Cow's milk is almost the only kind used in this country for infants ; here and there, goat's milk may be had. Cow's milk is stronger in "solid" contents than woman's milk, but the latter is sweeter. Commonly, then, during the first months, a little pure water is added (half, or less, of the amount of milk), and a little white sugar. As the child grows older, less water is needed, and within the year often, none at all. A great mistake was formerly made, in mixing two pints of water with every pint of milk; the poor things sometimes, no doubt, starved under such a regimen.
But, sometimes, the thicker and harder curds made in the stomach with cow's milk may be difficult for the babe to digest. It becomes colicky and fretful, or it refuses the bottle. Then we must add rather more water, and something else to help to diffuse the clots, thus keeping them from forming solid masses.
Starchy materials will do this pretty well. Such alone will not nourish a child fully; arrowroot, farina, and other starches contain no nitrogen, and some of this element is indispensable for the growth of muscles, bones, and brains. Moreover, during the first three or four months very little saliva or pancreatic juice is formed, and, without these, starch is not digested. But the mechanical qualities of starch fit it for mixing up the casein and albumen of milk in the fluids of the stomach, and so promoting its digestion.
Simple articles, especially barley, rice, and oatmeal, are commonly available for this purpose. Either of them does best when ground (or beaten in a mortar) to a fine powder for use. Barley-water answers well when the bowels are about right (that is, from two to four moderate, natural passages daily); rice, when there is diarrhaea; oatmeal, when the child is " bound," or not free enough in the bowels.
For barley-water, a teaspoonful of barley-meal for a two or a three months' old infant, two teaspoonfuls for one over six months, may be mixed with a tablespoonful or two of cold water, and then put into a pint of water. Bring this to the boiling-point, and boil it down to half a pint. Strain it through a fine sieve or a clean linen cloth, and stir it in with a pint of milk, adding a little salt, and an even teaspoonful of granulated white sugar. Put what is not used at once, in a cold place (on ice, if it be summer time, or in the spring-house in the country) to keep for the next feeding-time. Never give milk twenty-four hours old to a young child, under any circumstances.
Rice and oatmeal may be prepared in the same way, and used according to the state of the child's bowels, when milk alone does not appear to digest well. Should neither of these simple additions meet the difficulty, you may safely try some of the "infants" foods."Mellin's, Horlick's, Nestle's, and Imperial Granum are, among the best These "foods" are not, like arrow-root, sago, and tapioca, merely starches. They contain some also of the nitrogenous materials.
It is not necessary, indeed it is hardly desirable, to ask a dairyman to furnish only the milk from one cow. You must know the cow very well to be sure that its milk is the best. A good dairyman is the best dependence of all; and there is no harm in mixing the milk of several cows, all equally fresh. What ought not to be done is to mix two days' milks together. Thorough scouring of the pans, and keeping milk in a pure atmosphere (as well as a cool one), are of extreme importance.
When milk is served only once a day in hot weather, it had better be brought at once to the boiling point - to make it keep better, - and then set in the coolest and cleanest part of the house ; best of all, put on ice.
A young infant, under a year old, had better take all its food warm ; unless in the torrid heat of our midsummer. With the thermometer from 95° to 980, one does not, young or old, want anything warm, inside or out.
If there be a sour smell on the breath, or sourness of the curds thrown up, or colicky pain after feeding, or beginning looseness of the bowels, lime-water should be added to the bottle-food. A tablespoonful to the bottle will not be too much. It is always harmless, if the bowels are not constipated ; and it often does a great deal of good. When very tough curds are formed after taking cow's milk, a pinch of soda (bicarbonate) will help to dissolve them still more effectually than lime-water or the starch foods. But soda must be used in small doses, and occasionally only. Lime-water may be, if called for, an every day remedy for sourness of stomach, especially with a disposition towards diarrnaea.
For thirst, between feeding-times, in summer weather, the best plan is to give cold water moderately, and supply from time to time a soft clean rag containing pounded ice for the child to suck. When a sick child has fever, however, it may often need to drink a good deal of water.