In spite of all the criticism which has been levelled by doctors and trained nurses at the "comforter," the great majority of babies continue to revel in its possession. " I know that in theory baby comforters are hygienically objectionable," says the young mother to herself, "but I am particularly careful that baby's indiarubber teat is scrupulously clean, and I do not believe that it does him a bit of harm. Also (and this is the crucial point) it keeps him quiet." One could imagine this excuse being accepted from the working-class mother, who has to scrub, and cook, and wash for eight, single-handed; but the well-to-do mother, even if she has not a nurse, ought to have sufficient force of character to prevent her child acquiring the vice of self-indulgence in infancy. The baby comforter becomes like a drug to certain babies, who refuse to be good, to keep quiet, to go to sleep, or to give their mothers a moment's peace unless they are suck, suck, sucking at a comforter.
Now, the poor mother may have never been taught anything about the training and disciplining of youth, nor at school may she have imbibed a knowledge of hygiene and physiology after the manner of the better-class girls. But in these days, when our girls and young women are scientifically trained in at least the elementary facts of hygiene and health, one can see no reason or excuse why . the dummy teat is ever introduced into the nursery at all. Once the baby has tasted the joys of illicit sucking, he refuses to be happy without it. afterwards. He demands his comforter incessantly, and sucks it all the time, except at meals or when sound asleep. It is entirely . the fault of the mother who has allowed this habit to grip the child at all. It is a temptation, I know, when baby cries in the early -weeks, when perhaps the mother's health and nerves are still below par. But it is fatal to give way. ,A little patience at first, a little firmness, will let the. child understand that. : incessant crying will not be pacified by continual drinks or dummy teats, by constant nursing and unnecessary attention, and the victory is won.
Apart from the fact that baby comforters always lead to bad habits and lack of discipline, their evils from the medical point of view are considerable. In the first place, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to keep the comforter clean. The result, is that it introduces microbes liberally to the mouth, and in the fly season may be the direct cause of serious diarrhoea from germs carried by flies to the nursery precincts from all sorts of undesirable refuse heaps outside.
The hygienic mother is accustomed to answer all objections with the statement that she boils the comforter every morning with the bottles, and cleanses it with hot water at night. This, of course, reduces considerably the danger of germ infection from comforters. But there are other objections.
It has recently been said on medical authority that the continual sucking of these rubber teats is followed by deformity of the bones of the jaws and roof of the mouth. The bones at this stage of life are extremely soft and pliable, and the pressure exerted by the teat against the line of the jaw during the pre-teething stage will alter the formation of the jaw and teeth and produce definite deformity.
Apart from the alteration in actual shape, the sucking action causes an unhealthy condition of the mouth and nose passages, which predisposes the parts to adenoids. Some difference of opinion has been expressed upon this point. A doctor declared a little time ago that comforters would rather prevent adenoids by compelling children to breathe through their noses. But there can be no doubt that the constant presence of this foreign body in the mouth and the continual sucking produces an unhealthy condition of the lining of the nose and mouth which is most favourable to the adenoid spongy growths so common nowadays.
This excessive secretion in the mouth .will also affect digestion, and anything interfering with the digestion of a child hinders growth and development.
Thus the case against comforters is a very strong one, and the young mother who wishes to bring up her child wisely will never admit a baby comforter to the nursery.
Some monthly nurses are, unfortunately, not without blame in this respect, although they know in theory how harmful a comforter may be.