The Mother's Manual of Children's Diseases
by Charles West, M.D.
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

As the respiratory function and that of the skin increase in activity, the jaundice will disappear of its own accord. Great attention must be paid during its continuance to avoid exposure of the child to cold, while no other food than the mother's milk should be given. If the bowels are at all constipated, half a grain of grey powder or a quarter of a grain of calomel may be given, followed by a small dose of castor oil, and the aperient will often seem to hasten the disappearance of the jaundice; but in a large number of cases even this amount of medical interference is not needed.

There is, indeed, a very grave form of jaundice, happily of excessive rarity, due to malformation of the liver, to absence or obstruction of the bile-ducts, and often accompanied with bleeding from the navel. I do but mention it; the intensity and daily deepening of the jaundice, the fruitlessness of all treatment, and the grave illness of the child, even though no bleeding should occur, render it impossible to confound this hopeless condition with the trivial ailment of which I have been speaking.

The next chapter will furnish a fitter place than the present for speaking fully of the Disorders of the Digestive Organs.

I will say now but this: that whatever a mother may do eventually, she avoids grave perils for herself by suckling her infant for the first month; while the health of her child, just launched upon the world, is terribly endangered if fed upon those substitutes for its proper nutriment on which after the lapse of a few weeks it may subsist, may even manage to thrive.

There are some local affections incident to the new-born child concerning which a few words may not be out of place; and first of the

Ophthalmia of New-born Children.—It is the cause of the loss of sight of nine-tenths of all persons who, among the poor, are said to have been born blind. In the wealthier classes of society it is comparatively rare, and seldom fails to meet with timely treatment, yet many people scarcely realise its dangerous character, or the extreme rapidity of its course.

It generally begins about the third day after birth with swelling of the lid of one or other eye, though both are soon involved. The eyelids swell rapidly, and if the affection is let alone, they soon put on the appearance of two semi-transparent cushions over the eyes. On separating the lids, which it is often very difficult to do owing to the spasmodic contraction of the muscles, their inner surface is seen to be enormously swollen, bright red, like scarlet velvet, bathed in an abundant yellowish thin secretion, which often squirts out in a jet as the lids are forcibly separated. Great care must be taken not to allow any of this fluid to enter the eye of a bystander, nor to touch his own eye until the fingers have been most carefully washed, since the discharge is highly contagious, and may produce most dangerous inflammation of the eyes of any grown person. The discharge being wiped or washed away, the eye itself may be seen at the bottom of the swelling very red, and its small vessels very blood-shot. By degrees the surface of the eye assumes a deeper red, it loses its brightness and its polish, while the swelling of the lids lessens, and they can be opened with less difficulty; their inner surface at the same time becomes softer, but thick and granular, and next the eyes themselves put on likewise a granular condition which obscures vision. The discharge by this time has become thicker and white, and looks like matter from an abscess. By slow degrees the inflammation may subside, the discharge lessen, the swelling diminish, and the eye in the course of weeks may regain its natural condition. But the danger is—and when proper treatment is not adopted early the danger is very great—lest the mischief should extend beyond the surface of the eye, lest ulceration of the eye should take place, the ulceration reach so deep as to perforate it, and not merely interfere with the sight, but destroy the organ of vision altogether.

In every instance, then, in which the eyelids of a new-born infant swell, or the slightest discharge appears from them, the attention of the doctor must at once be called to the condition. In the meantime, and during whatever treatment he may think it right to follow, the eye must be constantly covered with a piece of folded lint dipped in cold water; and every hour at least the eye must be opened and tepid water squeezed into it abundantly from a sponge held above, but not touching it, so as to completely wash away all the discharge. A weak solution of alum and zinc, as one grain of the latter to three of the former to an ounce of water, may in like manner be dropped from a large camel's-hair brush four times a day into the eye after careful washing. Simple as these measures are they yet suffice, if adopted at the very beginning, and carried on perseveringly, to entirely cure in a few days an ailment which if let alone leads almost always to most lamentable results.

I do not pursue the subject further, for bad cases require all the care of the most skilful oculist for their treatment.

Scalp Swellings.—Almost every new-born child has on one or other side of its head a puffy swelling, owing to the pressure to which the head has been subjected in birth, and this swelling disappears at the end of twenty-four or forty-eight hours.

Now and then, however, though indeed very seldom, the swelling does not disappear, but it goes on gradually increasing and becoming more definite in its outlines until at the end of three or four days it may be as big as half a small orange, or sometimes even larger, soft, elastic, painless, under the unchanged scalp, but presenting the peculiarity of having a hard raised margin with a distinct edge, which gives to the finger passed over it the sensation of a bony ridge, beyond which the bone seems deficient. This tumour is due usually to the same cause as that which produces the other temporary puffy swelling of the scalp, only the pressure having been more severe, blood has actually been forced out from the small vessels under the membrane which covers the skull, and hence its gradual increase, its definite outline; and hence, too, the bony ridge which surrounds it, and which is due to nature's effort at cure, in the course of which the raised edge of the membrane covering the skull (the pericranium) becomes converted into bone.

When the nature of these swellings was not understood, they used to be poulticed, and to be opened with a lancet to let out their contents. We know now, however, that we have nothing to do but to let them alone; that by degrees the blood will be absorbed and the tumour will disappear, and as it does so we may trace the gradual transformation of the membrane which covered it into bone, as we feel it crackling like tinsel under the finger. Two, three, or four weeks may be needed for the entire removal of one of these blood-swellings. The doctor will at once recognise its character, and you will then have nothing to do but to wait—often, unhappily, so much harder for the anxious mother than to meddle.

Ruptured Navel.—There is a period some time before the birth of a child when the two halves of its body are not united in front, as they become afterwards; and hare-lip or cleft-palate sometimes remains as the result of the arrest of that development which should have closed the fissured lip or united the two halves of the palate.

In a similar way it happens sometimes that though the skin is closed, the muscles of the stomach (or, more properly speaking, of the belly) are not in the close apposition in which they should be, so that the bowels are not supported by the muscles, but protected only by the skin.

More frequently than this, especially in the case of children who are born before the time, the opening through which the navel string passes is large at birth, and fails to close as speedily and completely as it should do afterwards. When everything goes on as it ought, the gradual contraction of the opening helps to bring about the separation of the navel string and its detachment, and the perfect closure of the opening takes place at the same time, between the fifth and the eighth day after birth.

If this does not occur, the bowels are very apt to protrude through the opening, and if allowed to do so for weeks or months, the opening becomes so dilated that its closure is impossible, and the child grows up afflicted permanently with rupture through the navel. This is always an inconvenience, sometimes even a source of serious danger; but if means are taken to prevent the condition becoming worse, nature seldom fails eventually to bring about a cure, and to effect the complete closure of the opening.

If the muscles on either side do not come into apposition, but leave a cleft between them, the infant should constantly wear a broad bandage of fine flannel round the stomach, not applied too tightly, in order to give support. The circular bandages of vulcanised india-rubber with a pad in the centre are nowise to be recommended. The pad is apt to become displaced, and to press anywhere but over the navel, while its edges irritate the infant's delicate skin, and the pressure which it exerts if it is sufficiently tight to retain its place interferes with respiration.

A pad composed of pieces of plaster spread on wash-leather, and of graduated sizes and kept in place by adhesive strapping,[7] answers the purpose of preventing the protrusion at the navel, and of thus facilitating the closure of the ring better than any other device with which I am acquainted. They need, however, to be continued even for two or three years, and though they should have been left off it is wise to resume their use if the child should be attacked by whooping-cough, diarrh[oe]a, or any other ailment likely to occasion violent straining.


[7] These plasters for ruptured navel in sets of a dozen are to be had of Ewen, 106 Jermyn Street, St. James's, London, and I dare say at many other places besides.



Infantile Atrophy.—In by far the greater number of instances, the wasting of young children is due to their being fed upon food which they cannot digest, or which when digested fails to yield them proper nourishment. I quoted some figures in my introductory remarks, to show from the evidence obtained at Berlin how much larger was the proportion of deaths under the age of one year among hand-fed infants than among those brought up at the breast. Foundling hospitals on the Continent, in which the children are all drawn from the same class, and subjected in all respects to a similar treatment, except that in some they are fed at the breast, in others brought up by hand, show a mortality in the latter case exactly double of that in the former.

It is as idle to ignore these facts, and to adduce in their disproof the case of some child brought up most successfully by hand, as it would be to deny that a battle-field was a place of danger because some people had been present there and had come away unwounded.

But it is always well not merely to accept a fact, but also to know the reason why a thing is so. The reason is twofold: partly because the different substitutes for the mother's milk, taken for the most part from the vegetable kingdom, are less easy of digestion than the milk, and partly because, even were they digested with the same facility, they do not furnish the elements necessary to support life in due proportion.

All food has to answer two distinct purposes: the one to furnish materials for the growth of the body, the other to afford matter for the maintenance of its temperature; and life cannot be supported except on a diet in which the elements of nutrition and those of respiration bear a certain proportion to each other. Now, in milk, the proper food of infants, the elements of the former are to those of the latter about in the proportion of 1 to 2, while in arrowroot, sago, and tapioca they are only as 1 to 26, and in wheaten flour only as 1 to 7. If to this we add the absence in these substances of the oleaginous matters which the milk contributes to supply the body with fat, and the smaller quantity, and to a certain extent the different kind, of the salts which they contain, it becomes apparent that by such a diet the health if not the life of the infant must almost inevitably be sacrificed.

But these substances are not only less nutritious, they are also less easy of digestion than the infant's natural food. We all know how complex is the digestive apparatus of the herbivorous animal, of which the four stomachs of the ruminants are an instance, and how large is the bulk of food in proportion to his size which the elephant requires, compared with that which suffices for the lion or the tiger.

The stomach of the infant is the simple stomach of the carnivorous animal, intended for food which shall not need to stay long in that receptacle, but shall be speedily digested; and it is only as the child grows older, and takes more varied food, that the stomach alters somewhat in form, that it assumes a more rounded shape, resembling somewhat that of the herbivorous animal, and suited to retain the food longer. The young of all creatures live upon their mother for a certain time after birth; but in all the preparation for a different kind of food, and with it for an independent existence, begins much sooner and goes on more rapidly than in man. Young rabbits are always provided with two teeth when born, and the others make their appearance within ten days. In the different ruminants the teeth have either begun to appear before birth, or they show themselves a few days afterwards; and in either case dentition is completed within the first month, and in dogs and cats within the first ten weeks of existence.

In the human subject the process of teething begins late, between the seventh and the ninth month, and goes on slowly: the first grinding teeth are seldom cut before the beginning of the second year, and teething is not finished until after its end. Until teething has begun the child ought to live exclusively on the food which nature provides; for until that time the internal organs have not become fitted to digest other sustenance, and the infant deprived of this too often languishes and dies. To get from other food the necessary amount of nourishment, that food has to be taken in larger quantities, and, from the difficulty in digesting it, needs to remain longer in the stomach than the mother's milk. One of the results of the indigestibility of the food is that the child is often sick, the stomach getting rid of a part of that food which it is unable to turn to any useful purpose; and so far well. But the innutritious substances do not relieve the sense of hunger. The child cries in discomfort, and more is given to it, and by degrees the over-distended stomach becomes permanently dilated, and holds a larger quantity than it was originally meant to contain. The undigested mass passes into a state of fermentation, and the infant's breath becomes sour and offensive, it suffers from wind and acid eructations, and nurses sometimes express surprise that the child does not thrive since it is always hungry. While some of the food is got rid of by vomiting, some passes into the intestines, and there becomes putrid, as the horribly offensive evacuations prove. They come away, large and solid and white, for the secretion of the bile is inadequate to complete that second digestion which should take place in the intestines; or else the irritation which they excite occasions diarrh[oe]a—a green putty-like matter comes away mixed with a profuse watery discharge.

What wonder is it that in such circumstances the body should waste most rapidly; for it is forced from its own tissues to supply those elements essential to the maintenance of life, which its food contains in far too scanty a proportion. Every organ of the body contributes to the general support, and life is thus prolonged, if no kind disease curtail it, until each member has furnished all that it can spare, and then death takes place from starvation, its approach having been slower, but the suffering which preceded it not therefore less, than if all food had been withheld.

Do not suppose that in this description I have been painting too dark a picture, or that children who die thus have been exceptionally weak, and so under the acknowledged difficulties of hand-feeding at length became consumptive. They do not die of consumption, and in a large number of instances their bodies show no trace of consumptive disease, but present appearances characteristic of this condition of starvation, and of this only.

Along the whole track of the stomach and intestines are the signs of irritation and inflammation. The glands of the bowels are enlarged, actual ulceration of the stomach is often met with; while so far-reaching is the influence of this slow starvation, that even the substance of the kidneys and of the brain are often found softened and otherwise altered, though it might not unreasonably have been supposed that these organs lay quite beyond the reach of any disorder of digestion.

No doubt all these grievous results do not always follow; and sometimes children exceptionally strong manage to take and digest enough even of unsuitable food to maintain their health, and may as they grow up, and the changes take place in the system which fit it for a varied diet, even become robust. In the majority of instances, however, hand-fed infants, and those especially who have been brought up chiefly on farinaceous food, are less strong than others, and are more apt to develop any latent tendency to hereditary disease, such as scrofula or consumption, than members of the same family who have been brought up at the breast.

Enough has already been said to satisfy all but those who do not wish to be convinced, how incumbent it is on every mother to try to suckle her child. But though it is most desirable that for the first six months of their existence children should derive their support entirely from their mother, and that until they are a year or at least nine months old their mother's milk should form the chief part of their food, yet many circumstances may occur to render the full adoption of this plan impracticable. In some women the supply of milk, although at first abundant, yet in the course of a few weeks undergoes so considerable a diminution as to become altogether insufficient for the child's support; while in other cases, although its quantity continues undiminished, yet from some defect in its quality it does not furnish the infant with proper nutriment. Cases of the former kind are not unusual in young, tolerably healthy, but not robust women; while instances of the latter are met with chiefly among those who have given birth to several children, whose health is bad, or among the poor, who have been enfeebled by hard living or hard work. The children in the former case thrive well enough for the first six weeks or two months, but then, obtaining the milk in too small a quantity to meet the demands of their rapid growth, they pine and fret, they lose both flesh and strength, and, unless the food given to supply their wants be judiciously selected, their stomach and bowels become disordered, and nutrition, instead of being aided, is more seriously impaired. In the case of the mother whose milk disagrees with the child from some defect in its quality, the signs are in general more pronounced. Either the infant vomits more than that small quantity which a babe who has sucked greedily or overmuch often rejects immediately on leaving the breast, or it is purged, or it seems never satisfied, does not gain flesh, does not thrive, cries much and is not happy. In these cases, too, the mother's supply of milk, though abundant at first, diminishes in a few weeks; she feels exhausted, and suffers from back-ache, or from pain in the breasts each time after the child's sucking; while, further, her general weakness leaves her no alternative but to wean the child.

Knowing the attempt to rear her child entirely at the breast to be vain, the mother may in such cases be tempted to bring it up by hand from the very first. But how short soever the period may be during which the mother may be able to suckle her child, it is very desirable that she should nurse it during that period, and also that her milk should then constitute its only food. For the first four or five days after the infant's birth the milk possesses peculiar qualities, and not merely abounds in fatty and saccharine matter, but presents its casein or curd in a form in which it is specially easy of digestion. These peculiarities indeed become less marked within a week or two; but not only is it of moment that the infant should at any rate make its start in life with every advantage, but the mother who nurses her little one even for a month avoids thereby almost half the risks which follow her confinement. For the indolent, among the wealthy, a numerous class who have but to form a wish in order to have it gratified, a wet-nurse for the baby suggests itself at once to the mother as a ready means of saving herself trouble, and of shirking responsibility. This course, to which love of pleasure and personal vanity tend alike to prompt her, often finds, in spite of all opposing reasons, the approval of the nurse, to whom it saves trouble, and the too ready acquiescence of the doctor in a course which pleases his patient. But many circumstances besides those moral considerations, which ought never to be forgotten before the determination is formed to employ a wet-nurse, may put this expedient out of the question, and it becomes therefore of importance to learn what is the best course for a mother to adopt who is either wholly unable to suckle her child, or who can do so only for a very short time.

It is obvious that the more nearly the substitute approaches to the character of the mother's milk, the greater will be the prospect of the attempt to rear the child upon it proving successful. There is no argument needed to prove that the milk of some animal more closely resembles the mother's milk, and is more likely to prove a useful substitute for it than any kind of farinaceous substance. The milk of all animals, however, differs in many important respects from human milk, and differs too very widely in different animals. Thus, the milk of the cow and that of the ewe contain nearly double the quantity of curd, and that of the goat more than twice the quantity of butter, and it is only in the milk of the ass that the solid constituents are arranged in the same order as in man. On this account, therefore, asses' milk is regarded, and with propriety, as the best substitute for the child's natural food. Unfortunately, however, expense is very frequently a bar to its employment, and compels the use of the less easily digested cows' milk. But though the cost may be a valid objection to the permanent employment of asses' milk, it is yet very desirable when a young infant cannot have the breast, that it should be supplied with asses' milk for the first four or five weeks, until the first dangers of the experiment of bringing it up by hand have been surmounted. The deficiency of asses' milk in butter may be corrected by the addition of about a twentieth part of cream, and its disposition to act on the bowels may be lessened by heating it to boiling point, not over the fire but in a vessel of hot water; and still more effectually by the addition to it of a fourth part of lime-water or of a teaspoonful of the solution of saccharated carbonate of lime to two ounces or four tablespoonfuls of the milk.

When cows' milk is given, it must be borne in mind that it contains nearly twice as much curd, and about an eighth less sugar, than human milk. It is therefore necessary that it should be given in a diluted state and slightly sweetened. The dilution must vary according to the infant's age; at first the milk may be mixed with an equal quantity of water, but as the child grows older the proportion of water may be reduced to one-third. Mere dilution with water, however, leaves the proportion of curd unaltered, and it is precisely the curd which the infant is unable to digest. Instead, therefore, of diluting the milk simply with water, it is often better to add one part of whey to about two parts of milk, which, according to the child's age, may or may not be previously diluted.[8]

Attention must be paid to the temperature of the food when given to the infant, which ought to be as nearly as possible the same as that of the mother's milk, namely from 90 deg. to 95 deg. Fahrenheit, and in all cases in which care is needed a thermometer should be employed in order to insure the food being given at the same temperature. Human milk is alkaline, and even if kept for a considerable time it shows little tendency to become sour. The milk of animals when in perfect health likewise presents an alkaline reaction, and that of cows when at grass forms no exception to this rule. Milk even very slightly acid is certain to disagree with an infant; it is therefore always worth while the moment that a hand-fed infant seems ailing to ascertain this point. If alkaline, the milk will deepen the blue colour of litmus paper, which is to be had of any chemist; if acid, it will discharge the colour and turn it red. It is, perhaps, as well to add that, as the oxygen in the atmosphere tends to redden litmus paper, it should not be left exposed to the air, but should always be kept in a glass-stoppered bottle.

The milk of the cow is very liable to alteration from comparatively slight causes, and particularly from changes in the animal's diet; while even in the most favourable circumstances if the animal is shut up in a city and stall-fed, all the solid constituents of its milk suffer a remarkable diminution; while the secretion further has a great tendency to become acid, or to undergo even more serious deterioration. Mere acidity of the milk can be counteracted for the moment by the addition of lime-water, or by stirring up with it a small quantity of prepared chalk, which may be allowed to subside to the bottom of the vessel; or if it should happen, though indeed that is rarely the case in these circumstances, that the child is constipated, carbonate of magnesia may be substituted for the chalk or lime-water. If these simple proceedings are not sufficient to restore the infant's health, it will be wise to seek at once for another source of milk supply, and to place the suspected milk in the hands of the medical officer of health or of the public analyst, in order that it may be submitted to a thorough chemical and microscopical examination.

The difficulty sometimes found in obtaining an unvaryingly good milk supply, as well as practical convenience in many respects, has led to the extensive employment of various forms of condensed milk. They form undoubtedly the best substitute for fresh cows' milk which we possess, and are a great boon especially to the poor in large towns where the milk supply is often scanty, not always fresh, and sometimes of bad quality. I should certainly prefer condensed milk for an infant to milk from cows living in close dirty stables, such as my experience thirty years ago made me familiar with in some parts of London.

Still all the varieties of condensed milk are far inferior in quality to good fresh milk. They contain less butter, less albumen, that is to say less of the main constituents of all animal solids and fluids, and a greater proportion of what are termed the hydro-carbonates, such for instance as sugar; or, to state the same thing differently, the elements which serve for nutrition are in smaller proportion than in fresh milk to those which minister to respiration. They are not only less nutritious, but the large quantity of sugar which they contain not infrequently disagrees with the child, and causes bowel complaint. I do not know how far the so-called unsweetened condensed milk which has of late come into the market is free from this objection; but I have always preferred the Aylesbury condensed milk, which is manufactured with sugar, to the Swiss condensed milk, into which, as I have been given to understand, honey largely enters.

How much food does an infant of a month old require? what intervals should be allowed between each time of feeding? and how should the food be given? are three questions which call for a moment's notice. The attempt has been made to determine the first point by two very distinguished French physicians, who weighed the infants before and after each time of sucking. Their observations, however, were not sufficiently numerous to be decisive, and their results were very conflicting; the one estimating the quantity at two pounds and a quarter avoirdupois, which would be equivalent to nearly a quart, the other at not quite half as much; but the observations of the latter were made on exceptionally weak and sickly infants. Infants no doubt vary, as do grown people, as to the quantity of food they require. I should estimate from my own experience and observation, apart from accurate data, a pint as the minimum needed by an infant a month old; and while Dr. Frankland's estimate of a pint and a half for an infant of five months seems to me very reasonable, I should doubt its sufficing for a child of nine months unless it were supplemented by other food.

The infant during the first month of life takes food every two hours, and even when asleep should not be allowed to pass more than three hours; and this frequent need of food continues until the age of two, sometimes even until three, months. Afterwards, and until six months old, the child does not need to be fed oftener than every three hours during the twelve waking hours, and every four hours during the sleeping time. Later on, five times in the twenty-four hours, namely thrice by day, once the last thing at night, and once again in the early morning, are best for the child's health as well as for the nurse's comfort.

How is an infant not at the breast to be fed? Certainly not with the cup or spoon; a child so fed has no choice in the matter, but must either swallow or choke, and is fed as they fatten turkeys for the market. The infant, on the other hand, sucks the bottle as it would suck its mother's breast; it rests when fatigued, it stops to play, it leaves off when it has had enough, and many a useful inference may be drawn by the observant nurse or mother who watches the infant sucking, and notices if the child sucks feebly, or leaves off panting from want of breath, or stops in the midst, and cries because its mouth is sore or its gums are tender.

But it is not every bottle which an infant should be fed from, and least of all from those so much in vogue now with the long elastic tube, so handy because they keep the baby quiet, who will lie by the hour together with the end in its mouth, sucking, or making as though it sucked, even when the bottle is empty. These bottles, as well as the tubes connected with them, are most difficult to keep clean; and so serious is this evil, that many French physicians not only denounce their use, in which they are perfectly justified, but prefer, to the use of any bottle at all, the feeding the infant with a spoon; and here I think they are mistaken. The old-fashioned flat bottle, with an opening in the middle, and a short end to which the nipple is attached without any tube, the only one known in the time of our grandmothers, continues still the best, and very good. My friend, Mr. Edmund Owen, in a lecture at which I presided at the Health Exhibition in August last year, pointed out very humorously the differences between the old bottle and the new. An infant to be kept in health must not be always sucking, but must be fed at regular intervals. The careful nurse takes the infant on her knee, feeds it from the old-fashioned feeding-bottle, regulating the flow of the milk according as the infant sucks heartily or slowly, withdraws it for a minute or two, and raises the child into a sitting posture if it seems troubled with flatulence, and then after a pause lets it recommence its meal. This occupies her a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes of well-spent time, while the lazy nurse, or the mother who has never given the matter a thought, just puts the tube in the infant's mouth, and either takes no further trouble or occupies herself with something else. And yet, obvious though this is, how constantly one sees infants taken about in the perambulator with the feeding-bottle wrapped up and laid by its side, because it is said the child always cries when it is not sucking, and the intelligence and the common sense are wanting, as well as the patient love, that would strive to make out which it is of many possible causes that makes the infant cry. One more observation with reference to bottle-feeding may not be out of place. It is this: that no food be left in the bottle after the child has had its meal, but that it should be emptied, washed out with a little warm water and soda, and it and the india-rubber end should be kept in water till again needed. To insure the most perfect cleanliness it is always well to have two bottles in use, and to employ them alternately.

How strictly soever an infant may be kept at the breast, or however exactly the precautions on which I have insisted are observed, sickness, constipation, or diarrh[oe]a may occur, causing much anxiety to the parents, and giving much trouble to the doctor.

It sometimes happens, without its being possible to assign for it any sufficient reason, that the mother's milk disagrees with her infant, or entirely fails to nourish it, so that, much against her will, she is compelled to give up suckling it. In some instances this is due to errors in diet, to the neglect of those rules the observance of which is essential to health, as proper exercise for instance; and then the secretion is usually deficient in quantity as well as defective in its composition. In such cases the child often vomits soon after sucking, it suffers from stomach-ache, its motions are very sour, of the consistence of putty, and either green, or become so soon after being passed, instead of presenting the bright yellow colour and semi-fluid consistence of the evacuations of the healthy infant, and sometimes they are also lumpy from the presence of masses of undigested curd. In addition, also, the child is troubled with griping, which makes it cry; its breath is sour, or actually offensive, and the tongue is much whiter than it should be, though it must be remembered that the tongue of the sucking child always has a very slight coating of whitish mucus, and is neither as red nor as perfectly free from all coating as it becomes in the perfectly healthy child of three or four years old.

In these circumstances, the diminution of stimulants, such as the stout of which young women are sometimes mistakenly urged to take a quantity to which they were previously quite unaccustomed, is often followed by an increase of the quantity as well as an improvement in the quality of the milk. It is true that a nursing mother may often find her strength maintained, and her supply of milk increased, by taking a glass of stout at lunch and another at dinner, instead of, but not in addition to, any other stimulant; but mere stimulants will no more enable a woman to suckle her infant better than she otherwise would do, than they would fit a man to undergo great fatigue for days together, or to go through a walking tour in Switzerland. A tumbler of one-third milk and two-thirds good grit gruel taken three times a day will have greater influence in increasing the quantity of milk than any conceivable amount of stimulant.

There is an entirely opposite condition in which the infant does not thrive at the breast, and this for the most part is met with when the mother has already given birth to and suckled several children. In these instances the secretion is sometimes, though not always, abundant, but the infant does not thrive upon it. The babe does not get on, is always hungry after leaving the breast, and cries as though it wanted more; in addition to which it is often purged, either while sucking or within a few minutes afterwards, though the motions, except in being more frequent and more watery than in health, do not by any means constantly show any other change. The mother's history explains the rest. She is constantly languid, suffers from back-ache, feels exhausted each time after the babe has sucked, probably has neuralgia in her face, or abiding headache. In many instances, too, her monthly periods return, though as a rule they do not appear in healthy women while suckling. All these symptoms show that her system is not equal to the duty she has undertaken, and that therefore, for her sake as well as for that of the infant, she must give up the attempt.

One more case there is in which suckling has to be given up, at any rate in part, and that is when the milk is good in kind, but insufficient in quantity for the child as it grows older. This insufficiency of quantity shows itself at different periods after the infant's birth—at two months, three, or four. The child is not otherwise ill than that it is no longer bright, as it was wont to be, it ceases to gain flesh, it sleeps more than it used to do, though when it wakes it is always eager for the breast, and cries when leaving it, and if the experiment is made of giving it some milk and water immediately on leaving it, it takes that greedily. Mothers are loth to believe this failure of their resources, and in the case of some who have firm and well-formed breasts, there is but little change in their appearance to show that what remains may serve for beauty, not for use. But if while the child is sucking, the nipple is taken suddenly from its mouth, instead of innumerable little jets of milk, spirting out from the openings of the milk-ducts, the nipple will be seen to be barely moistened by its languid flow.

In conditions such as these the question of weaning partially or completely inevitably occurs, and where the mother's weakness is the occasion of the failure to nourish the child, half-measures are of no avail, for so long as she does not entirely give up the attempt to do that to which her health is unequal, her own state will grow worse, that of the child will not improve. When errors of diet or inattention to general rules of health incapacitate the mother from the performance of her duty, there may be hope from the adoption of a wiser course; while when the supply simply fails from its inadequacy, much may be hoped for from a wise combination of hand-feeding with nursing at the breast; the mother perhaps suckling the infant by day, but being undisturbed by demands upon her at night.

Last of all, I must refer to cases in which love has been stronger than reason, as indeed it often is, and in which young people with some pronounced hereditary taint of scrofula or consumption marry and have children. In such cases, if the consumptive taint is on the mother's side, it is, I believe, much wiser, in the inability to obtain a good wet-nurse, to bring up the child by hand rather than at the mother's breast. One word, however, applicable in such circumstances, age and long experience entitle me to add, and it is this. It is essential that, in the absence of that guarantee against the too rapid succession of pregnancies which suckling for a reasonable time presents, there should be self-restraint on both sides, lest the inscription on the young wife's grave should be, as I have too often known it, the same as, in despite of poetry and romance, her biographer assigns as the cause of the death of Petrarch's Laura, that she died worn out crebris partubus, by too many babies.

In all of these cases the rules which I have already given with reference to hand-feeding have to be borne in mind: the preference for asses' milk at first, the careful regulation of the amount of curd in the cows' milk afterwards, increased or diminished by the greater or less proportion of whey mixed with it. Sometimes, however much the quantity of curd or casein may be reduced, the child is yet unable to digest it, for it is firm and not easily acted on by the juices of the stomach. It is then best to omit it altogether, and to supply the necessary albumen by white of egg. A very good food in these circumstances is made of—

White of one raw egg, Quarter of an ounce of sugar of milk, Three teaspoonfuls of cream, Half a pint of whey.

In the course of a few weeks, or when the child seems to need stronger nourishment, one part of veal-tea, made with a pound of veal to a pint of water, may be added to one part of whey, with the white of egg and sugar of milk as before, and one part of white decoction, as it was called some two centuries ago in England. It is composed of—

Half an ounce of hartshorn shavings, Inside of one French roll, Three pints of water—boiled to two, strained and sweetened.

This forms an extremely useful way of introducing farinaceous food into the infant's diet, and preparing the way for a larger amount of it which by degrees becomes necessary. Of these, one of the most generally useful is Liebig's or Savory and Moore's food for infants, which has the advantage of not constipating as so many other farinaceous foods do. Chapman's Entire Wheat Flour is an extremely good food; and wheat, as you will remember, excels other farinaceous substances in its nutritive properties, but it is not so easy of digestion as Liebig. There is, however, scarcely any kind of farinaceous food, among which Nestle's must not be forgotten, which may not answer for an infant; provided always that at first it is not given oftener than twice a day, that it is not made too thick, nor given in larger proportion than one-third of the farinaceous food to two-thirds of the whey, milk, or whatever it is mixed with; and besides, whatever the food may be, it should be prepared each time afresh.

This is not the place for going into all details on the subject of feeding infants, or to explain how if wisely managed the child weans itself by degrees from the bottle or the breast—the best way, be it said, of weaning—or how by degrees it comes to its daily midday meal of beef-tea and bread, and then, when the first grinding teeth have been cut, to a small meat meal daily, finely minced or scraped, and so little by little adopts the modes of living of its elders.

But, last of all, there are instances, though not so many as the public imagine, in which the infant, in spite of most judicious management, fails to thrive, and suffers from various disorders of its digestion.

The most unmanageable and the least hopeful of these cases are those in which the infant is the subject of consumptive disease. It is very rare for its symptoms, even in cases of the most marked tendency to consumption on the part of the parents, to show themselves before the age of three months, and I think I may add, that apart from such tendency consumption never appears in infancy or early childhood, except when it follows on some acute illness, such as inflammation of the lungs, or on typhoid, or, as it is commonly called, remittent fever.

Consumption of the bowels, as it is popularly termed, may be said never to occur in early infancy apart from consumptive disease of the lungs, and is then always accompanied by an increase towards evening of the temperature from its natural standard of 98.5 deg. to 100 deg.. Hence the absence of cough and the persistence of a natural temperature may be taken as almost conclusive evidence that there is no consumptive disease of the bowels. Consumptive disease in infancy is invariably attended with glandular enlargement. The glands of the bowels when irritated always communicate their irritation to the glands in the groin and the bend of the thigh, which are felt hard and enlarged, like little peas, under the finger. But further, if there is real disease of the glands of the bowels, other tiny enlarged glands will be felt, like shot, under the skin of the belly, from which in the general progress of emaciation the layer of fat always present in the healthy baby will already have been removed. Besides this, too, the veins running beneath the skin there, invisible in the healthy infant, will be seen meandering like blue lines, and telling the story that more blood than usual flows through them, because the diseased glands inside interfere with its ready passage through its proper channels.

Two cautions, however, have to be borne in mind with reference to both of these indications of disease. The first is, that the glands in the groin may be enlarged from mere irritation, independent of actual disease communicated to them from the glands inside. If, however, you find the glands at the corner of the lower jaw and those on either side of the neck enlarged too, you are then driven to the conclusion that the glands in the groin are enlarged not from mere local irritation, but from general disease, and that consumption is its cause.

Again, the superficial veins of the belly may be enlarged from any cause which interferes with the proper circulation through the vessels inside. Hence they are often enlarged in grown people in dropsy, and hence too in infants and young children from flatulent distension of the bowels. But in this case the other signs of consumption are wanting; the emaciation, the cough, the increase of evening temperature, and the enlargement of the glands, are all absent.

Sometimes we meet with instances where the child does not digest its food, does not thrive, does not gain flesh, never passes healthy evacuations, at length wastes, loses strength, and dies, without having had any of the signs which I have pointed out as indicative of consumptive disease, and in fact without having suffered from it. Now, these cases are connected with imperfect performance of the function of the liver, and sometimes with an imperfection of its structure. Before birth the functions of the liver are not called into action in the same way nor to the same degree as afterwards, and its structure differs in this respect that it contains a larger amount of fat and a smaller proportion of bile-secreting cells than afterwards. It sometimes happens from causes which we do not understand that the liver structure not only does not undergo that higher development which should take place, but that the fat cells increase at the expense of the bile cells. In these circumstances the food is ill-digested and the health is much impaired, and at last wasting takes place to as great a degree as in the case of consumption, only there are no cough, no glandular enlargement, no big superficial veins, no increased temperature, while on a careful examination the doctor will seldom fail to find the rounded edge of the enlarged liver coming lower down than natural. In these cases too there is a disposition to convulsive affections, and to that peculiar form of convulsion called spasmodic croup, concerning which I shall have something to say later on.

In its less serious form this is both a more frequent and a less grave condition than consumption, and its existence explains to a great degree those cases in which young children have failed to be nourished by the milk food which commonly suits their tender age, but have improved on beef-tea, raw meat or its juice, and food entirely destitute of saccharine matter.

In cases where there is reason to apprehend consumptive disease, the skill and resources of the doctor will often be heavily taxed to meet each difficulty as it arises. A good wet-nurse, or, in default of her, asses' milk, with the addition of cream to supply the butter in which the asses' milk is deficient, a couple of teaspoonfuls of raw meat juice in the course of every twenty-four hours, much care in the introduction of farinaceous substances into the diet, and cod-liver oil twice a day, beginning with ten drops and gradually increasing the dose to a teaspoonful, are all that the mother herself can do. When the cod-liver oil is not borne by the stomach, or when—which, however, is not often the case—the child refuses to take it, glycerine may be substituted for it, though it must be owned that it is a very poor and inefficient substitute. The inunction of cod-liver oil is in any case not to be had recourse to; it makes the child unpleasant to itself and loathsome to others, while the power of the skin to absorb oily matters is far too limited to be worth taking into account.

Vomiting, though by no means a prominent symptom of either of the two very grave conditions of which I have been speaking just now, is yet a very common attendant on all disorders of digestion in early life. It is indeed much more frequent in the infant than in the adult, and the greater irritability of the stomach continues even after the first few months of existence are past, and does not completely cease during the early years of childhood. In every case of vomiting in childhood, therefore, the first question to set at rest is whether it depends on disorder of the digestive system, or whether it heralds the onset of one of the eruptive fevers, or of inflammation of the chest, or of affection of the brain; and in determining this all the directions given when I was speaking of the general symptoms of disease are to be carefully studied. Vomiting often accompanies infantile diarrh[oe]a, even when the food taken cannot be regarded as its occasion; and now and then the stomach, with no obvious exciting cause, suddenly becomes too irritable to retain any food, and this indeed may be the case even though attended by few or no other indications of intestinal disorder. The child in such cases seems still anxious for the breast; but so great is the irritability of the stomach that the milk is either thrown up unchanged immediately after it has been swallowed, or it is retained only for a few minutes, and is then rejected in a curdled state; while each application of the child to the breast is followed by the same result. It will generally be found, when this accident takes place in the previously healthy child of a healthy mother, that it has been occasioned by some act of indiscretion on the part of its mother or nurse. She perhaps has been absent from her nursling longer than usual, and returning tired from a long walk or from some fatiguing occupation, has at once offered it the breast, and allowed it to suck abundantly; or the infant has been roused from sleep before its customary hour, or it has been over-excited or over-wearied at play, or in hot weather has been carried about in the sun without proper protection from its rays.

The infant in whom from any of these causes vomiting has come on, must at once be taken from the breast, and for a couple of hours neither food nor medicine should be given to it. It may then be offered a teaspoonful of cold water; and should the stomach retain this, one or two spoonfuls may be given in the course of the next half-hour. If this is not rejected, a little isinglass may be dissolved in the water, which must still be given by a teaspoonful at a time, frequently repeated; or cold barley-water may be given in the same manner. In eight or ten hours, if no return of vomiting takes place, the experiment may be tried of giving the child its mother's milk, or cows' milk diluted with water, in small quantities from a teaspoon. If the food thus given does not occasion sickness, the infant may in from twelve to twenty-four hours be restored to the breast: with the precaution, however, of allowing it to suck only very small quantities at a time, lest, the stomach being overloaded, the vomiting should again be produced.

In many instances when the sickness has arisen from some accidental cause, such as those above referred to, the adoption of these precautions will suffice to restore the child's health. If, however, other signs of disorder of the stomach or bowels have preceded the sickness, or are associated with it, medicine cannot be wholly dispensed with, and the advice of the doctor must be sought for. Very likely in addition to directing the rules above laid down to be attended to, he may lay a tiny dose of calomel, as a quarter, half or a whole grain on the tongue, which often has a wonderful influence in arresting sickness; while he may further put a small poultice not much bigger than a crown piece, made half of mustard, half of flour, on the pit of the stomach for a few minutes, and may give the child a little saline, with a grain or two of carbonate of soda, and perhaps a drop of prussic acid. These, however, are not remedies to be employed by the mother, but must be prescribed, and their effect watched by the medical attendant.

Sickness, indeed, is not always a solitary symptom unattended by other evidences of disordered digestion, but is sometimes associated with signs of its general impairment, and this may be so serious as to lead to great loss of flesh, and even to end in endangering life. In many instances, however, the child does not lose much flesh though it digests ill, and its symptoms would be troublesome rather than alarming, if it were not that they are often the signs of an unhealthy constitution, out of which in the course of a few months consumption is not infrequently developed. Long-continued indigestion in the infant always warrants anxiety on the part of the parent.

In some of these cases there is complete loss of appetite, the infant caring neither for the breast nor for any other food. It loses the look of health and grows pale and languid, though it may not have any special disorder either of the stomach or of the bowels. It sucks but seldom and is soon satisfied, and even of the small quantity taken, a portion is often regurgitated almost immediately. This state of things is sometimes brought on by a mother's over-anxious care, who, fearful of her infant taking cold, keeps it in a room too hot or too imperfectly ventilated. It follows, also, in delicate infants on attacks of catarrh or of diarrh[oe]a, but it is then for the most part a passing evil which time will cure. In the majority of cases, however, the loss of appetite is associated with evidence of the stomach's inability to digest even the small quantity of food taken, and the bowels are irregular in their action, as well as unhealthy in their secretion. Loss of appetite, too, though a frequent is by no means a constant attendant on infantile indigestion, but is replaced sometimes by an unnatural craving, in which the child never seems so comfortable as when sucking. It sucks much, but the milk evidently does not sit well upon the stomach; for soon after sucking, the child begins to cry and appears to be in much pain until it has vomited. The rejection of the milk is followed by immediate relief; but at the same time by the desire for more food, and the child often can be pacified only by allowing it to suck again. In other cases vomiting is of much less frequent occurrence, and there is neither craving desire for food, nor much pain after sucking; but the infant is distressed by frequent acid or offensive eructations; its breath has a sour or nauseous smell, and its evacuations have a most f[oe]tid odour. The condition of the bowels that exists in connection with these different forms of indigestion is variable. In cases of simple loss of appetite, the debility of the stomach is participated in by the intestines, and constipation is of frequent occurrence, though the evacuations do not always appear unhealthy. In other instances in which the desire for food still continues, the bowels may act with due regularity, but the motions may have a very unnatural appearance. If the child is brought up entirely at the breast, the motions are usually liquid, of a very pale yellow colour, often extremely offensive, and contain shreds of curdled milk, which not having been digested within the stomach, pass unchanged through the whole track of the bowels. In many instances, however, the infant having been observed not to thrive at the breast, arrowroot or other farinaceous food is given to it, which the stomach is wholly unable to digest, and which gives to the motions the appearance of putty or pipe-clay, besmeared more or less abundantly with slime or mucus. The evacuations are often parti-coloured, and sometimes one or two unhealthy motions are followed by others which appear perfectly natural; while attacks of diarrh[oe]a often come on, and the matters discharged are then watery, of a dark dirty green colour, and exceedingly offensive.

Children, like grown persons suffering from indigestion, often continue, as I have already said, to keep up their flesh much better than could be expected, and in many cases grow up to be strong and healthy. Still the condition is one that not merely entails much suffering on the infant, but by its continuance seriously impairs the health, and tends to develop the seeds of any constitutional predisposition to consumptive disease.

In these cases there are many respects in which the mother can most efficiently second the doctor. All causes unfavourable to health must be examined into, and as far as possible removed. It must be seen that the nursery is well ventilated, and that its temperature is not too high; while it will often be found that no remedy is half so efficacious as change of air. Next, it must not be forgotten that the regurgitation of the food is due in great measure to the weakness and consequent irritability of the stomach, and care must therefore be taken not to overload it. If these two points are attended to, benefit may then be looked for from the employment of tonics, and as the general health improves the constipated condition of the bowels, so usual in these cases, will by degrees disappear; while if aperients are needed those simple remedies only should be employed of which I spoke in the first part of this book, and the use of mercurials is not to be resorted to without distinct medical order.

The above mode of treatment is appropriate to cases of what may be termed the indigestion of debility, but a different plan must be adopted in those instances in which it depends on some other cause. The rule, indeed, which limits the quantity of food to be given at one time is no less applicable here, for the rejection of some of the milk may be the result of nothing more than of an effort which nature makes to reduce the work that the stomach has to do within the powers of that organ. But when, notwithstanding that due attention is paid to this important point, uneasiness is always produced by taking food, and is not relieved till after the lapse of some twenty minutes, when vomiting takes place, or when the infant suffers much from flatulence and from frequent acid or nauseous eructations, it is clear that the symptoms are due to something more than the mere feebleness of the system.

It is not, however, the mere fact that the child vomits its food, or of the milk so vomited being rejected in a coagulated state, which proves that the stomach is disordered, but it is the fact of firmly coagulated milk being rejected with much pain, and after the lapse of a considerable interval from the time of its being taken, which warrants this conclusion. The coagulation of the curd is the first change which the milk of any animal undergoes when introduced into the stomach. The coagulum of human milk is soft and flocculent, and not so thoroughly separated from the other elements of the fluid, as the firm hard coagulum or curd of cow's milk becomes from the whey in which it floats. In a state of health the abundantly secreted gastric juice speedily redissolves the chief part of the curd in the stomach, while when it has passed into the intestine the alkaline bile which there becomes mixed with it, completes its solution, and converts the whole into a fluid which closely resembles one of the chief elements of the blood, is consequently very easily taken up by the minute vessels whose office it is to do so, and thus supplies with nourishment the whole body.

Milk tends, however, to undergo changes spontaneously, which produce its coagulation, and the occurrence of these changes is greatly favoured by a moderately high temperature, such as that which exists in the stomach. But the alterations of the fluid that accompany this spontaneous coagulation are very different from those which are brought about by the vital processes of digestion. An acid becomes formed within it, and the acid thus produced has none of the solvent power of gastric juice, but by its presence impedes rather than favours digestion. Every nurse is aware that a very slight acidity of the milk will suffice to give an infant vomiting, stomach ache, and diarrh[oe]a, and the result must be much the same whether fermentation had begun in the milk before it was swallowed, or whether it commences afterwards, in consequence of the disordered condition of the stomach, and the absence of a healthy secretion of gastric juice.

The nature of the food is the first point that requires attention in the management of these cases of infantile dyspepsia. If the child had been fed on cow's milk the symptoms may be due to the gastric juice not having been able to dissolve the curd, which you will remember is much firmer than that of human milk as well as twice as abundant. In this case the substitution of asses' milk, the employing whey either entirely or in part instead of milk, and the adding white of egg in order to present the elements of the curd in a more easily digestible form, may all be tried with advantage. Sometimes children refuse whey; and then a mixture of cream and veal broth, more or less diluted either with water or with the white decoction, may be given instead. The addition of soda, potash, chalk or lime water to milk before it is given is also of service, since it not only prevents the occurrence of fermentation, but also renders the curd of cow's milk more easily soluble.

The indiscriminate and over-free employment of these alkalies, however, as nursery remedies is by all means to be avoided, for the symptoms of indigestion for which a grown person if suffering would seek the advice of a skilful doctor require his help no less when the patient is a child. When acids will be of service in promoting the secretion of the gastric juice, when pepsine will be likely to be of use, when stimulants such as a little brandy, when aromatics to get rid of flatulence, opiates to relieve pain or check diarrh[oe]a, or when an occasional mercurial, or some other remedy may be of use by stimulating the liver to increased action, are questions which I would not advise any mother to try to answer for herself. Much care and pains and knowledge and experience are often required by the doctor to enable him to answer them correctly.

I must not leave the consideration of the ailments of the digestive organs in early infancy without some notice of that affection of the mouth popularly known as thrush to which an exaggerated importance was once attached as the supposed cause of those symptoms of disordered health, of which it is in reality only the accompaniment. Still it is a sign of such grave disorder that it needs a careful study.

THRUSH.—If you examine the mouth of a young infant, in whom the attempt at hand-feeding is not turning out well, you will often observe its lining to be beset with numerous small white spots, that look like little bits of curd lying upon its surface, but which on a more attentive examination are found to be so firmly adherent to it as not to be removed without some difficulty, when they leave the surface beneath it a deep red colour, and now and then bleeding slightly. These specks appear upon the inner surface of the lips, especially near the angles of the mouth, on the inside of the cheeks, and upon the tongue, where they are more numerous at the tip and edges than towards the centre. They are likewise seen upon the gums, though less frequently and in smaller numbers. When they first appear they are usually of a circular form, scarcely larger than a small pin's head; but after having existed for a day or two, some of the spots become three or four times as large, while at the same time they in general lose something of their circular form. By degrees the small white crusts fall off of their own accord, leaving the surface where they were seated redder than before; a colour which gradually subsides, as with the infant's improved health the mouth returns to its natural condition. If the improvement is tardy the white specks may be reproduced and again detached several times before the mouth resumes its healthy aspect. In the worst cases the specks coalesce, and coat the mouth as though lined with a membrane which is usually of a yellowish-white tint instead of having the dead white colour of the separate spots. Even here, however, though the surface is very red, it scarcely bleeds if the deposit is removed from it gently and with care.

The popular notion that when the deposit of thrush appears not only in the mouth, but also at the edge of the bowel, it has passed through the child is altogether erroneous. The lining membrane of the bowel indeed is red, inflamed, and presents those conditions to which I have already referred when speaking of the atrophy of hand-fed children, but the actual deposit of thrush can take place only where there exists an appropriate structure for its formation, and that is to be found, not in the bowels, but only at the inlets and outlets of the digestive canal. The actual deposit at the outlet of the bowel is indeed exceptional, though the edges are often red and sore from the irritation produced by the acrid motions, and this irritation sometimes extends to the skin over the lower part of the baby's person, which becomes rough, and covered with a blush of redness.

Thrush in the child is of far less serious import than in the grown person. In the latter it indicates the existence of some very serious, almost hopeless disease, and hence it is that we meet with it in the last stages of dysentery, cancer, and consumption. In the child a slight attack of thrush may occur from causes which are by no means serious, and may disappear under the use of simple means, such as I have already described when speaking of the troubles of digestion in early infancy.

While in any case it must rest with the doctor to regulate as he best knows how the constitutional treatment of the condition on which the thrush depends, it must be for the mother to see that appropriate local measures are adopted. One point of considerable moment, and to which less care than it deserves is usually paid, is the removing from the mouth, each time after the infant has been fed, of all remains of the milk or other food. For this purpose whenever the least sign of thrush appears, the mouth should be carefully wiped out with a piece of soft rag dipped in a little warm water every time after food has been given. Supposing the attack to be but slight this precaution will of itself suffice in many instances to remove all traces of the affection in two or three days. If, however, there is much redness of the mouth, or if the specks of thrush are numerous, some medicated application is desirable.

The once popular honey and borax is not the best application, and this for a reason which I will at once explain. The secretion of the mouth in infants is acid, disease increases this acidity; and it has been found that this acid state is not merely favourable to the increase of thrush, but also to the development between the specks of thrush of a sort of membrane formed by a peculiar microscopic growth, of whose existence, just as of that of the phylloxera which destroys the vine, or the muscardine which kills the silkworm, we were ignorant till brought to light by recent scientific research.

You will therefore at once see why saccharine substances, apt as they are to pass into a state of fermentation, are not suitable, and why it is better to employ a solution of—

Borax, twenty grains Glycerine, one teaspoonful Water, an ounce.

Now and then the use once or twice a day in addition of a very weak solution of caustic, as two grains of lunar caustic to an ounce of water, in bad cases is necessary; but of this it must be left to the doctor to decide.

TEETHING.—The transition is a very natural one by which we pass from the study of the dangers and difficulties which attend the feeding and rearing of young infants, to those which accompany teething.

The time of teething is looked forward to by most mothers with undisguised apprehension, nurses attribute to it the most varied forms of constitutional disturbance, and doctors constantly hold forth to anxious parents the expectation that their child will have better health when it has cut all its teeth. The time of teething, too, is in reality one of more than ordinary peril,[9] though why it should be so is not always rightly understood. It is a time of most active development, a time of transition from one mode of being to another, in respect of all those important functions by whose due performance the body is nourished and built up.

The error which has been committed with reference to this matter, consists not in overrating the hazard of the time, when changes so important are being accomplished, but in regarding only one of the manifestations—though that indeed is the most striking one of the many important ends which nature is then labouring to bring about. A child in perfect health usually cuts its teeth at a certain time and in a certain order, just as a girl at a certain age begins to show signs of approaching womanhood; and at length attains it with but slight inconvenience or discomfort. The two processes, however, have this in common, that during both, constitutional disturbance is more common, and serious diseases are more frequent than at other times, and the cause in both lies far deeper than the outward manifestation.

The great changes which nature is constantly bringing about around us and within us are the result of laws operating silently but unceasingly; and hence it is that in her works we see little of the failure which often disappoints human endeavours, or of the dangers which often attend on their accomplishment. Thus when her object is to render the child no longer dependent on the mother for its food, she begins to prepare for this long beforehand. The first indication of it is furnished by the greatly increased activity of the salivary glands, which during the first few months of existence have scarcely begun to perform their function, a fact which accounts for the tendency to dryness of the tongue of the young infant under the influence of very trivial ailments. About the fourth or fifth month, this condition undergoes a marked alteration; the mouth is now found continually full of saliva, and the child is constantly drivelling; but no other indication appears of the approach of the teeth to the surface, except that the ridge of the gums sometimes becomes broader than it was before. No further change may take place for many weeks; and it is generally near the end of the seventh month before the first teeth make their appearance. The middle cutting teeth of the lower jaw are in most instances the first to pierce the gum; next the middle cutting teeth of the upper jaw; then usually the side cutting teeth of the lower jaw, and lastly, the corresponding ones of the upper. This, however, is not quite invariable, for sometimes all the cutting teeth in one jaw precede in their appearance any of those in the other. The first four grinding teeth next succeed, and often without any very definite order as to whether those of the upper or of the lower jaw are first visible, though in the majority of instances the lower are the first to appear. The four eye teeth follow, and lastly, the remaining four grinding teeth, which complete the set of first, or as they are often called, milk teeth.

We must not, however, picture to ourselves this process as going on uninterruptedly until completed—a mistake into which parents often fall, whose anxiety respecting their children is excited by observing that after several teeth have appeared in rapid succession, the process appears to come to a standstill. Nature has so ordered it that teething which begins at the seventh or eighth month, shall not be completed until the twenty-fourth or thirtieth; and has doubtless done so in some measure with the view of diminishing the risk of constitutional disturbance that might be incurred if the evolution of the teeth went on without a pause. As a rule the two lower central incisors or cutting teeth make their appearance in the course of a week; six weeks or two months often intervene before the central upper incisors pierce the gum, but they are in general quickly followed by the lateral incisors. A pause of three or four months most frequently occurs before we see the first grinding teeth, another of equal length previous to the appearance of the eye teeth, and then another still longer before the last grinding teeth are cut.

Though a perfectly natural process, teething is almost always attended with some degree of suffering. This, however, is not always the case, for sometimes we discover that an infant has cut a tooth, who yet had shown no signs of discomfort, nor any indication that teething was commencing, with the exception of an increased flow of saliva. More frequently indeed, the mouth becomes hot, and the gums look tumid, tense, and shining, while the exact position of each tooth is marked, for some time before its appearance, by the prominence of the gum; or the eruption of the teeth is preceded by much redness, and great heat of the mouth with profuse flow of saliva, and even with little painful ulcers of the edge of the tongue, or of the inner surface of either lip. With either of these conditions the child is feverish, fretful, and cries from time to time with pain, while at the same time the bowels often are relaxed, or the child coughs and wheezes as if it had caught cold.

Symptoms such as these make up what nurses mean when they say that the child is suffering from its teeth, and this opinion is constantly followed by a request to the doctor to lance the baby's gums. Now this little operation when really called for often gives great relief, both to the local discomfort, and also to the general ailment from which the infant suffers, but it is often done when there is no occasion for it, and when consequently it causes needless pain, and does no good.

There are four different conditions in which it may be right to have the child's gums lanced:

First. When a tooth is very near the surface, and by cutting through the thin gum the child may be spared some needless suffering.

Second. When the gums are very red and hot and swollen; only in this case the gum is scratched or cut, to bleed it, not with the idea of letting out the imprisoned tooth.

Third. When the child has for some week or two been feverish and suffering; while, though the gum is tense and swollen, the tooth does not seem to advance.

Fourth. As an experiment, when during the progress of teething a child is suddenly seized with convulsions for which there is no obvious cause. The irritation of the teeth may have to do with their occurrence; and the chance of relieving it by so simple a means is not to be thrown away.

If the process of teething is going on quite naturally, no interference, medical or other, is either necessary or proper. The special liability of children to illness at this time must indeed be borne in mind, and care must be taken not to make any alteration in the infant's food while it is actually cutting its teeth, but rather to choose the opportunity of some one of those pauses to which reference has been made, as occurring between the dates of appearance of the successive teeth, for making any such change. If the child is feverish, a little soda or seltzer water sweetened and given after the effervescence has subsided will be taken eagerly, and avoid the risk of putting the child too often to the breast, or giving it food too frequently. It seeks the one or the other because it is thirsty, and craves for moisture to relieve its hot mouth; not because it is hungry and needs nourishment. If the child has been weaned, still greater care will be required, for it will often be found that it is no longer able to digest its ordinary food, which either is at once rejected by the stomach, or else passes through the intestines undigested. Very thin arrowroot made with water, with the addition of one third of milk, will suit in many cases, or equal parts of milk and water with isinglass, or equal parts of milk and the white decoction. The bowels of course must be kept open with very simple and mild aperients, but the bowels are in general more inclined to diarrh[oe]a than to constipation, and the diarrh[oe]a of teething children is often troublesome and requires good medical advice.

The ulcerated state of the mouth is usually connected with special disorder of the digestive organs, and that condition of acidity for which I have already recommended soda, magnesia, and similar remedies, while locally the mouth needs just that local care which is applicable in cases of thrush. Now and then, severe inflammation of the gums occurs, in which they become extremely swollen; and ulceration takes place of the gum just above where the tooth should come through, and even around some of those which have already appeared. These are cases in which lancing the gums would do nothing but mischief. They require the local care already insisted on, a mild plan of diet, and treatment to reduce any feverishness; and above all one medicine, the chlorate of potass, which in doses of four grains every four hours for a child a year old, is almost a specific.

AFFECTIONS OF THE SKIN.—There are a few affections of the skin to which children in early infancy are especially liable, concerning which a few words must be said.

The Latin word intertrigo is used for that chafing of the skin of the lower part of the body of an infant which is by no means unusual, and is often very distressing. It is almost invariably due to want of care. Either wetted napkins are dried, and put on again without previous rinsing in water, or they have been washed in water containing soda, and not passed through pure water afterwards, or attention is not paid to change the infant's napkin immediately that it requires; or a fresh napkin is put on without previous careful ablution of the child; or lastly it occurs almost unavoidably in cases of diarrh[oe]a from the extension of irritation beginning at the edge of the bowel.

Care is usually all that is needed to remove, as it is to prevent this condition. The precautions which I have referred to with regard to cleanliness must be carefully observed, and moreover, each time even after passing water, the child should be carefully washed with thin gruel, or barley water, then dusted abundantly with starch powder, while the napkin must be thickly greased with zinc ointment. After the first six or seven months of life the napkin can be almost always dispensed with, if the child has been brought up in good habits, and in all cases of chafing, it is much the better way to put no napkin on the child when in bed, but to lay under it a folded towel, which can be removed, and a clean one substituted for it as soon as it becomes soiled.

There is a very obstinate form of chafing, with great redness of the skin, and disposition to crack about the edge of the bowel which depends on constitutional causes, and calls at once for the interference of the doctor.

Besides this purely local ailment, there is another skin affection which is seen over the body generally, and is known popularly by the name of red gum, or in Latin strophulus. I mention the Latin name because I have known persons sometimes, misled by the similarity of sound, fancy that it had some connection with scrofula. It is met with less commonly now than formerly, when people were accustomed to keep infants unduly wrapped up, and to be less careful than most are now-a-days about washing and bathing. It depends on over-irritation of the sweat glands of the delicate skin of the infant, the result of which shows itself in the eruption on the body and face of a number of small dry pimples sometimes surrounded by a little redness, itching considerably, and when their top has been rubbed off by scratching having a little speck of dried blood at their summit.

A rash like this, a sort of nettle rash, more blotchy and causing little lumps on the skin, which in a day or two come and go, sometimes appears in the intervals between the pimples, sometimes takes their place, and causes, as they do, much irritation. This nettle rash is usually dependent on some error of diet, on some acidity of the stomach, and, on their being corrected soon passes away, leaving the pimples as they were before, but sometimes being reproduced if the pimples cause excessive irritation of the tender skin.

The matter of chief importance for a mother to know, is that these rashes have no serious signification. Their treatment is very simple. It consists in dressing the child very lightly, in bathing it very frequently with tepid water, avoiding as far as may be the use of soap, and in sponging it often to relieve the irritation with some simple alkaline lotion; such for instance as one recommended by the late Dr. Tilbury Fox, and which is composed of twenty grains of carbonate of soda, two teaspoonfuls of glycerine, and six ounces of rose water. Of course if the stomach is out of order that must be attended to, but a little fluid magnesia, once or twice a day, is all that is usually needed in the way of medicine.

One other affection of the skin, very common, very distressing, very tedious, of which there are many varieties, generally known by the technical name of eczema, from a compound Greek word which signifies to flow, needs that I should say something about it. It is not limited in its occurrence to infancy, nor does it of necessity cease when childhood is over, but continues to recur even in grown persons, and shows itself still from time to time even in the aged.

For the most part, however, it makes its appearance between the fifth and twelfth month; sometimes seeming to be induced by the change of food when the child is weaned, and that even though the weaning may have been wisely managed; at other times showing itself when the irritation of teething begins, and in every instance being aggravated by the approach of each tooth to the surface, and abating in the intervals.

It does not occur in all children with equal frequency or severity, and though there is no doubt but that it is often hereditary, and this especially in families some members of which have suffered from gout, yet it is by no means unusual for two or three of the children of the same parents to be affected by it severely, while no trace of it appears in the others.

It shows itself in general first on the cheeks and sides of the face, where the skin becomes red and rough, and slightly puffy. On looking very closely—more closely indeed than most persons are wont to do—this appearance will be seen to be produced by innumerable small pimples, smaller than pins' heads, and which itch violently. Now and then, even in the course of a few hours, these pimples disappear, leaving the skin rough, and peeling off in branny scales, while the surface beneath is red and irritable, a condition which also in a few days may subside. This, however, is less frequent than the opposite course of the affection, in which a drop of fluid forms at the top of each tiny pimple, and escaping forms a yellowish, thin, transparent, watery, irritating discharge, which reddens still more the raw and weeping surface of the skin. The fluid when abundant dries at length into yellowish flakes or crusts, which sometimes assume a brownish colour if the surface is made to bleed by irritating or scratching. If the crusts are not removed, the fluid which still continues to be poured out beneath them soon changes into matter or pus as it is called, and this, shut up beneath the hard crust above, increases the irritation, and thickens the deposit. After a time the inflammation lessens of its own accord, the secretion diminishes, the crusts dry up, and at length fall off, leaving the skin red, slightly swollen, and its surface scaling off in flakes, which gradually cease to form, and the skin by degrees becomes quite sound again, and so remains, until perhaps the irritation caused by the approach of a new tooth to the surface, rekindles the old trouble, to go once again through the same stages as before.

It is on the cheeks, the sides of the face, and the top of the head that these changes may be best studied, but there are other situations in which the same kind of process often goes on. It may be seen in the creases of the neck, or the folds of the thigh in fat children, only as two surfaces of skin are there in contact the fluid never dries to a crust, but the skin, red and sore and swollen, pours out an abundant secretion which, just as when it occurs behind the ears, gives out a strong and offensive smell. It occurs, too, at the bends of the joints, as under the knee, and at the inside of the elbow joint, as well as on the front of the chest, the back, and sometimes even over the whole body, and especially at any part where the pressure of the dress irritates the skin. When thus general, it seldom fails to pass into a chronic state such as to call for constant, skilled medical treatment.

The attack often comes on with general feverishness, a hot skin, fretfulness, and restlessness, which subside when the skin begins to discharge, though the discomfort produced by the local irritation still continues. At other times, and this perhaps more often when the eruption first appears on the head, its onset is more gradual, and slight scurfiness and redness at the top of the head are first noticed, and then a little crust forms there which is firmly adherent, and is, therefore, often not entirely removed as it should be, and thus bit by bit the mischief extends until its cure becomes tedious and troublesome. When either from neglect, or from the ailment having set in acutely, the affection of the scalp is severe, the child's state is one of much suffering. The whole of the scalp becomes hot and swollen, and covered over a large surface by a thick dirty crust, through cracks in which a thick ill-smelling greenish-yellow matter exudes on pressure. At different points around, pimples form with mattery heads,—pustules they are called—while the glands on each side of the neck become swollen and tender. When thus severe on the head it will be found also not merely on the face, but also on the body, and the poor suffering child is not only a miserable object to look upon, but, worn by constant restlessness, it loses flesh, and seems almost as though it could not long survive. Happily, however, the condition scarcely ever terminates fatally, though feeble health and stunted growth are not seldom the results of the early suffering. But besides, severe eczema in infancy always returns again and again in childhood and in after-life, and there is also a distinct connection between liability to eczema and to asthma; and this not simply nor mainly that the disappearance of an attack of eczema may be succeeded by an attack of asthma, but that the child who in infancy has had severe general eczema is more prone than another to develop a disposition to asthma as he attains the age of five or six, and this even though he should not have had any return of the skin affection in a severe form.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse