If the baby lives to be one year old, its chances of surviving are fairly good, but during the first year the mortality is appalling. Complete statistics are not available, but in places one-fifth or even one-fourth of the babies born perish during this time. The mortality is chiefly due to overfeeding and giving food of poor quality.
The average parent loves his baby. He loves the helpless little thing to death. In Oscar Wilde's words, "We kill the thing we love." The babies are killed by too much love, which takes the form of overindulgence. About thirty years ago the well known physician, Charles B. Page, wrote:
"How many healthy-born infants die before their first year is reached--babies that for months are mistakenly regarded as pictures of health--'never knew a sick day until they were attacked' with cholera infantum, scarletina, or something else. They are crammed with food, made gross with fat, and for a time are active and cunning, the delight of parents and friends--and then, after a season of constipation, a season of chronic vomiting, and a season of cholera infantum, the little emaciated skeletons are buried in the ground away from the sight of those who have literally loved them to death. This is the fate of one-third of all the children born. As a rule, babies are fed as an ignorant servant feeds the cook-stove--filling the fire-box so full, often, that the covers are raised, the stove smokes and gases at every hole, and the fire is either put out altogether, or, if there is combustion of the whole body of coals, the stove is rapidly burned out and destroyed. With baby, overheating means the fever that consumes him, and, in putting out the fire, too often the fire of life goes out also."
Fat babies are thought to be healthy babies. This is a mistake, for the fatter the baby, the more liable it is to fill an early grave. Thoughtful, knowing people realize that a child that weighs eight pounds or more at birth is an indication of maternal law breaking. Both the mother and the child will have to pay for this sooner or later. Overweight is a handicap. It prevents complete internal cleansing and combustion, without which health is impossible.
Because of the false ideas prevalent regarding weight of infants, it is well to put a little emphasis on the subject. If the mother has lived right during pregnancy, the child is often light at birth, sometimes five pounds or less. The average doctor will shake his head and say that the baby's chance to live is very small. The friends, neighbors and relatives will say the same. They are wrong. Let the parents remember that light children are not encumbered with fat, and rarely with disease. A light baby is generally all healthy baby, and if properly cared for and not overfed will thrive. Parents of such babies should be thankful, instead of being alarmed.
It is not natural for babies to weigh nine or ten pounds at birth, and when they do it is a sign of maternal wrong doing, whether she has been cognizant of it or not. Babies should not be fat, nor should they be fat when they grow older, if the best results are desired.
In babies it is better to strive for quality than for quantity.
Every mother who is capable of doing so should nurse her baby. There is no food to take the place of the mother's milk. The babies build greater strength and resistance when they are fed naturally than when they are brought up on the bottle. Babies thrive wonderfully in an atmosphere of love, and they draw love from the mother's breast with every swallow.
From the information available, which is not as complete and definite as could be desired, it appears that from six to thirteen bottle-babies die during the first year where only one breast-fed child perishes. The bottle-baby does not get a fair start. If a mother is ill and worn out she should not be asked to nurse the baby. If the mother has fever she should not risk the baby's health through nursing. Some mothers do not have enough milk to feed the baby. Nearly all who live properly give enough milk to nourish their infants at first. If there is not enough milk, the child should be allowed to take what there is in the breasts and this should be supplemented with cow's milk.
Dr. Thomas F. Harrington said recently:
"From 80 to 90 per cent. of all deaths from gastrointestinal disease among infants takes place in the artificially fed; or ten bottle-babies die to one which is breast-fed. In institutions it has been found that the death rate is frequently from 90 to 100 per cent. when babies are separated from their mothers. During the siege of Paris (1870-71) the women were compelled to nurse their own babies on account of the absence of cow's milk. Infant mortality under one year fell from 33 to 7 per cent. During the cotton famine of 1860 women were not at work in the mills. They nursed their babies and one-half of the infant mortality disappeared."