Page images
PDF
EPUB

1

Art. VI. 1. Commentaries or some of the most important Diseases of

Children. By John Clarke, M.D. &c. &c. Part the first. royal 8vo.

pp. 198. Longman and Co. 1815. 2. De l'Education physique de l'Homme ; par M. Friedlander. D.M.

&c. &c. à Paris, chez Treutal et Würtz. 1815. pp. 496. How to lesson the sum of physical evil incident to the state

of infancy, is one of the most important problems that can exercise the public mind. That a fourth part of the human race should die in the first or second year after birth, would appear, as far as we are at all competent to judge of bunan affairs, to be inconsistent with the laws and destinies of our being. At all events it is as plain a duty devolving upon man to aiin at the diminution of this, as of any other ill to which be is beir: and such diminution,- let us hail the fact with exciting satisfaction,--has already commenced. We have recently witnessed a happy reformation in the management of young children. The good sense of mothers lias at length protested against the nonsense and tyranny of nurses and nurseries, and the effects of such protest are more or less visible in the countenance and limbs of alınost every child we meet.*

As it is then in the power of mothers to do so much, it is of consequence that every facility should be given, and every impediment should be removed to the exercise of their tender duties; and although the most correct precepts for the rearing of children are to be found in nature and instinct, it is necessary, especially in the present artificial state of society, not indeed to impose ordinances for bliod and implicit obedience, but to point out rules for the guidance of maternal solicitude: and such are, in pari, the professed objects of the books the title pages of which are copied at the head of the present article. Taking these treatises as a text, and occasionally referring to their contents, we shall now proceed to our own brief“ commentary" on some of the most important circumstances connected with the economy and maladies of infancy.

Before we proceed to do so we would in the first place join with some of our respectable contemporaries, in lamenting the fact and cautioning against the consequences, of continental emigration. It is mortifying to refleci that just at the time when the good sense of English mothers had been freed from

* Dr. Friedlander presents to his readers a table extracted from the register of the Lying-in Hospital in London, from which it appears that even in this public charity, there has recently been a very remarkable diminution in the number of casualties to tying-in women and new-born children; which this candid writer very justly attributes to an improved management of the concerns of the house, in consequence of more correct notions baving come to prevail.

the shackles wbich had hitherto obstructed their domestic duties,-it is painful, we say, to reflect that another source is opened for more than possible mischief, from the contact and contamination of French manners. It was actually becoming fashionable to be domestic and motherly; but are we not now at the very best likely to lose the little ground we had gained, rather than to make further advances in the right course; for although the political influence of France upon other nations has been recently so materially diminished, its ascendency as the arbiter of customs and regulator of manners will we fear continue to be acknowledged. We would not be unjustly national, nor are we, we hope so, in beseeching parents to stay at home, and in the bosom of their families bear the burden of the day, rather than rove abroad and take all the consequences of galliciz their offspring, nay, of actually being the fathers and mothers of French children, merely because in France, music, and drawing, and dancing masters, can be procured at half the English price. Parents, we will allow, may be as competent to doing justice to their children in one part of the world as in another, and we are glad to be able to say that in the Metropolis of France, a very able and excellent publication has recently appeared, on the physical and moral culture of man from his earliest infancy to years of maturity;* and we have no doubt that in every part and province of that fine country, there may be found females who might serve as models even for some English mothers; but it is the general feeling respecting what should constitute an accomplished woman, the standard of which we dread may become materially altered by the present rage for emigration and foreign settlements. We are, it is to be feared, preaching in the desert; but whether men will hear and forbear, or not, the duty of the attempt to convince is equally imperative.

'C'est avec la grossesse que commencent proprement les soins de la mère'. Females should begin to act the part of mothers the moment they find that they are to be so. 'They must now at any rate forego the allurements of dissipation, and they must be equally careful not to give way to an indolent, sedentary disposition. Regular and temperate exercise is absolutely requisite for the well-being, both of parent and offspring, and we believe that much mischief often accrues to each from a negligence respecting this demand of nature. It will be well too for both mother and child, that as little attention as possible be given to those volumes of marvellous histories, which every nurse has ready to pour into the ears of the uniniti

* Not however written by a Frenchman, we would say, were we not fearful of displaying rather too much of anti-gallican prejudice. Such however is the fact; and we are surprised at the mastery which the Author of the work alluded to, and the title of which heads the present article, appears to have acquired over a foreign language.

ated, respecting marks and monstrosities, the consequences of desires and of apprehensive impressions. It would, we feel, be a hopeless task to attempt to convince even the present generation that all these things are merely ideal and visionary, and without support from either physiology or fact; but it may be proper to say that their number every day lesgens, as the female mind becomes emancipated from the marvels and mysteries of nursery lore. We shall stop to quote a sentence or two bearing upon this parctiular from the work of Mr. Friedlander.

• The celebrated professor Chaussier made particular observations during five years, of the number of deformities which occurred in the hospice de la Maternité, into which institution females are admitted under circumstances calculated to expose them to having children marked and deformed; and even in this hospital, out of twenty-threethousand one-hundred and ninety-three births, there were only onehundred and thirty-two, that had any marks of defect.' And let the reader be particular to notice the nature of these defects.

- Thirty-seven,' (Chaussier goes on to say) had lame or tortuous feet, the most common of all accidents, and without doubt occasioned, as indeed the greatest part of the others, by the mothers having endeavoured by tight lacing to conceal their pregnancy. Out of thirty-four infants, (the Professor, continues,) who had any malconformation of the head or the back, there was not to be found a single instance of actual resemblance to beings, about which so much talk was wont to be made in former times of superstition and fancy.' p. 15.

We have thought proper to advert to this particular in this place, because it has been our fate to have witnessed much uneasiness during the whole period of pregnancy, arising out of this source of unfounded apprehension. Now, as it is scarcely possible for females to walk the streets of a great city without being subject to witness all kinds and degrees of mutilations and deformities, were the theory correct upon which the doctrine of maternal marks is founded, every child that is born into the world ought to have some palpable and prominent error of shape or structure. But we have just protested against going

into the arguments or facts of the case, further than to caution · anxious females against permitting themselves to become the

dupes of mere fancy and invention on the part of others, and thus injuring both themselves and their offspring by suffering the apprehension to affect their health and comfort.

We shall not enlarge on the subject of pregnancy. We must however protest against a too liberal and indiscriminate employ. ment of evacuants and of lowering measures, in order to obviate some temporary and partial inconveniences arising out of the state alluded to. Such expedients it is true are in some cases absolutely necessary; but even this necessity might for

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

280

Clarke on the Diseases of Children. the most part be obviated by systematic exercise, by cultivating cheerfulness of temper, and by avoiding, on the one hand, all kind of excess, and on the other, habits of incolence and relaxation.

The first question that occurs concerning the requisites of the new-born infant, is with regard to the nianner in which it is to be fed; and to this nature at once furnishes us with a reply. It has been asserter, that not one in a hundred of the instints, who, in the first stage of their existence, are given by their mothers into the charge of foster parents, survives. 'i bis is doubtless a highly exaggerated statement; but even allowing the proportion of deaths to be one half of the infants thus deprived of maternal care, the number is still sufficiently large to excite the mos painful, and in«leed melancholy reflections. There are however, many instances, although probal, much fewer than is generally supposed, of incapacity on the part of the parent to nourish her own otispring; and in such cases it remainis to be determined whether it be better to give the intant over to a foster nurse, or to substitute some kind of food for its support.

Some of the evils resulting from the former mode of treatment, are stated by Dr. Clarke in the following extract.

• If the child lives, for which the wet nurse is invited by the prospect of present gain to forsake her own, the child of the wetnurse often dies, of it becomes diseased or crippled. Her other children are neglected, and her husband, for want of her society becomes drunken and profligace: she rarely returns home contented with her former station, but compares her present privations with the indulgences which she has left : the whole comfort of the labouring man's fire-side is broken up, and society has only exchanged the life of one child for that of another, with all the disadvantages above enumerated,'

The following is the Author's inference, after a full consideration of the matter under discussion.

• On the whole it would be better, perhaps, that the children of the wealthy should be brought up artificially, where the mother does not suckle, because they would have every advantage of good nursing, cleanliness, air, and medical treatment, and would therefore have a better chance of living than the child of the wet-nurse who will want all these advantages.'

In a paragraph immediately subsequent to that which we have just quoted, Dr. C. in some measure contradicts his own position, by asserting that the most desirable thing perhaps would be, that a strong wet-nurse should as far as she is able suckle her own and the foster child, and that the deficiency of

both should be supplied by artificial food.' This compromise would not perhaps be very readily submitted to, or very easily practised; and we feel some hesitation in admitting any scheme,

that interferes with an obvious duty and demand of nature, that every female, j'oor or rich, shoule: furnish food to her own offspring.

As, however, there are, confessedly, many instances in which this cannot be done, the next point to be ascertained in, what kind of food, under these circumstances, is the best substitute for the milk of the mother. And we must protest against the practice wbich until very lately was the common one of giving the infant a mixture of bread and water, or common pap. This composition generates acidities in the first passages, and occasions pains and restlessness. Cows' milk gently warmed, and diluted with an equal quantity, or rather i ore, of water or gruel, will ordinarily be found the best substitute; and this may be occasionally changed for arrow-root and milk in the same proportion. Recourse may also be had to : litul gritgruel without milk ; but tbe greater proportion of milk that the infant can bear without disordering the stomach, the better. Warın panados and gruels are apt to give temporary ease at the risk of serious and permanent mischiet.

It has been a very general practice, immediately upon the birth of the child, to administer to it a purgative medicine;' as if (says a modern writer) “ to prove to the little stranger that it has ' arrived in a world of physic and of evils.' This practice is equally cruel and unnecessary; for nature has provided the first milk that is secreted, with a quality of this kind; and even when the infant is brought up without the breast, this artificial stimulus to the bowels will not often be found necessary.

With respect to wcaning, it may be safely laid down as an axiom, that there are very few instances indeed in which good has ever been done either to mother or child, by the infant's being continued at the breast more than nine months : and in general it is better for both, that after the third or fourth month the child should begin to take other food, so that the weaning should be a business very gradually and almost insensibly effected. It will be recollected that these rules are adapted to the present artificial state of society. In the rude health accompanying the simplicity of savage existence, the mother's breast affords the sole nutriment that the infant requires during the whole period of lactition, and the mother supplies its wants with perfect impunity.

We now proceed to consider the best manner of guarding against the injurious operation of vicissitudes in temperature; and first of dress. It is in this particular, especially, that our modern improvements in the management of infancy, are so unequivocally and happily operative. When we look back upon the senseless and cruel contrivances practised a few years since, we wonder that so many infants escaped with impunity, rather than that so much injury was the product of such improvements upon the economy of nature. Physicians, (says an author

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »