Their Improper Nursing and Medication. 1 


1865 JW, HHTL 172

THE improper treatment of infants, is one of the greatest evils of the present age, literally a "crying evil," and one which requires immediate reform. It is a subject in which every female should feel a deep and active interest, and every woman in the land should respond to the call for reformation. In the cause of infantile humanity, woman may use her noblest powers without being told by the sterner sex that she is out of her sphere. And can she exert herself, either mentally or physically, in a cause which will repay her better?  

I look upon infants as a class of beings who are obliged to suffer from the prevailing principle that "might is right." It is a matter of surprise to many that hundreds and thousands of young children yearly become victims to disease and death; but it is much more surprising that so many survive the outrageous nursing and medication to which they are subjected. From the hour of their birth the poor little creatures are treated as though their stomachs were lined with gutta percha instead of a delicate mucous membrane. In this enlightened age, nature's laws are considered superfluous, and science and physicians must take their place. Nature, in the olden time, did her own work without assistance, but is now supposed to be superannuated and unfit for duty. Art now comes along with her saddle-bags and instruments of torture - more numerous than those of the inquisition - and informs the astonished world that she has just graduated, and is prepared to treat all fleshly ills scientifically. In accordance with this principle, infants are born and nurtured in direct antagonism to every physiological law. From the hour of its birth, the little creature is tortured in various ways; first, it is tightly dressed, then fed with molasses and water to "move its bowels," which organs have previously been so tightly compressed by an irritating flannel bandage, that it is a mystery how they ever move at all.  

It would seem if the Creator intended such bracing he would have supplied a bony frame-work similar to that which protects the lungs. The infant is now placed in bed with its head closely covered, lest the fresh air should get access to the lungs and give it cold. After a short time, serious fears are entertained that the babe will starve before the mother is able to supply it with its natural food, therefore some unnatural fluid is poured into its stomach, which soon produces pain and other difficulties; these must be relieved by catnip tea, peppermint, or gin. All these things are prepared with sugar, which cannot digest properly, thus increasing the suffering it was intended to relieve. Very frequently, after this course, the poor babe is unable to sleep; then comes Godfrey's cordial, paregoric, or laudanum, until the poor little creature falls into a stupid slumber, much to the delight of the officious attendant. If the anxious young mother suggests the danger of these preparations, she is assured by some good old aunt or nurse, that all babies take these things, and no harm can possibly arise if there is not too much given, but what quantity is "too much" is not definitely stated. In many cases, where an infant's system has been thus outraged, and the little one refuses all consolation, some ingenious mind is suddenly seized with the idea that the babe "wants something" it has not had, therefore, all known articles of diet are brought in requisition. I knew a case where clams, oysters, brandy, wine and ice-cream were fed to an infant not three weeks old, but after trying each of these articles it cried more piteously than before, and the discovery was finally made that the child inherited dyspepsia, which was aggravated by the mistaken kindness of its friends.   

Many infants are fed with fat meat, vegetables and pastry, before they are six months old, attended by extra courses or medicine to remove the obstructions which these articles of food produce. I called on a lady of my acquaintance a short time since, and found her babe of thirteen months, making an entire meal of fat ham, because it wanted it, the mother said, and would eat everything its parents did. On trying to convince her of the injurious effects of such diet, she replied that her mother had given all of her children such food, and never lost one yet. Very true; they are all living, but a more unhealthy, scrofulous family it would be difficult to find. The babe of whom I speak has had a number of painful boils and eruptions on the head, and if it lives to womanhood, must be afflicted by this inherited evil till life becomes a burden. It is too true that improper diet for the child is one of the most prolific causes of debility, disease, and even deformity in the adult. A large number of cases have come under my own observation where the feeding, dosing, and drugging with all kinds of abominations, have laid the foundation of misery and suffering through childhood, and finally, on arriving at adult age, have become parents and transmitted their diseases to another generation, thus perpetuating the curse. Were I to enter into the details of drug-medication, it would fill a large volume, therefore I shall not attempt it, but will merely give a few simple suggestions as they present themselves to my mind. It is true, very few children of the present time inherit a healthy constitution; but admitting this, I insist that much depends on their treatment after birth and through childhood. A delicate and sickly child may become comparatively strong and healthy by strictly hygienic treatment, while a naturally healthy one may sink into an early grave by unhealthy food and medication. A short time ago I saw an infant of two months who had been troubled with a bad diarrhea from its birth. Its mother said she fed it with the most concentrated food, such as fine flour boiled in milk, crackers, arrowroot, etc., but it continued to grow worse, - she had carefully kept it from the fresh air, fearing it might take cold, and almost smothered it with flannels. This mother was actually killing her babe with kindness, and thousands are daily doing the same thing; they are so anxious to do right, that they do all wrong. The question now is, how is this great evil to be obviated? Is it by employing a skillful physician? Is it by allopathy, or homeopathy, or any other system of medication? These have all been tried and found wanting, I appeal now to mothers! If you had a rare exotic sent you from some far-off land by some dear friend, would you consign it to the care of one who did not know how to rear the plants of his own garden? Would you not rather study its nature, its wants and its habits yourself, watch it with jealous care lest some rude blast should mar its beauty and nip its tender buds ere they had unfolded their delicate petals to your admiring eye? But you would bring into existence a being of far more importance than all the exotics of the eastern clime, and place it in the care of those who - for aught you know - are ignorant and unprincipled, who understand not the nature of this God-given treasure, and have no natural tie to bind them to it. If your darling babe becomes ill, you send for a physician, who perhaps prescribes some nauseating dose, and departs without one word of advice with regard to its daily habits. It frequently happens that the physician is a young man, and what does he know about babies or their management? I believe it to be woman's exclusive privilege to be not only a mother to her child, but its physician also. Let mothers be educated in all that concerns their life and health, let them study their own nature well, and learn that knowledge gives the highest order of power, and they will have no need to call in a physician for their children! If mothers would seriously reflect on the importance of a physiological education, I know they would begin earnestly and faithfully to prepare not only themselves, but their daughters, for the high and holy mission which is theirs to fulfill; then when these little sunbeams were given to light their earthly pathway, they would feel that they were responsible for the future health and happiness of such priceless treasures. No stranger's hand would be permitted to perform those services for the loved ones which a mother's deep affection alone could prompt, and understanding the mechanism and needs of the human system, she could do more for the suffering invalid than all the doctors in the universe. Truly shall her "children rise up and call her blessed." I cannot do justice to this subject in these few pages, but will say to my sisters, "be up and doing," and may Heaven's blessing descend on this reform. - Water-Cure Journal for October, 1855. 

Says Dio Lewis:- "It is not an uncommon remark among physicians, in speaking of consumption, as of other diseases, - 'she has been so much poisoned or exhausted, by drugs, that I fear nothing can be done for her.' Or this, - 'the disease is conquered and he will recover, if he can rally from the effects of the medicine.' There is a certain cachectic condition, which the discriminating medical man at once recognizes as the result of drugs. That mercury has produced a vast amount of consumptive diseases, it would be easy to prove by numerous authorities."


1865 JW, HHTL 175-176

Ah, thought I, how callous, how unfeeling, and how depraved must be the heart of that man who can thus speak in reference to the grave and eternity. "I have no concern about the future." Such indeed is the language of infidelity. Kind reader, are you a parent? Still fresh in your memory are the many happy hours you spent with that prattling, darling child of yours, which was indeed the pride of your heart and the solace of your soul. You well remember the sweet accents that greeted your ears and gladdened your heart as that loved one lisped the endearing appellations of "Pa" and "Ma." With retrospective view, you love to see those gentle smiles, soft as the tints of spring, that cheered your lonely hours, and fitly betokened the innocence of your playful little child. But where is that loved one now? With the death-damp cold upon its brow, with palsied limbs and pulseless heart, it sleeps now in the cheerless house of the mouldering dead. Torn from your fond embrace by the cruel and relentless hand of death, it has gone to that bourne whence no traveler returns. 

September 30, 1862 JWe, ARSH 139



Poor little orphan child!

For thee is pained my heart;

Should sickness pale thy rosy cheek,

And light and hope depart,-

Oh, who would then be near to bathe

The weary, aching head,

And twine around thee, arms of love,

And joy and gladness shed.   


Poor little orphan child!

Thou'lt miss a mother's care,

To watch thy youthful steps,

Thy little griefs to share;

No voice is like a mother's voice,

No look so sweet and mild,

No smile is like her loving smile,

Upon a darling child.   

Oh! ye who revel in your case,

The orphan's cry should heed,

Nor with a cold indifference

Treat them in hour of need.

Ye know not of the anguish deep,

That rends their aching heart,

Or of the woe and misery

Your cold words may impart.   

Poor little orphan child!

May angels guide their way,

For there are thousand treacherous paths,

That lead the feet astray.

Sin comes in many a dazzling form,-

Fearful the tempter's power,

Oh, God of love forbid thy fall,

In the dark, trying hours.  

Poor little orphan child!

Should tears e'er dim the eye,

And grief and sorrow fill the soul,

And friends no one be nigh;

There is a friend above, on whom

Cast all thy earthly care,

Who ne'er forsakes the fatherless,

But hears the orphan's prayer. 

1871 ReS, PSAS 112