Due to the rapidity with which the child is growing, whether before or after birth, and to the fact that the mother has already attained full growth (at least she should have done so before becoming a mother), food deficiencies affect the child much quicker than they do the mother.
Pregnant animals fed on a scurvy producing diet, develop the disease much more rapidly than non-pregnant ones, and they often die of scurvy before the time of delivery. The sacrifice of minerals by the mother's body may continue to such a state that grave disease such, for example, as the change from compact into cancellous bone-tissue (osteoporosis), may develop.
When Ingier fed pregnant pigs on a diet "deficient in C," the fetuses developed typical infantile scurvy in ten to twelve days. He found that if the pigs were properly fed until close to delivery, a sudden change to a scorbutogenic (scurvy-producing) diet does not affect the fetuses. These will be born normal. But the milk proves to be inadequate and the young pigs quickly develop scurvy. The circus lioness, when fed on meat alone, brings forth cubs with cleft palates due to calcium deficiency.
Dr. Percy Howe in a paper (1922) on "Decalcification of Teeth and Bones and Regeneration of Bones through Diet," refers to some of his experiments on guinea pigs and states that the use of a scorbutic diet, one containing an excess of carbohydrates, "resulted, in a number of cases, in the absence of eyes in the young. I have had several animals born with only one eye, or one good eye and other sightless or imperfectly formed. Many are born with spots on the outer coating of the eye, which clear up under proper feeding."
Howe also says: "In animals on the scorbutic diet, eye trouble follows even to the point of pus welling out over the eye during eating. Feeding orange juice is followed by complete clearing up of the trouble."
The vitamins in milk are not synthesized from the mother's own body, like the main nutrients, but are derived unaltered from her food. It is essential that the pregnant and nursing mother's diet contain sufficient of these to meet the needs of her child without robbing her own tissues of their stored supplies. Fruits and green vegetables are the best sources of these. Many children suffer handicaps, defects, deformities and vital weaknesses, as a result of failure to secure in infancy and before birth a diet adequate to supply their needs. An abundance of fresh greens and fresh fruits is essential for the pregnant and nursing mother and for the nursing child.