This section is from the "The Young Mother. Management of Children in Regard to Health" book, by William A. Alcott. Also available from Amazon: The Young Mother
Infants need little drink. Adults, even, generally drink to cool themselves. Simple water the best drink. Opinions of Dr. Oliver and Dr. Dewees. Animal food increases thirst. Only one real drink in the world. The true object of all drink. Tea, coffee, chocolate, beer, &c. Milk and water, molasses and water, &c. Cider, wine, and ardent spirits. Bad food and drink the most prolific sources of disease. Children naturally prefer water. Danger of hot drinks. Cold drinks. Mischief they produce. Caution to mothers. Extracts. Drinking cold water, while hot.
Children need little if any drink, so long as their food is nothing but milk; nor indeed for some time afterward, unless they are indulged in the use of animal food. Adults, even, very seldom drink merely to quench natural thirst. In the summer, people usually drink either to cool themselves, or to gratify a thirst which is wholly artificial. Tea, coffee, beer, cider, and most other common drinks, when not used for the sake of their coolness, are drank, both in winter and summer, for this purpose.
That this is the fact, we have the most abundant and unequivocal evidence. I know that much is said of the demand which a profuse perspiration creates among hard laborers in the summer. Such a sudden abstraction of a large amount of fluid requires, it is said, a proportional supply, or life would soon become extinct. Yet there are many old men who have perspired profusely at their labor all their days, and yet have drank nothing at all, except their tea, morning and evening; and perhaps have eaten, for one or two of their meals daily, in summer, a bowl of bread and milk. And some of them are among the most remarkable instances of longevity which the country affords.
How the system acquires a sufficient supply of moisture to keep up good health, in these cases, I do not pretend to determine: perhaps it is through the medium of the lungs. But at any rate, it can obtain it without our drinking for that sole purpose, to the great danger of exciting liver complaints, diarrhoea, dyspepsia, colds, rheumatisms, and fevers.
But if adults who perspire freely do not require much drink, children certainly do not; and above all, young children. And if they do require any thing, it is only simple water. The following remarks of Dr. Oliver, of Hanover, N.H., are extracted from Dr. Mussey's late Prize Essay on Ardent Spirits:
"Who has not observed the extreme satisfaction which children derive from quenching their thirst with pure water? And who that has perverted his appetite for drink, by stimulating his palate with bitter beer, sour cider, rum and water, and other beverages of human invention, but would be a gainer, even on the score of mere animal gratification, without any reference to health, if he could bring back his vitiated taste to the simple relish of nature?
"Children drink because they are dry. Grown people drink, whether dry or not, because they have discovered a way of making drink pleasant. Children drink water because this is a beverage of nature's own brewing, which she has made for the purpose of quenching a natural thirst. Grown people drink anything but water, because this fluid is intended to quench only a natural thirst; and natural thirst is a thing which they seldom feel."
There is a great deal of truth, as well as of sound philosophy, in these two paragraphs, and little less of truth in the following paragraph from Dr. Dewees:
"We have witnessed very often, with sorrow, parents giving to their young children wine, or other stimulating liquors. Nature never intended anything stronger than water to be the drink for children. This they enjoy greatly; and much advantage is occasionally experienced from its use, especially after they have commenced the use of animal food."
Two things are to be observed in the last remarks, which are, that children demand drink of any kind but seldom, and that even this occasional demand is often the special result of the use of animal food. Here comes out an important secret. It is the use of animal food, to a very great degree, in adults and children both, that creates so much of that unnatural thirst which prevails in the community. When we shall come to lay aside animal food, in childhood, youth, manhood and age, much that is now called thirst will be banished; and much of the intemperance and other kinds of sensuality which follow in its train.
It has been sometimes said that there is but one kind of drink in the world—and that is water. This is strictly, or rather physiologically true. For, though many mixtures are called drinks, it is only the water which they contain that answers any of the legitimate purposes for which drink was intended by the Creator.
The object of drink, besides quenching our thirst, or rather while it quenches it, is, not to be digested, like food, but to pass directly from the stomach into the blood-vessels, and dilute and temper the blood, rendering it more fit to answer the great purpose of sustaining life and health. Now, there is nothing that can do this but water. Alcohol cannot do it, nor can turpentine, oil, quicksilver, melted lead, or any other liquid.
Tea, coffee, chocolate, small beer, soda water, lemonade, &c., which are nearly all water, quench the thirst very well, it is true; but not quite so well as water alone would. The narcotic principle of the first two, the alcoholic principle of the fourth, and the mucilage, nutriment, acid, and alkali of the rest, are in the way; for thirst would be quenched still better without them, even when it is of an unnatural kind.
Indeed, the same or similar remarks may be made in regard to all other mixtures which are usually proposed as drinks. Even milk and water, molasses and water, &c., in favor of which so much is said, are objectionable, as mere drinks. Not that they contain anything poisonous, but they evidently contain nutriment; and even this, except as a part or the whole of a regular meal, does harm; for it sets the stomach at work when it needs repose. Mere drink, as I have already said, is never digested.