CHILDREN IN THE FAST
ERRORS CONCERNING THE CARE OF INFANTS:
WHEN the human child is born into the world, it is equipped with but three developed faculties--hunger, thirst, and sleep. The infant, if capable of expressed desire, would signify its greatest need as sleep, but its rest is naturally punctuated with hunger periods, and at these times and at no others it should be fed. To awaken a quietly sleeping child for the purpose of administering food is most inadvisable, yet nurse and mother, burdened with professional tradition and advice, in over-zealous care rarely permit a two-hour interval to pass without forcing food upon the attention of the baby. The child will through habit take the breast or the bottle and suckle for a while, but its rest has been disturbed, and its small digestive apparatus is never free from labor as long as these misguided women can stimulate appetite. Disobedience to natural law brings its penalty, and disease shortly appears to right the wrong. Overfeeding a child is the greatest cause of infantile disease, and it could not occur if the first hunger instinct were permitted to guide the infant from birth. Actual need alone would then be satisfied, and the artificial sense of appetite that invariably develops when overfeeding is the rule would never appear.
Another error in connection with the earliest living moments of the infant is that of haste in severing the umbilical cord, the physical bond between the child and its mother, before the cessation of its natural pulsations. Interchange of oxygen and of nutriment between mother and fetus has taken place through this avenue during the whole period of gestation, and by this means the baby frame has been built to the moment of birth. Its final use and its last pulsations insure tissue nourishment sufficient to carry the child until food for post-natal growth can be furnished from the breast of the mother. Haste in cutting the cord starts the infant badly, and hunger is asserted much earlier than should be the case. In addition, babies thus treated often exhibit anemic tendencies because of mother-blood denied at birth, while their metabolism is compelled to function much too soon, and the mother herself suffers uterine and placental congestion with possible delay in the expulsion of the latter organ. It may be noted that undue retention of the placenta in whole or in part is the cause of death of thousands of women at childbirth or shortly thereafter.
When departure is made from the laws of nature, abnormal physical conditions are produced, and penalties are exacted. The normal food and the only food that is designed for infant use is mother's milk. At birth, delay in its appearance is often noted, and perhaps for two or three days its secretion is absent. Reference to the function performed by the umbilical cord before birth and at delivery offers explanation why in this event undue haste need not be made in attempting artificial feeding. If, as unfortunately is too often the case in modern life, the mother finds herself incapable of furnishing food for her child, a substitute must be obtained. The ideal method makes use of the wet-nurse, but, if this cannot be done, water-diluted full goat's milk, with sugar of milk or honey added, sufficient to supply as nearly as possible the constituents of mother's milk, is the nearest and best alternative. When the milk of the goat is unobtainable, top-milk from a healthy cow may be utilized. Prepared foods are doubtful in efficacy. There are many kinds on the market and the possibility exists that one or the other of these may agree with the particular infant. Orange juice and tomato juice are also additions that should enter the dietary of the child, supplying as they do vitamins and mineral salts, elements most essential to body maintenance and growth.
Whatever physical handicaps the mother may endure, the child in her womb receives from her body the best in the way of nourishment that that body is able to give. This is well exemplified in an earlier chapter when illustration was made of pregnant women, ill and fasting, who yet brought healthy children into the world. And, too, the contention that all disease has its origin in impaired digestive power is more strongly upheld when disturbances occur in the young than when adult organism is affected. In the child, unaccustomed to continued abuse of the body and its functions, and with no harmful habits formed, the system resents to its limit any but natural treatment. And it is especially during this period of early infancy that measures for the prevention of later disease should be first in the thought of the natural guardians of the child. Future physical welfare absolutely depends upon the running start which can then be given, and every source of information that offers logical guidance in hygiene should be exhausted, and the knowledge gained should be applied. Herein lies the extreme value that is to be put upon the principles exploited in the text. As against forced feeding, we have the natural instinct of the child, which, when normal, indicates its food requirements even to the point of partial selection. If by accident disease occurs, as against suppression of the symptom, we have the assistance offered by the fast and its eliminative aids to purify the system and to eradicate the cause. And this gained knowledge has the further worth of coming, not by hearsay, but straight from nature itself, by which token it is to be the more cherished and conserved.
The physical condition of a nursing mother is always reflected in the body of her child, and mental disturbances, temporary or permanent, show like effect. Through nervous derangement of functional power, induced by disease or by anxiety, grief, or anger, such changes are occasioned in the milk of the mother as to cause serious illness in the sucking child. It is therefore incumbent upon this parent so to regulate her physical body through a dietary regimen as to prevent error in milk quality, and so to conserve her mental forces as to prevent systemic poisoning through emotional tension, with their detrimental influences upon infant digestion.
When infantile disease is manifested, a medically treated child is still more hampered in its physical processes. Drugs are poisons, and their introduction into the body of an infant suffering from food excess or from the results of erroneous diet on the part of the mother, works havoc with tender nerves and tissue. Drugs aim at the suppression of symptom and not at removal of cause, and many an adult organism is compelled to struggle through life handicapped by undeveloped, partially paralyzed mechanism, the result of dosage in infancy.
The disease symptoms of childhood frequently assume epidemic form. Contagion and infection actively affect the individual only when his physical state is such as not to be able to repel the germ, either of the ever present variety or introduced from outside sources. The aim of the parent should be directed toward the preservation of health with its resistive qualities in the body of the growing child, and if, through carelessness or ignorance, or accident, this condition may fail of conservation, toward the prompt removal of the soil in which the germ thrives and dies. To use a germicide in these instances is suicidal, for germicides merely succeed in destroying the microbe, a process that adds decomposing material to an already fertile and expectant medium. And it is reasonable also to assume that a poison powerful enough to kill living organisms within the body is of strength sufficient to deal destruction to the cells composing it.
Referring to a former statement concerning feeding the body while high temperature prevails, the question may be asked:--Why put food into the stomach of a feverish infant! A roaring fire is not ordinarily subdued by adding fuel to the flame. Fever is in actuality a salutary symptom indicating by its very existence an active internal struggle by natural forces to rid the system through rapid combustion of material that is most inimical to life. It is caused by absorption into the circulation of the products of excess food rotting in the alimentary canal, and, when additional material is forced into this mass, the results are a further rise in temperature and added distress. Should drugs be administered, they are either stimulants or narcotics, the former increasing the action of the heart and with it the temperature, the latter reducing nerve sensibility and power. In the body of the child the effects both of overfeeding and of drugs are long-lasting, and here, as in all disease, the method to be employed should be that which will tend to remove the ferment, the rotting material, the cause of the condition.
Hence, as in the adult when illness appears, prompt withholding of food permits of active elimination of the cause of disturbance; an enema or several of them cleanses the bowels of toxic substances; fever is at once abated; diarrhea and colic vanish; and in two or three days at most the youngster is again whole and hearty, ready for normal functioning. For children respond to the fasting treatment in marvelous manner; their natural forces have not been depleted by years of excess in physical indulgence, and are present in pristine vigor. And with them no argument is needed as to the efficacy of the means employed, for their mental habit is not as yet sufficiently molded to prove combative.
A fast until hunger makes its demand is mandatory in even the slightest digestive ailments of the smallest of babes; and a comparison of this method of treatment with that which requires the stomach to be dosed with drugs and the system to be permeated with the products of disease developed in the lower animals and introduced into human blood in the forms of virus and of serum needs no commentary excepting that of extreme condemnation for the latter procedure.
When the enema is administered to children an amount of water should be used that is commensurate to the size of the immature bowel. If the internal bath be thoroughly but judiciously employed, the colon of the child will be flushed of poisonous content, fever will subside, and disease will vanish. The enema may be given even to the day-old babe with beneficial results, for it serves to cleanse the colon of its pre-natal secretion, always productive of harm if retained. The ease with which a fretful; colicky child may be relieved by the careful use of the internal bath is a matter which every mother should understand, and the employment of the enema at judicious intervals during infancy is of equal importance with its use in adult life.
Whenever in a young
child the smallest indication of disease appears, whether it be in the
form of nasal discharge, of constipation, of diarrhea, or of internal
pain, it should be considered as full warning of loss of balance between
nutrition and elimination. Food should at once be withheld, the enema
administered, and this form of treatment continued until equilibrium
is restored. If the situation be handled thus, there will be no later
development of acute disease; no adenoids, degenerated tonsils, nor
other morbid organic structural defects will evolve. Care of this sort
at this time precludes dependence upon the knife of the surgeon in infancy,
in adolescence, and in adult existence. In other words, prevention through
systemic purification is the greatest hygienic need at this age and
at all ages, but it is the more essential in infancy, which is the physical
and physiological formative period of human life.
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