Should Baby Be Weaned?


   Elsewhere I have pointed out the advantages of breast-feeding over unnatural feeding. That the natural food of a baby is its own mother's milk is so obvious it hardly needs emphasis. It is, then, certainly the duty of the woman who brings a baby into world to do the best she possibly can in caring for it. Breast milk being the ideal food for the infant, it is certainly her duty to promote a sufficient supply of good milk for her child.

   A woman whose maternal instincts have been lost or have failed to develop, and who has not attained a degree of moral and ethical responsibility, which compels her to protect her child, should not become a mother. If she does not feel the responsibility for giving her child the best antenatal and postnatal care she should not bear children. Men who are lacking in a sense of responsibility, in aiding their wives in the proper care of their children, should refrain from becoming fathers. They are better off single.

   Mothers who turn their babies over to the tender mercies of a nurse or a day nursery while they go to business, and deny their children the benefits of their breast milk, are not deserving of children. There are cases where the mother is the support of the family and in such cases she cannot avoid this, no matter how much she desires to do so, but there are probably many more of the other kind. Mothers who deny their breast milk to their babies and who dry up their breasts so that they can shine in social functions or be forever "on the go," or because of the mistaken notion that nursing will ruin their figures (as though the figures of their children are not of more importance than their own caricatures of the human form), are fiends. If a woman is unwilling to sacrifice her parties, swimming, club work, drinking, and chocolate and indolence for the sake of the health and normal development of her child, she is morally and biologically unfit for motherhood. She should avoid it.

   No woman of sound mind and normal instincts would ever think of refusing to nurse her child if she fully realized how much more likely it is to live and develop normally and how much less likely it is to be sick and die, when it is breast fed than when it is bottle-fed.

   Nursing a child benefits the mother, as well as the child. Mothers who cannot or who will not nurse their children are deprived of these benefits. There is, first, an improvement in the nutrition of her own body. Second, nursing the baby assists in the involution of the uterus. The uterus of a nursing mother returns more quickly and more perfectly to its normal prepregnancy condition, than the uterus of a woman who does not nurse her child. It is claimed that the reciprocal affection between mother and child is greater, if she nurses her child, than between babies and mothers where the mother does not nurse her child. This is not a far-fetched claim and it is quite likely true. I put no credence in the claim that the nursing mother transmits, through her milk, traits to her child which the non-nursing mother does not. Not only is proof of this entirely lacking but I can find no grounds upon which to base such a belief.

   Too many women are looking for an excuse to give up nursing their children and there are too many physicians who encourage them in this. They give up nursing their children on insufficient grounds, because they do not want to nurse them. They wean their babies too early because they do not want to go on nursing them to the normal limit of the nursing period. In this they are encouraged by doctors and manufacturers of patented baby foods who tell them that their milk is not good for the baby after a certain period.

   They are advised that the baby should be weaned for its own sake as well as for it's mother's sake at about nine months to twelve months. "By this time the child should have become accustomed to artificial feeding from the bottle, gradually introduced as the breast is gradually withheld so as to avoid a too sudden change."

   This is pernicious advice and is usually followed by the equally pernicious advice to "try some of the prepared foods," "if the first substitute food does not agree with the child," and lastly, "when certified milk cannot be had, give the baby one of the standard makes of condensed milk or baby foods." The advice to take an infant off the wholesome milk of its mother and put it on such stuff is criminal, and any mother who follows such advice, after learning the truth, deserves to lose her baby.

   Women often give up the effort to nurse their babies because there is no milk, when, if they will persist for a few days the milk will be forthcoming. The supply may be small at first and will later increase in amount.

   Other women are unwilling to bear the discomforts of cracked nipples for a brief spell. Doctors and others frequently tell them that it will make the child ill if, where the mother does not have enough milk for the child's needs, she feeds it both from the breast and from the bottle. The information is both false and pernicious. The baby will fare all the better for receiving the mother's milk. Babies should have the advantage of the mother's milk in addition to the other foods used, as long as possible.

   There are many women who make up their minds that they cannot nurse their baby long anyway, so they give it up at once. Such a thing cannot be too strongly condemned. A mother's milk is of more importance to her child during the first few weeks of its life than subsequently.

   It sometimes happens that a woman could not nurse a prior baby and she gives up the duty of nursing the present one, because she thinks she can not do it. Inability to nurse one's first baby, for example, does not mean she cannot nurse subsequent ones.

   Some women imagine themselves to be too nervous or too delicate to nurse their children. But many of these "too nervous" women have good milk while many delicate women will find their health improved while nursing. "Delicate" and "nervous" women owe it to their children to at least make an honest effort to nurse them.

   Small breasts do not constitute a reason for not nursing one's child. There is no necessary relation between the size of the breast and the ability to nurse one's child. It is a fact that many women with small breasts secrete more and better milk than women with large breasts. The normal breast is not a large pendulous bag, anyway. There are of course, women who have no breasts. The glands never develop and their chests are adorned with nothing more than the nipples. Such women, if it is possible for them to become mothers, should avoid motherhood.

   The resumption of menstruation is, due to the persistence of ancient superstitions about this function, often considered a cause for weaning. It is estimated that almost half of all nursing mothers begin to menstruate again as early as the third month after birth. Children should not be weaned because of this. They do not suffer because of the menstruation.

   A slight and brief illness should not cause the mother to wean her child or to withhold her baby from the breast. Only serious illness should cause her to wean her baby.

   Pregnancy need not result in the immediate weaning of the child. Although, this is usually advised, on the grounds that it is too much of a drain upon the mother to nourish two lives besides her own, and her breast milk is likely to become too poor and scanty to nourish the baby properly, I am sure this objection to nursing during pregnancy is valid only if the mother is eating the denatured slops advised by those who make the objection. Most of the drains blamed on pregnancy and lactation are due to a denatured diet and lack of hygiene.

   There are a few conditions which demand the weaning of the child. Dr. Tilden says: "Convulsions in nursing children, not traceable to objective causes, will usually be found to come from slight septic infections of the mother, due to injuries incident to child birth; hence it is well to carefully investigate all unaccountable sickness occurring in young children soon after birth, with a view of locating the trouble in a blood derangement of the mother and discovering, if possible, whether it comes from septic poisoning."

   Again he says: "Many, if not all, children born under conventional circumstances, are more or less encumbered with flesh; instead of weighing 5 or 6 pounds, they weigh from 10 to 12 pounds and because of this overweight mothers have long, tedious, and painful labors, and too frequently are forced into instrumental deliveries. As a sequel these mothers suffer greatly from bruises, contusions and lacerations. It matters not how careful the physician who officiates at such confinement is to be scrupulously clean, these women usually have enough septic infection to cause their milk to be unwholesome, and even if they escape having a slight septic infection the severe labor breaks down so much tissue that the blood is deranged and the secretions, including the milk, are impaired to such an extent that before the doctor and the nurse are suspicious that anything is wrong the baby is very sick. This necessitates taking the child from the mother's breast, which is equivalent to weaning it, for the mothers are usually as much encumbered with flesh as the children, and because of this encumbrance plus the blood impairment described above, they cannot be restored to health until long after they have lost their milk."

   Many women who have prolonged and painful and even instrumental deliveries are able to nurse their children well, however.

   Women with tuberculosis should not even try to nurse their children. Of course such women have no business having children, in the first place. Any acute or chronic "disease" which deranges the mother's milk should cause her to wean the child. Insanity and epilepsy are listed as reasons for not nursing one's baby, but I think these are even better reasons for not having children. So-called syphilis is not a reason for weaning the child.

   Babies with lip deformities and premature babies that are too weak to nurse are best fed their mother's milk after this has been expressed from her breasts. The milk should be forced from the breasts by the use of the hands. The breasts should not be massaged in this operation.

   The breast pump is not advisable. It injures the tissues and invariably causes the breasts to dry up prematurely. Dr. Tilden says of this: "I found that when the pump was used the breasts were more or less bruised and that the bruising caused inflammation and suppuration. In time I proved to myself that there were more abscesses following the use of the pump than when it was not used."