This section is from the book "Elements Of The Theory And Practice Of Cookery", by Mary E. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Elements Of The Theory And Practice Of Cookery; A Textbook Of Domestic Science For Use In Schools.
This is as perfectly fitted for the baby as a cow's milk is for her calf, the egg for the unhatched chick, the seed for the seedling. It is very important for a baby to have mother's milk, if possible, for the first few months at least.
Feeding a baby on something other than mother's milk is often called artificial feeding. A better term is substitute feeding. The best substitute we have1 for mother's milk is fresh cow's milk. Plain milk just as it comes from the cow is not good for most babies under one year old. This is because it differs in many ways from human milk. It has more than twice as much protein,2 and only about two-thirds as much sugar.
1 In some European countries goat's milk is used, and in other parts of the world the milk of other animals. Sick babies or babies with disordered digestion cannot always take cow's milk. This section treats of feeding normal healthy babies.
2 Average Percentage Composition of Cow's Milk and of Human Milk
It has more than three times as much mineral matter. The two kinds of milk contain about the same percentage of fat, but the fat of cow's milk is more solid. The protein too is different. Moreover, the foodstuffs in mother's milk are more easily assimilated by the baby, especially during the first few weeks of life.1 The nursing baby gets food that is perfectly fresh, alkaline or only faintly acid, and practically free from bacteria. As the baby grows this food changes to meet his needs. The bottle-fed baby's food must be prepared from milk which is usually many hours old, perhaps more than a day old. It is more or less acid and contains bacteria, often in great numbers. It cannot be changed gradually enough to keep it exactly adjusted to the baby's needs.
We can make cow's milk more digestible and nutritious for the baby by diluting it with water and adding sugar and sometimes other things. Milk so altered is called modified milk. Each baby must have his milk modified to suit his particular needs at a given time. Any one can learn to modify milk and prepare bottled food according to instructions, but to decide rightly what food a given baby should have, requires much knowledge and study. The best plan usually is to have a doctor who knows the baby prescribe his food and give instructions for preparing it and for changing it from time to time.
1 These differences in composition correspond to differences between a calf and the baby. The calf grows much the faster. It doubles in weight in 47 days. So it needs a much greater proportion of bone and muscle building material than the baby, who takes 180 days to double his weight. The calf is soon going to eat coarse food, and so is provided with four stomachs, which enable it to do more digestive work than the baby can from the first. The baby begins life quite helpless, while the calf in a few hours can walk and almost take care of itself. When the baby is grown up he will far surpass any animal in skill and intelligence. This means that he has to build up a wonderful nervous system from the incomplete one he has at birth, instead of starting life as the calf does with a nervous system practically complete. Human milk provides for all this better than cow's milk does.