This is a question that will continue to be asked as long as children are born, and the answer will vary according to the prejudices, superstitions, and customs of the locality in which they are born. If babies are allowed to rest as they should, without handling and fondling, they may be fed about three times a day for one or two days. A child that is permitted to rest all it can, and has not been injured in childbirth, will probably not awake oftener than three times in twenty-four hours. It is a very silly, foolish thing to awaken a child to put it to the breast. I have found that for the first three or four days after birth the baby will sleep nearly all the time--probably twenty-three and one-half hours out of twenty-four.
At the beginning of the second week or the end of the fourth or fifth day, the child should be nursed every four hours during the day--at six and ten o'clock in the morning, and at two and six o'clock in the afternoon; absolutely no night feeding.
After it is a week or so old, it may be fed one-half to one teaspoonful of orange juice and water before the regular ten o'clock nursing time.
If, between meal times, the child is fretful, or does not seem to be resting well, the nurse should gently turn it from one side to the other, and then let it alone. It should not be taken up. It is not hungry, and it is not thirsty; so why be giving yourself any uneasiness about the child being sick or not being fed often enough?
How long should a child be nursed? That depends entirely upon how fast the milk comes from the mother's breast. Where the milk flows freely and easily, the child should get all that it needs in from three to five minutes. Where the milk comes hard, the child may have to nurse ten or fifteen minutes. This will have to be found out by watching the child. If it seems to be satisfied in about five minutes, put it away where it cannot be disturbed by having its bed jostled and hearing a lot of noise. The custom is to feed a young child every two hours. Those who are wedded to this belief should watch the stools. When there are any white flakes or minute curds showing in the movements from the bowels, it means that the child is being nursed too often or too long at a time. Cut the amount down. If it is nursing five minutes, cut it down to three minutes. If it is nursing ten minutes, cut it down to five minutes It is a very dangerous thing to continue to feed a child the same amount when evidences of indigestion, such as milk curds, begin to manifest themselves in the bowel movements. If this is attended to early, there will be no danger of constipation, and the indigestion that necessarily will soon follow. It is criminal carelessness to allow anything of this kind to run on until the child is sick. Indigestion has been running on for some time before such symptoms as a feverish condition, vomiting, or diarrhea will show up. When children get to the age where they do not sleep all the time, the hours of feeding should not be changed, if they are being fed every four hours through the day. Increase the length of time of nursing as the child appears to need more nourishment.
Concerning the feeding, common-sense should enable a mother to increase the amount of nursing as needed by the child as it grows older.
I do not believe in feeding children very much other than milk in the first twelve months. Those who have normal, healthy mothers should thrive very well for the first year if kept entirely on the mother's milk, plus fruit and vegetable juices. After a child is three months old, it should be taking a feeding of fruit and vegetable juices daily.
It should have orange juice, or a combination of spinach, tomato, and lettuce juices. The spinach and lettuce should be run through a vegetable-mill, or bruised, and the juice extracted. A teaspoonful of this vegetable juice, with a teaspoonful of orange juice, in four to six teaspoonfuls of water, can be given preceding the ten o'clock feeding. From week to week the amount of vegetable juice is to be increased, and the amount of nursing decreased, until from the fourth or sixth month the child will be taking nothing except fruit and vegetable juices at this time of day. At a year of age, vegetable and fruit pulp may be given. By that time various vegetables can be used--carrots, turnips; in fact, any fresh, succulent vegetables. The standbys, however, are lettuce, tomato, and spinach, with orange juice. In the summer time, during the corn season, a cob of corn can be scraped, and the juice expressed and used with the other vegetable juices.
Children fed plenty of fruit and vegetable juices, at least once a day, will thrive very much better than children who are kept exclusively on the mother's milk, or fed on cooked cereals. Catarrh, enlarged tonsils, adenoids, gastritis, colds, "flu"--in fact, all the "diseases peculiar to children"--are built by the acid of cooked cereals dressed with sugar. Butter, sweet foods, and candy are catarrh-builders; then add to this improper feeding the stupid custom of removing effects (tonsils and adenoids), and continuing the cause, and we have a picture of today's doings.
Teeth are removed, sinuses drained, and other operations performed, made necessary by feeding baby wrongly; and health is expected to return without removing the cause--wrong living. This is stupidity. Children whose mothers have eaten a large-sized vegetable salad every day during their pregnancy will be better off than children who are born of mothers who eat in the conventional way.
If the mother is healthy and giving all the food the child needs, and if the child is showing a wholesome condition, it should continue to nurse until about one year of age. If an ideal child is desired, nothing will be given but the mother's milk, with the exception of about once a day a little orange juice; and this should help keep the child in full health and thriving. I do not mean a big, fat, roly-poly baby; for that does not mean a normal condition. Strong and well proportioned is all that any one should desire a child to be.
At the beginning of the tenth month, nursing of the breast may be preceded by giving two ounces of "fifty-fifty"--half milk and half water (one ounce of milk and one ounce of water); then let the baby finish, or satisfy its desire, with the mother's breast. For about a week the above amount of fifty-fifty will be given. Then increase to four ounces of fifty-fifty preceding the breast nursing. This may be continued for two weeks longer. At the beginning of the fourth week increase the fifty-fifty to six ounces. This is to be continued to the beginning of the sixth week, when it may be increased to eight ounces. Continue this amount until the child is one year of age; then use the tables for artificial feeding for that age.
If the mother's milk begins to fail, as many do the third or fourth month, a mixture in the proportion of about one-third milk and two-thirds water may be given after the child has taken all it can get from the mother's breast. It may have all of the milk-and-water mixture it desires, but the stools should be watched. When white curds appear, it would indicate that a little much of the artificial mixture of milk and water is given. Cut down the proportion of milk in the mixture, using more water than called for, until the curds disappear. Then increase again to the mixture as first given. As the mother's milk appears to decrease, feed according to the schedule outlined for artificial feeding for that age.
A great many people have the idea that the child should be weaned when menstruation appears. This should not be an arbitrary rule if the mother is normal and the child is normal. If, however, there are symptoms that the child is not thriving, it can be weaned and put on regular schedule for that particular age.
It is unfortunate when mothers cannot nurse their babies for the first year. Many children get a wrong start the first year of life, and are more or less perverted, in a digestive or nutritional way, throughout life. Real mothers should have a care concerning the future of their children and be willing to make almost any personal sacrifice for their good. Mothers who are self-indulgent to the point of gluttony, or sensual in any way should know that they are building a like legacy for their children. Gluttony causes hard labors. Injuries received during hard labors lead to uterine diseases, tumors, cancer, and many derangements calling for surgery, with often negligible benefit. Leaving the mothers out of the question, children are often injured; and many are infected by the mother's milk, caused by the mother's injuries taking an a slight septic inflammation. These are the circumstances that often make artificial feeding of children necessary.