USE OF MEDICINES.
If infants are properly managed they require little medicine of any kind. But with many people it is a matter of custom to give a dose of castor-oil, or magnesia, at regular intervals, every two or three days, or once or twice a week. According to their view, the child could not possibly continue well without such meddle some interference. From the day of its birth onwards, for the slightest reason, and frequently without reason, the child is dosed with opening medicine. The result is that irregularity of the bowels is set up, and a great amount of harm done which it is very difficult to rectify. Now a healthy infant needs no medicine whatever as a matter of course, and the giving to it of medicine of any kind ought to be an unusual rather than a customary practice.
The first milk drawn from the breast of a nursing mother is of a peculiar character and is called colostrum. It has an opening effect on the child's bowels, and the first material passed from the child is usually of a dark-brownish colour. There is, therefore, no necessity for the newly-born child, that is being nursed by its mother, getting opening medicine, for that has already been provided for by nature. This is one of the reasons why the child should be put to its mother's breast shortly after birth. After this the child's bowels ought to move naturally twice or three times in twenty-four hours, and the stools should be of the thickness of thin mustard, of a light yellow colour, free from lumps or curdy - looking masses, and passed without pain or disturbance of any kind. Fre quently the motions are greenish, very offensive to the smell, and lumpy with white portions of curd, and to remedy this it is usual for the nurse at once to resort to the use of castor-oil, magnesia, or other medicine of a like effect. Now the cause of this condition is commonly bad methods of management. The child is getting too many drinks, or too much at a time. ' The curd is simply portions of undigested milk passing unchanged through the bowels, because the bowels are unable to digest the large quan tity passed into them at one time. The remedy,
at least in the first instance, is to correct the bad nursing, to give the child the breast less frequently, or to give it less at a time, or to do both these things. If the mother or nurse will really put it to herself that she is to blame for the state of the child's digestion, and will cor rect the mistakes she is making in suckling, the natural condition may be restored without the use of medicine. One of the results of this improper feeding is that the infant is troubled with wind and is much pained. For that reason, also, the mother hastes to give medicine instead of setting right her improper ways of nursing. If, however, the bowels continue for two or three days in this state, and the child is very fretful and uneasy, it may be desirable to give one dose of medicine, effectually to clear out the bowels, and permit a fresh start. For this purpose one or two tea-spoonfuls of castor-oil are the best means. But the mother must not forget that the relief will only be temporary unless she takes care to manage the child better for the future. The same general principles should be the guide in rearing a child that is being brought up on artificial food. Here it may be necessary to give medicine to secure a motion within the first two days after the child's birth, because it is not getting the benefit of the first milk of its mother. Castor-oil is here again to be given, and thereafter regularity of the bowels is to be secured by attention to the feed ing rather than by any giving of drugs. There are numerous cases where from its birth the child exhibits a tendency to costiveness; the proper methods of treating these cases are men tioned further on (p. 605). The rule to be re membered, however, is that regularity of move ment of the child's bowels is to be secured by proper feeding and not by medicines.