Autoimmune Thyroid Disease

An Unfortunate and Lengthy Adventure in Misdiagnosis

Mrs Beeton's bland diet for mother and baby

with one comment

As Nature has placed in the bosom of the mother the natural food of her offspring, it must be self-evident to every reflecting woman, that it becomes her duty to study, as far as lies in her power, to keep that reservoir of nourishment in as pure and invigorating a condition as possible; for she must remember that the quantity is no proof of the quality of this aliment.

The mother, while suckling, as a general rule, should avoid all sedentary occupations, take regular exercise, keep her mind as lively and pleasingly occupied as possible, especially by music and singing. Her diet should be light and nutritious, with a proper sufficiency of animal food, and of that kind which yields the largest amount of nourishment; and, unless the digestion is naturally strong, vegetables and fruit should form a very small proportion of the general dietary, and such preparations as broths, gruels, arrowroot, &c., still less. Tapioca, or ground-rice pudding, made with several eggs, may be taken freely; but all slops and thin potations, such as that delusion called chicken-broth, should be avoided, as yielding a very small amount of nutriment, and a large proportion of flatulence. All purely stimulants should be avoided as much as possible, especially spirits, unless taken for some special object, and that medicinally; but as a part of the dietary they should be carefully shunned. Lactation is always an exhausting process, and as the child increases in size and strength, the drain upon the mother becomes great and depressing. Then something more even than an abundant diet is required to keep the mind and body up to a standard sufficiently healthy to admit of a constant and nutritious secretion being performed without detriment to the physical integrity of the mother, or injury to the child who imbibes it; and as stimulants are inadmissible, if not positively injurious, the substitute required is to be found in malt liquor. To the lady accustomed to her Madeira and sherry, this may appear a very vulgar potation for a delicate young mother to take instead of the more subtle and condensed elegance of wine; but as we are writing from experience, and with the avowed object of imparting useful facts and beneficial remedies to our readers, we allow no social distinctions to interfere with our legitimate object.

We have already said that the suckling mother should avoid stimulants, especially spirituous ones; and though something of this sort is absolutely necessary to support her strength during the exhausting process, it should be rather of a tonic than of a stimulating character; and as all wines contain a large percentage of brandy, they are on that account less beneficial than the pure juice of the fermented grape might be. But there is another consideration to be taken into account on this subject; the mother has not only to think of herself, but also of her infant. Now wines, especially port wine, very often—indeed, most frequently—affect the baby’s bowels, and what might have been grateful to the mother becomes thus a source of pain and irritation to the child afterwards. Sherry is less open to this objection than other wines, yet still it very frequently does influence the second participator, or the child whose mother has taken it.

The nine or twelve months a woman usually suckles must be, to some extent, to most mothers, a period of privation and penance, and unless she is deaf to the cries of her baby, and insensible to its kicks and plunges, and will not see in such muscular evidences the griping pains that rack her child, she will avoid every article that can remotely affect the little being who draws its sustenance from her. She will see that the babe is acutely affected by all that in any way influences her, and willingly curtail her own enjoyments, rather than see her infant rendered feverish, irritable, and uncomfortable. As the best tonic, then, and the most efficacious indirect stimulant that a mother can take at such times, there is no potation equal to porter and stout, or, what is better still, an equal part of porter and stout. Ale, except for a few constitutions, is too subtle and too sweet, generally causing acidity or heartburn, and stout alone is too potent to admit of a full draught, from its proneness to affect the head; and quantity, as well as moderate strength, is required to make the draught effectual; the equal mixture, therefore, of stout and porter yields all the properties desired or desirable as a medicinal agent for this purpose.

Independently of its invigorating influence on the constitution, porter exerts a marked and specific effect on the secretion of milk; more powerful in exciting an abundant supply of that fluid than any other article within the range of the physician’s art; and, in cases of deficient quantity, is the most certain, speedy, and the healthiest means that can be employed to insure a quick and abundant flow. In cases where malt liquor produces flatulency, a few grains of the “carbonate of soda” may advantageously be added to each glass immediately before drinking, which will have the effect of neutralizing any acidity that may be in the porter at the time, and will also prevent its after-disagreement with the stomach. The quantity to be taken must depend upon the natural strength of the mother, the age and demand made by the infant on the parent, and other causes; but the amount should vary from one to two pints a day, never taking less than half a pint at a time, which should be repeated three or four times a day.

We have said that the period of suckling is a season of penance to the mother, but this is not invariably the case; and, as so much must depend upon the natural strength of the stomach, and its power of assimilating all kinds of food into healthy chyle, it is impossible to define exceptions. Where a woman feels she can eat any kind of food, without inconvenience or detriment, she should live during her suckling as she did before; but, as a general rule, we are bound to advise all mothers to abstain from such articles as pickles, fruits, cucumbers, and all acid and slowly digestible foods, unless they wish for restless nights and crying infants.

As regards exercise and amusement, we would certainly neither prohibit a mother’s dancing, going to a theatre, nor even from attending an assembly. The first, however, is the best indoor recreation she can take, and a young mother will do well to often amuse herself in the nursery with this most excellent means of healthful circulation. The only precaution necessary is to avoid letting the child suck the milk that has lain long in the breast, or is heated by excessive action.

Every mother who can, should be provided with a breast-pump, or glass tube, to draw off the superabundance that has been accumulating in her absence from the child, or the first gush excited by undue exertion: the subsequent supply of milk will be secreted under the invigorating influence of a previous healthy stimulus.

As the first milk that is secreted contains a large amount of the saline elements, and is thin and innutritious, it is most admirably adapted for the purpose Nature designed it to fulfil,—that of an aperient; but which, unfortunately, it is seldom permitted, in our artificial mode of living, to perform.

So opposed are we to the objectionable plan of physicking new-born children, that, unless for positive illness, we would much rather advise that medicine should be administered through the mother for the first eight or ten weeks of its existence. This practice, which few mothers will object to, is easily effected by the parent, when such a course is necessary for the child, taking either a dose of castor-oil, half an ounce of tasteless salts (the phosphate of soda), one or two teaspoonfuls of magnesia, a dose of lenitive electuary, manna, or any mild and simple aperient, which, almost before it can have taken effect on herself, will exhibit its action on her child.

One of the most common errors that mothers fall into while suckling their children, is that of fancying they are always hungry, and consequently overfeeding them; and with this, the great mistake of applying the child to the breast on every occasion of its crying, without investigating the cause of its complaint, and, under the belief that it wants food, putting the nipple into its crying mouth, until the infant turns in revulsion and petulance from what it should accept with eagerness and joy. At such times, a few teaspoonfuls of water, slightly chilled, will often instantly pacify a crying and restless child, who has turned in loathing from the offered breast; or, after imbibing a few drops, and finding it not what nature craved, throws back its head in disgust, and cries more petulantly than before. In such a case as this, the young mother, grieved at her baby’s rejection of the tempting present, and distressed at its cries, and in terror of some injury, over and over ransacks its clothes, believing some insecure pin can alone be the cause of such sharp complaining, an accident that, from her own care in dressing, however, is seldom or ever the case.

These abrupt cries of the child, if they do not proceed from thirst, which a little water will relieve, not unfrequently occur from some unequal pressure, a fold or twist in the “roller,” or some constriction round the tender body. If this is suspected, the mother must not be content with merely slackening the strings; the child should be undressed, and the creases and folds of the hot skin, especially those about the thighs and groins, examined, to see that no powder has caked, and, becoming hard, irritated the parts. The violet powder should be dusted freely over all, to cool the skin, and everything put on fresh and smooth. If such precautions have not afforded relief, and, in addition to the crying, the child plunges or draws up its legs, the mother may be assured some cause of irritation exists in the stomach or bowels,—either acidity in the latter or distension from overfeeding in the former; but, from whichever cause, the child should be “opened” before the fire, and a heated napkin applied all over the abdomen, the infant being occasionally elevated to a sitting position, and while gently jolted on the knee, the back should be lightly patted with the hand.

Should the mother have any reason to apprehend that the cause of inconvenience proceeds from the bladder—a not unfrequent source of pain,—the napkin is to be dipped in hot water, squeezed out, and immediately applied over the part, and repeated every eight or ten minutes, for several times in succession, either till the natural relief is afforded, or a cessation of pain allows of its discontinuance. The pain that young infants often suffer, and the crying that results from it, is, as we have already said, frequently caused by the mother inconsiderately overfeeding her child, and is produced by the pain of distension, and the mechanical pressure of a larger quantity of fluid in the stomach than the gastric juice can convert into cheese and digest.

Some children are stronger in the enduring power of the stomach than others, and get rid of the excess by vomiting, concluding every process of suckling by an emission of milk and curd. Such children are called by nurses “thriving children;” and generally they are so, simply because their digestion is good, and they have the power of expelling with impunity that superabundance of aliment which in others is a source of distension, flatulence, and pain.

The length of time an infant should be suckled must depend much on the health and strength of the child, and the health of the mother, and the quantity and quality of her milk; though, when all circumstances are favourable, it should never be less than nine, nor exceed fifteen months; but perhaps the true time will be found in the medium between both. But of this we may be sure, that Nature never ordained a child to live on suction after having endowed it with teeth to bite and to grind; and nothing is more out of place and unseemly than to hear a child, with a set of twenty teeth, ask for “the breast.”

The practice of protracted wet-nursing is hurtful to the mother, by keeping up an uncalled-for, and, after the proper time, an unhealthy drain on her system, while the child either derives no benefit from what it no longer requires, or it produces a positive injury on its constitution. After the period when Nature has ordained the child shall live by other means, the secretion of milk becomes thin and deteriorated, showing in the flabby flesh and puny features of the child both its loss of nutritious properties and the want of more stimulating aliment.

Though we have said that twelve months is about the medium time a baby should be suckled, we by no means wish to imply that a child should be fed exclusively on milk for its first year; quite the reverse; the infant can hardly be too soon made independent of the mother. Thus, should illness assail her, her milk fail, or any domestic cause abruptly cut off the natural supply, the child having been annealed to an artificial diet, its life might be safely carried on without seeking for a wet-nurse, and without the slightest danger to its system.

The advantage to the mother of early accustoming the child to artificial food is as considerable to herself as beneficial to her infant; the demand on her physical strength in the first instance will be less severe and exhausting, the child will sleep longer on a less rapidly digestible aliment, and yield to both more quiet nights, and the mother will be more at liberty to go out for business or pleasure, another means of sustenance being at hand till her return. Besides these advantages, by a judicious blending of the two systems of feeding, the infant will acquire greater constitutional strength, so that, if attacked by sickness or disease, it will have a much greater chance of resisting its virulence than if dependent alone on the mother, whose milk, affected by fatigue and the natural anxiety of the parent for her offspring, is at such a time neither good in its properties nor likely to be beneficial to the patient.

All that we have further to say on suckling is an advice to mothers, that if they wish to keep a sound and unchapped nipple, and possibly avoid what is called a “broken breast,” never to put it up with a wet nipple, but always to have a soft handkerchief in readiness, and the moment that delicate part is drawn from the child’s mouth, to dry it carefully of the milk and saliva that moisten it; and, further, to make a practice of suckling from each breast alternately. Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, CHAPTER 42 – THE REARING, MANAGEMENT, AND DISEASES OF INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD, “THE MILK” paragraphs 2472-2490

The articles generally employed as food for infants consist of arrowroot, bread, flour, baked flour, prepared groats, farinaceous food, biscuit-powder, biscuits, tops-and-bottoms, and semolina, or manna croup, as it is otherwise called, which, like tapioca, is the prepared pith of certain vegetable substances. Of this list the least efficacious, though, perhaps, the most believed in, is arrowroot, which only as a mere agent, for change, and then only for a very short time, should ever be employed as a means of diet to infancy or childhood. It is a thin, flatulent, and innutritious food, and incapable of supporting infantine life with energy. Bread, though the universal régime with the labouring poor, where the infant’s stomach and digestive powers are a reflex, in miniature, of the father’s, should never be given to an infant under three months, and, even then, however finely beaten up and smoothly made, is a very questionable diet. Flour, when well boiled, though infinitely better than arrowroot, is still only a kind of fermentative paste, that counteracts its own good by after-acidity and flatulence. Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, CHAPTER 42 – THE REARING, MANAGEMENT, AND DISEASES OF INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD, “FOOD, AND ITS PREPARATION” paragraph 2499

Mrs Beeton recommends foods such as tapioca, semolina and porridge made up with water, milk, eggs, and sugar.

Many persons entertain a belief that cow’s milk is hurtful to infants, and, consequently, refrain from giving it; but this is a very great mistake, for both sugar and milk should form a large portion of every meal an infant takes. Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, CHAPTER 42 – THE REARING, MANAGEMENT, AND DISEASES OF INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD, “FOOD, AND ITS PREPARATION” paragraph 2508

The situation and character of thrush show at once that the cause is some irritation of the mucous membrane, and can proceed only from the nature and quality of the food. Before weaning, this must be looked for in the mother, and the condition of the milk; after that time, in the crude and indigestible nature of the food given. In either case, this exciting cause of the disease must be at once stopped. When it proceeds from the mother, it is always best to begin by physicking the infant through the parent; that is to say, let the parent first take the medicine, which will sufficiently affect the child through the milk: this plan has the double object of benefiting the patient and, at the same time, correcting the state of the mother, and improving the condition of her milk. In the other case, when the child is being fed by hand, then proceed by totally altering the style of aliment given, and substituting farinaceous food, custards, blanc-mange, and ground-rice puddings. Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, CHAPTER 42 – THE REARING, MANAGEMENT, AND DISEASES OF INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD, “THRUSH, AND ITS TREATMENT” paragraph 2528

So here we have it, the famous Mrs Beeton writing in 1860 or thereabouts and attributing crying, upset stomach, and thrush in babies to the diet of the mother. Her recommendations are to feed bland food to both mother and child. In other words, low chemical food.

My sister and I both had colic when we were babies. This is not surprising as it is common in food chemical intolerant children. Around 10-15% of babies are thought to get colic. Colic is defined as lengthy periods of crying and apparent discomfort or digestive problems in babies. Doctors have no idea what causes colic. Sometimes they will even deny that babies, though they appear to be in pain, are in actual pain.

Any fact sheet on colic will express different theories about its causes. For example colic is often attributed to “lactose intolerance” (NHS factsheet). Other factsheets speculate: “Can a mother’s diet make colic worse? Some doctors think that if a baby is breastfed and the mother eats food that can cause gas, this may cause colic or make it worse. Food and drinks that produce lots of gas include: orange juice, vegetables, especially onions and cabbage, fruit such as apples and plums, spicy food, products containing caffeine, such as chocolate, coffee and tea.” (Netdoctor factsheet).

What a shame doctors don’t read Mrs Beeton.


Written by alienrobotgirl

9 August, 2007 at 12:56 pm

Posted in Historical Diets

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  1. […] me to do it Posted in Quacktitioners by the witch on August 9th, 2007 Following on from the Mrs Beeton post, I feel in a bit of a snarky mood about this subject and think it’s time for a nicely […]

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