Fruits and green foods are our richest and best sources of alkaline bases and should do for the human mother, in the matter of milk production, what they do for other mothers.
Speaking of the long period (two to three full years) over which the Chinese mother nurses her child, Prof. H. C. Sherman says:
"It is not improbable that the free use of green vegetables with their high calcium and vitamin content in the food of the mother may be a factor in her ability to nurse her children through such a long period.
"This must be true because McCollum has found that the vitamins of milk are not manufactured by the cow, but are taken directly by the cow from her food."
Fruits and fresh raw green vegetables should form the bulk of the diet of the mother during both gestation and lactation.
Mothers are often advised to drink beer, wine, ale, cocoa, chocolate and malted drinks, to increase and improve their milk supply. This advice is pernicious in the extreme. "It is a question," says: Dr. Wm. J. Robinson. "if a mother partaking of considerable quantities of alcoholic beverages may not transmit the taste for alcohol to her children."
Aside from this the mother's diet should consist of the usual natural foods. Nursing is not a disease and does not require special diets. She should, however, especially avoid habits of eating which derange her digestion.
An excess of protein in her diet may result in an excess of protein in her milk and this is likely to cause trouble in the child. That this is true is well attested by observations upon human beings In animals it has been well tested in the laboratory.
Hartwell, one scientific investigator, found that an excess of protein in the mother's diet during lactation is detrimental to the well-being of her young. L. T. Anderegg, of the Laboratory of Physiological Chemistry, Iowa State College, says:
"Evidence obtained in this laboratory shows that it is a matter of considerable importance that the ratio of fat to protein be within certain limits if optimum results are expected. If the proportion of fat to protein is too high, growth may be normal in the first generation, but the animals produce few or no young. Evans and Bishop and Mathill and Stone employed diets in which the ratio of fats to protein was too high for best results, and as a consequence few or no young were produced.
"Hartwell showed that the young were not reared when the mothers were given high protein diets at the time of lactation. The young went into spasms and examination of the alimentary tracts showed the cessation of the flow of milk. It has been observed repeatedly in this laboratory also that diets high in protein and comparatively low in fat are detrimental to the rearing of the young."
Nervousness or lack of exercise may also result in too much protein in the milk.
The percentage of sugar in milk cannot be increased or decreased by any means. The amount of fat cannot be increased except in mothers who are much underfed. It may be reduced, however, by cutting down the whole amount of the mother's food. There is probably great variation in the amount of sales in milk produced by diet, while it seems certain that its vitamin content must vary greatly.
If the breasts are not thoroughly emptied at each nursing, the supply of milk will quickly diminish.
Emptying the breasts at each nursing will increase the quantity of milk more certainly than anything else.
Much inability to nurse the baby is sheer unwillingness to do so. Many mothers can find the greatest number of flimsy excuses for not nursing their children. Much inability to nurse the baby is due to carelessness, neglect or to ignorance. I have tried to emphasize the necessity for the complete emptying of the breast each time the baby nurses. Too many mothers allow their babies to nurse one breast for a few minutes and then give it the other breast. Neither breast is ever fully emptied and they both rapidly dry up. The child should be given one breast at one feeding and the other breast at the next feeding. See that it. completely empties each breast before giving it the other breasts if one breast does not supply enough milk for the feeding. It is a terrible thing for a mother to fall down on the duty of nursing her baby. Cow's milk, despite all the virtues attributed to it s a terrible food for child as well as adult.
That undernourished mothers cannot nurse their babies is proven by the results of fasting, by the experience of mothers in certain parts of war-ravished Europe, by animal experiment and by examples existing all around us. A fast quickly reduces the quantity of milk and impairs its quality. Experiments have shown that after 14 days of fasting the amount of milk secreted is only about one-seventh the normal amount. The milk becomes poorer in water, protein, sugar and mineral salts. The fat content remains practically unchanged. Lusk found that in fasting goats, the fat content increased. Others have found the fat content of milk to remain practically the same in cow's milk, although the. other elements all decreased.
Kauppe, in Germany, examined the milk of a number of nursing mothers during the war, and found the fat content practically normal. He resorted to a fanciful interpretation of psychical influences as an explanation for the failure of infants to thrive on their milk. In Central Europe the half-famished mothers during the war were unable to nurse their children. How ridiculous to call in "psychic influences" to account for what was so evidently due to partial starvation.
Grief, worry, anger, fear, great excitement, rage, etc., may greatly diminish or completely suspend the secretion of milk; or, these may so alter the composition of the milk that the baby will be made ill. I often wonder if some women don't fail to nurse their children due solely to their fear that they cannot and to their worrying that they cannot. Nervous and excitable women are liable to have too much protein in their milk, and this will derange the baby's digestion.
It is recorded that angry mothers have killed their children by nursing them. Worry and anger may so derange the milk as to cause convulsions in the baby. Any influence thee depresses, or excites, or over- stimulates the mother, will ruin her milk and nake her baby sick.
Many drugs taken by the mother are excreted in the milk. Alcohol, opium, atropin, iodid of potash, salicylate of soda, the bromide, aspirin, urotripin, and antipyrin are among chose drugs which find their way into the mother's milk. Cathartics and laxatives taken by the mother are apt to produce colic and loose movements in the baby.
Mothers should be careful not to take drugs and poison their babies. We are told by medical men thee these drugs never occur in the milk in sufficient quantities to do harm to the baby, but this must be viewed as merely a defense of their drugging practice. Anyway, they never recognize the harm from a drug unless the drug nearly kills you.