The most prevalent of all forms of disease are those of infancy and early childhood. The chief cause of a 'very large number of these diseases lies in faulty feeding habits of modem age. Unless 'this is realised by parents, there can be little hope of rescue for their children from the various ailments suffered by them.
The young baby is fed in a wrong way, even before its birth. In the womb, the child depends for its nourishment on what the mother supplies to it. And the modem mother generally eats denatured and demineralised foods. This deprives her growing unborn child of the invaluable mineral elements it needs. for proper bone and body building. The child thus enters into the world as a potentially unhealthy baby.
It is therefore of utmost importance that the mother should know as to what foods she needs for her own health as well as, for the health of her child. She should understand that rickets, scurvy, whooping cough, measles, chicken pox, tonsillitis, dental caries and all the other diseases of childhood are merely the result of refined foods of today, which are deficient in organic mineral salts, but excessive in refined sugar, starchy foods, proteins and fats. She should realize the invaluable part played by fresh fruits and raw salad vegetables in preventing such diseases.
During the first two or three days after the baby is born, the mother's breasts do not secrete milk, but yields a yellowish fluid. This fluid, called colostrum, is good for the baby. It is rich in many nutrients and anti-infective factors which protect the infant from infections during the first few days of life. It also takes care of his hunger. The act of suckling during these days will promote the milk flow and soon the breasts will start secreting milk.
All children should be breast-fed where possible. Breast feeding is the natural and ideal way of feeding the infants. Mother's milk is pure and fresh and it contains in correct proportions, most of the nutrients necessary for the growth and development of the baby.
Breast feeding is safe, simple and clean. Milk from other sources is liable to contamination, especially in areas with unhygienic environments. This can result in bowel infection. It is a well-known fact that bowel upsets are less common among breast-fed babies than those who are artificially fed. Moreover, the exercise involved in sucking breast aids in the proper development of jaws, palate, mouth and cheek muscles.
In the beginning, the infant should be breast fed on demand and all efforts should be made to breast-feed the infant whenever he cries. Once the breast feeding has been established, it is advisable to train the baby to regular feeding times. In the beginning, he may be given four feeds a day after four-hours of interval, but no feed should be given during night. If the child wakes up at night, only boiled and cooled water should be given. Babies should be breast fed for at least six months as this is nature's way of providing all the required nutrients during this period. Recent research has shown that a mother's body is capable of reacting to infections and producing antibodies against them. These antibodies pass through milk to babies and protect them against common infections.
If for any reason, it is not possible to breast-feed the baby, he should be fed on either cow's milk or commercially available milk. As far as possible, the baby should not be given artificially prepared, patent or tinned milk foods. When a mother can partly feed the baby, she should give him two feeds of her own and two top feeds or one of her own and three top feeds.
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