In 1915, breastfeeding wasn’t an issue of political correctness — it was very often a matter of life and death. Across the US, 10 percent of babies died before their first birthdays. (The CDC reports that in some cities, the death rate in 1900 was closer to 30 percent.)

Major initiatives were started to teach mothers how to keep their babies healthy, and covered topics from feeding to sleeping, bathing to playing. The plan worked. Over the next decades, infant mortality rates dropped tremendously as more and more children were kept healthy and strong.

mom nursing baby 1915

Food most important factor in keeping baby healthy: Mother’s milk safest

Feed babies properly and they will grow up healthy and happy

While the mother should know what to do when her baby is sick, it is still better that she know how to keep her baby well. She should realize, above all, that the health of the baby depends more upon its food than upon any other factor.

And there is no food half so satisfactory and healthy for the child as the milk of its own mother. This has been shown beyond question by the fact that only three per cent of the children who die from summer complaint [diarrhea] are fed exclusively on breast milk.

Therefore, every mother who is not prevented by physical causes should nurse her own baby, as she increases its chances of life many times by doing. Nothing can take the place of the mother’s own milk — not even the milk of some other mother.

Here are some of the reasons why mother’s milk is best for the baby: It is the child’s natural food and contains the proper proportions of fats, sugars and proteids. In addition, it goes into the baby’s stomach as it comes from the mother, with very little chance of infection or spoiling.

In like manner, it contains certain things from the mother’s body that protect the infant against various diseases. Experiments by physicians have shown that fresh mother’s milk mixed with the germs of some diseases will kill them very quickly. Nurse the baby every two-hours during the day, and two or three times at night, but do not nurse the baby whenever it cries.

A moderate amount of crying helps to develop the infant’s lungs. Babies who are nursed irregularly or whenever they cry are likely to get indigestion and then cry the harder from pain.

Do not wean the baby as long as he is gaining, and never do so except by the advice of a physician. Do not follow the advice of friends or neighbors about it.


About this story

Source publication: The Day Book (Chicago, Ill.)

Source publication date: June 28, 1915

Filed under: 1910s, Family & parenting, For women, Health & medicine

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