Importance of Milk in a Child's Diet - Danger of Too Much Starch - Timetable for Meals - The Right Fruits for Young Children - Necessity of Unbroken Sleep at Night

Seneca has written an aphorism which every mother should read when she is tempted to overfeed her child with the idea of encouraging growth : " And for a child's diet, let it be always slender." There is far too much tendency to overfeed children in the early years when the stomach is incapable of holding more than a small amount at one time.

Milk, The Food Par Excellence

When the child has reached one year, and is beginning his second year, he should be having five meals a day, and these should consist very largely of milk. The great danger when baby leaves off his bottle is that he will not get enough milk, and no other food will compensate for this loss. He should have at least one and a half pints of milk daily all through the second year. It may be a little difficult to follow this advice, because children prefer other food, and get tired of milk, and the weak-willed mother gives way.

The second important point in feeding children at this age is to avoid an excess of starchy food. The poor child who is given milk puddings and bread-and-butter every day of his life for dinner may be fat, and apparently healthy, but he is having too much starch, and flabbiness of tissue will result. Excess of starchy food is the chief cause of rickets in childhood. The aim should be to give a child a mixed diet consisting of milk, bread, farinaceous foods (porridge, barley, etc.), and animal foods (eggs, meat juice, butter).

He will require in addition to this a certain amount of fresh fruit in the form of the juice of orange, lemon, grape, prune, occasional mashed banana and stewed apples. Gradually, as the second year advances, the child should be cut down to four meals a day, and the time of meals must be very carefully regulated.

Baby's Menu

The following is a very good time-table for baby's second year :

Breakfast, 7.30. - Half a pint of milk, with a little bread-and-butter. After eighteen months some thoroughly cooked porridge (specially prepared) may be given with milk.

Lunch, 10 o'clock - A cup of milk with a biscuit.

Dinner, 1 o'clock - This meal must be varied as much as possible. Half a lightly cooked egg may be mashed up with a little breadcrumbs or potato for one day. Potato, gravy, and cauliflower perhaps on the next day. A cup of chicken broth or beef-tea with stale breadcrumbs could be varied on the fourth day with mashed fish, butter and bread, supplemented by a cupful of milk. A tablespoonful of milk pudding could be given as a second course as baby gets older.

Tea, 4.30. - This meal should be similar to breakfast, and after baby goes to bed he may-have a cup of milk, if required.

Stewed fruit may be given with milk, as, for instance, good prune shape, or a little mashed cooked apples with milk pudding. Another plan is to give a tablespoonful of orange, lemon or grape juice an hour before or an hour after dinner.

If baby does not thrive, he requires not a more complex diet, as many mothers imagine, but a more simple one. When the child's digestion is feeble, he may not be able to take even this amount of starchy food, and will have to be put largely upon milk, supplemented by a little meat juice and fruit juice. In such cases, baby should be fed every three hours, and the dinner meal should consist of yolk of egg or beef juice rather than potatoes and starchy puddings. There are various malted foods which can be used for children whose digestions are delicate, but these should be advised by the doctor.

Mothers are occasionally afraid of giving young children fruit, but if the right type of fruit is chosen, and it is neither under-ripe nor over-ripe, it will exert a laxative action which is very advisable when the child is having a great deal of milk. Stewed pear and apple are more suitable than stone fruits, such as damsons or plums. Rhubarb is rather too acid unless it is given in a very small amount mixed with a little custard or cornflour.

Habits And Health

Tea and coffee are entirely unsuitable for young children, and water is the only " drink " permissible for babies. Children, especially in hot weather, require a certain amount of water, as milk is a food, and rather aggravates thirst.

Baby should on no account have food during the night. After he has gone to bed, he should be expected to sleep for twelve hours without wakening. This is very much a matter of habit, and it is for the mother to establish good habits of rest and sleep in the evening. The baby who is allowed to sit up until nearly 10 p.m., and to receive visitors after having gone to bed, gets over-excited mentally and nervously. If good habits are established from the beginning, peace will reign in the nursery, and baby will drop off to sleep as a matter of routine.

No food or sweets should be allowed between meals. An occasional biscuit is a meal. A piece of chocolate is a meal, and should be given at the proper meal-times. When this rule is not followed, baby is getting six or seven meals a day, and his digestion is overtaxed. The specified hours must be faithfully adhered to, and baby will very soon understand that demands for food at improper hours are not encouraged. When a child is being properly fed, he will cut his double back teeth without pain and fever. When this is done, the mother need have no fear as to baby's growth and development.