of moral than physical benefits. During the time a child receives nourishment at its mother's breast the earliest bond of sympathy, destined to influence a lifetime, of parent and child, is mutually formed.
   anti-Embarassment Device, circa 1910 Whatever changes it may be necessary to make in the dietary of an infant after the age of six weeks, absolute necessity alone should induce the substitution of artificial in lieu of the natural food. The first milk is of a purgative character, and is admirably adapted to cleanse the system of a new-born babe. In this particular the most desirable wet-nurse might fail to prove a fitting deputy for the mother. Likewise, throughout the period of nursing, it is a point of great importance that the quality of the nourishment should be proportionate to the age of the infant. If the services of a wet-nurse be inevitable, it should be sought to engage one who has been a mother about the same length of time as the parent of the infant to be brought up. In selecting a wet-nurse a medical man is the best medium.
    During the first two or three weeks an infant, if awake, may be suckled at intervals of from one to two hours. The sooner, however, the babe can be brought into the habit of being fed once every two hours, the greater will be the benefit derived from the nourishment, and the more speedily will the mother be enabled to regain her own strength. A determination to attain regularity in feeding is all that is needed. When this plan is steadily pursued, the digestion of a child will work with the precision of the clock by which its meals are regulated. All cries should not be supposed to arise from craving for food. Numberless causes of irritation may occasion a fretful cry - cold feet, pressure of clothing, wet linen, a flea, or other discomfort. Instead, therefore, of giving food instantly, it is advisable to open the clothing, warm the tiny feet, chafe the limbs, or, if possible, take the infant for a little walk out of doors. If, after having tried similar remedies, the fretfulness continue, the cause should be sought in the condition of the child's stools. If signs of griping pains or colic be evident, less food should be given, and the interval between the meals lengthened.
    Sometimes a cry of continual distress prevails, from the mother's milk being not sufficiently nourishing to satisfy the appetite of the babe. In such case it is advisable to give, every night and morning, a meal of cow's-milk and water, prepared in the following manner:- Fresh milk (from ONE cow), warm water - of each a quarter of a pint sugar of milk - one tea-spoonful. The latter should first be dissolved in the warm water then the milk, unboiled, mixed with it. Sweetening with sugar of milk, instead of lump sugar, makes a greater resemblance to the mother's milk. Possibly the infant may take but half the above quantity; we only give the recipe to show the right proportions. An older child might require all at a meal.
    A lactometer (a small instrument to test the quality of milk) may be had at very trifling cost, and affords some indication of the genuineness of milk. The condensed milk (which has lately been introduced into this country) is one of the greatest boons placed within the reach of dwellers in crowded cities. All children like it, and thrive on its use.
    The practice of giving thickened food to infants at too tender an age is a source of endless trouble, as before observed. In one of Dr. Edward Smith's admirable articles on dietary he remarks that the feeding of young infants on bread, flour, biscuits, and other substances than milk, is a "constant source of derangement of the liver, and a frequent cause of fits." However considerable the quantity of such food passed into the stomach of a young infant may be, the body is not thereby nourished, but irritated. A babe, like an adult, is only nourished by what it has power to digest.
    As a general rule a babe ought to be entirely nourished on milk until the first tooth appears. Even after that period milk should for a considerable time form the staple article of food. Larger quantities should then be given, and greater intervals between the meals observed. It is estimated that a babe three months of age will consume at least three pints of milk in twenty-four hours.
    "Up to six or seven months of age," Dr. Letheby says, "infants have not the power of digesting farinaceous or fibrinous substances." After that age many descriptions of farinaceous food may be used, and are to be strongly recommended.
    Beef-tea, veal, chicken, or mutton broth are apt to turn acid and cause flatulence or sickness, and should not be given without medical advice. Careful feeling of the way should be observed in every change of infants' diet, especially if teething be in operation.
    A needless source of alarm is sometimes excited by an infant throwing up milk in a curdled state. This appearance is perfectly natural in milk rejected from the stomach of a healthy child. The quantity rejected is simply that which was in excess of the child's want, and is Nature's mode of relief in infancy. If the milk be rejected in a dense mass, it is a sign either that less would be sufficient or that the interval between taking nourishment should be lengthened. But if, immediately on being put to the breast, or on beginning to suck a bottle of food, the stomach throw off the food, the condition of the parent or child should receive attention.
    A very necessary treatment after a meal consists in lifting the babe across the nurse's left shoulder, whether awake or asleep, and gently patting the infant's back until the wind displaced by food is thrown off the stomach. Wherever this precaution is used gripes and windy colic are seldom heard of. So great is the relief that infants accustomed to the treatment struggle to lift themselves up after having been fed.
    The period of weaning is one of great anxiety. Make the change gradually. A little self-restraint in keeping out of sight when the child may naturally be supposed to be hungry, is the greatest act of kindness to the little one. The most favourable time for weaning is in warm weather, when the infant can be amused and kept much out of doors.
    The time an infant should take to imbibe half a pint of liquid food should not be less than from twenty minutes to half an hour. In order to secure the necessary delay, the elastic top should be examined before each meal, to see whether the hole through which the food passes has extended with use. If so, a tie-knot with a fine needle and sewing-silk should be made across the hole. It should be borne in mind that only such food as has been thoroughly mixed with saliva proves easy of digestion. The temperature of an infant's food should be that of its body. This may be maintained during feeding-time by placing the main quantity in a vessel containing hot water, within reach of the nurse's hand for replenishing.
     Throughout the period of early infancy, the best time for giving food is before sleep; indeed, the act of taking food induces slumber. Its importance being pre-eminent, it is better to waste the remnant of a meal than to keep a sleepy child awake to eat. With ordinarily healthy infants, however, there will be little of this, if regularity be observed on the part of the nurse or mother. At regular hours they will demand their food, and about as regularly go off to sleep just as they get to the end of it, which is a great comfort to all concerned.
    The utmost cleanliness should be observed in every detail connected with the keeping of all utensils for nursery use. When removed from the bottle, the india-rubbery top should be immediately placed in a glass of clean water, and the bottle cleansed from every trace of food, and twice a day rinsed out with tea-leaves and water.
    When not in use, the bottle should be hidden from the infant's sight. The india-rubber tube should have water blown through it regularly, and at least once a day be scrubbed through with one of the brushes sold for that purpose. The teat or mouth-piece should always be care fully examined, if a new one, before use. If this precaution is not taken, it will often happen that no power of suction the infant possesses can extract anything through the aperture ; while through others, on the other hand it may come far too freely. The teat improves with use for a certain time, but after that may spoil, and should be examined from time to time, especially if the bottle appears to be emptied with too great rapidity. A little sugar sprinkled over the top of a feeding-bottle will often induce an infant to take the artificial food.
    Not more food than is likely to be consumed at a meal should be prepared at a time, owing to the tendency of milk and farinaceous articles to turn rapidly sour and become altogether unfit for infants' food.
    The best farinaceous foods for very young infants are prepared on Baron Liebig's plan, a quantity of finely ground malt being mixed with the baked flour. When properly prepared, the malt acts chemically upon the flour so as to produce fluidity and assist digestion This food can be prepared so as almost exactly to resemble woman's milk in composition ; and children have been reared on it whose delicate stomachs had rejected cow's milk.
    Farinaceous articles for night-feeding should not be kept over a lamp ; diluting such articles with boiling water is a safer plan. Water is easily kept at boiling heat in an ordinary Etna.


















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Wet Nurses 

If a mother, with or without reasonable cause, deputes her duties to a wet nurse, she ought thoroughly to understand that the expedient is not without drawbacks. All the best accoucheurs agree that in choosing a woman for the office, observation of the figure, the complexion, the colour, the teeth, or even the shape and development of the breasts, and the analysis of their secretion, are all unimportant compared with a knowledge of the regularity of the catamenia. In this respect it stands to reason we must take the applicant's own character of herself, a serious temptation to dishonesty. An unmarried woman may not improbably have a concealed constitutional taint, which is communicated through the milk, and at the best is an unpleasant inmate in the family. A poor married woman, however respectable, is removed from a starving home to sudden abundance, and invariably over-eats herself and it is fortunate if she does not over-drink herself too. She pines and grows anxious about her own child if it is alive, and insists upon having her troublesome husband to see her openly or secretly, on the pretence (a fallacious one) that his visit increases the flow of milk. Moreover, a rich mother cannot but feel some compunction in purchasing for her own offspring what is stolen from another, who is sometimes seriously affected by the fraud, and retires disgusted from this false world.

Thomas King Chambers, A Manual of Diet in Health and Disease, 1876

Following pictures from baby-bottle museum