The traditional knowledge of the care of babies, transmitted from mother to daughter for many generations, is now extinct among large groups of society. Modern mothers are ignorant of physiological functions and infant nutrition. They listen too willingly to doctors, husbands, or well-meaning friends when advised to wean their child. They should think for themselves about the true significance of breast feeding.

SHOULD our baby be breast-fed or bottle-fed ? Every year this question is discussed in about 2,200,000 American homes. On the answer depends the kind of care the child will be given. Although the feeding of babies particularly interests mothers and physicians, it concerns all of us, both as human beings and tax- payers. For the attention received by the child is largely responsible for the quality of the tissues and the soul of the adult. Ultimately, the childs development as a happy and efficient member of society may depend largely on whether it is bottle- or breast fed.

Artificial feeding is admittedly convenient for the mother, and advantageous to the physician. Its technique is well developed. Its results, frequently excellent. Bottle feeding is especially successful when mothers are intelligent, or when well-trained nurses can be employed. Therefore, pediatricians, and some obstetricians in expensive maternity hospitals realizing that their patients expect such advice often feel justified in advocating artificial feeding.

Nevertheless, public health officials, as well as most obstetricians and the competent general practitioners who deliver the majority of babies, prescribe breast feeding as the ideal. Modern treatises on childrens diseases, in Europe and the United States, teach the same doctrine. All over the country, child welfare clinics are in favour of maternal milk.

The Childrens Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labour has issued excellent instructions for breast feeding. In a letter sent to new mothers of the city, the New York Health Commissioner proclaims that mothers milk is the babys birthright. On many important subjects the leaders in medicine disagree. But about breast feeding they are unanimous. They believe, first, that no perfect substitute for mothers milk has been found. Second, that almost every woman is capable of nursing her young.

But all woman are not convinced of the superiority of breast feeding. In the upper-income group, about 90 per cent of the children are selfishly denied maternal milk. In contrast, the number of children in the lower-income groups who are artificially fed is perhaps not above 10 to 40 per cent.

The traditional knowledge of the care of babies, transmitted from mother to daughter for many generations, is now extinct among large groups of society. Modern mothers are ignorant of physiological functions and infant nutrition. They listen too willingly to doctors, husbands, or well-meaning friends when advised to wean their child. They should think for themselves about the true significance of breast feeding.


The child, while in the womb, is one with the mother and all the organs of her body. After birth this relationship is intended to last, although less intimately, for several months. Mother and child still remain inter-dependent. Although separate in space, they are united by many chemical, physiological, and mental bonds. Obviously, this union is weakened when a bottle is substituted for the breast.

The breast is a faultless distributor, as well as manufacturer, of milk. On the apex of the nipple are the openings of fifteen or twenty narrow ducts. These ducts dilate into reservoirs under the dark area of the breast. They finally expand into pocket-shaped alveolus lined with cells. These cells are responsible for the manufacture of milk. An extensive network of capillary vessels rich in blood supply surrounds the alveolus. For the making of one ounce of milk the passage through these capillaries of 300 to 400 ounces of blood is required.

The breast is not an isolated phenomenon; its activity depends on that of other organs. During pregnancy the milk-manufacturing alveolus develop. Their growth is produced by substances set free by the ovary. At the end of pregnancy the order to start making milk is given to the alveolus by the pituitary gland located at the base of the skull. In its turn, the breast exerts a marked influence on uterus and ovaries. Suckling brings about rhythmic contractions of the uterus. It helps the recovery of this organ after childbirth. And lactation causes menstruation to cease.

Milk-making cells, nipple, blood vessels, nerves, ovary, uterus, pituitary gland, and other glands, are the co-operating parts of a complex functional system. Thus the breast is not a mere ornament, to be modified in shape and size according to the fancy of the dressmakers. It is intended both for the optimum development of the child and the welfare of the mother. In suppressing its activities, white women show still less intelligence than did Chinese women when they prevented the normal growth of their feet.

The nipple is perfectly adapted to the lips and tongue of the baby. Most rubber teats are nothing but caricatures of it. The act of suckling requires contractions of the muscles of the face, the tongue and neck, alternative movements of the lower jaw, and breathing through the nose. At the same time, the infant presses the breast with its little hands, as puppies do with their paws, in order to increase the flow of milk. Suckling is a hard task. It is the first physical effort to which man is subjected. This efforts brings about the optimum development of the jaws, the nose, and the roof of the mouth. It enhances the beauty of the visage and the quantity of the voice.

Feeding from a bottle resembles aspirating fluid through a tube. Milk is absorbed by the child passively and rapidly. As rubber nipples are generally too long, they do not fit the mouth well. If better designed, they would allow the process of suckling to take place in a more normal manner. But the modern nipple, which permits the milk literally to ooze into the infants stomach is stupidly prized by the careless nurse or hurried mother because it shortens the time spent in feeding the child.


At the end of pregnancy, the breast sets free a yellow fluid, Colostrum. Colostrum contains substances that protect the child against infection. On the second day after birth, lactation begins. Lactation requires suckling and complete emptying of the breast. It is a striking fact that the amount of milk secreted by the breast increases with the needs of the child. It varies from a few ounces during the first days to 1.5 and even quarts after eight months.

Its composition is also adjusted to the requirements of growing human tissues. Womans milk contains proteins of the same nature as those constituting the body of the child. These proteins never bring about the changes in reactivity, called allergy, which cow milk may produce on account of its foreign nature.

The amount of protein, phosphorus and calcium contained in mothers milk is more precisely adjusted to the childs requirements than any artificial formula can possibly be. As the child develops, its rate of growth decreases. Simultaneously, mothers milk undergoes a corresponding reduction in proteins and salts. In sum, the breast precisely adjusts the quantity and the composition of the milk to the changing needs of the infant. Like all living organs, it reaches its complex end with marvellous accuracy.

Such harmony does not exist between the chemical requirements of the infant and the composition of cow or goat milk. Cow milk contains too large an amount of protein and inorganic salts, and lacks iron. It is not digested as easily as human milk. It contains many bacteria, and must be pasteurized, which deprives milk of some of its qualities. Even drawn human milk is believed to be less beneficial than milk suckled directly from the breast. However, when cow milk is diluted with water and milk sugar is added, it becomes an excellent food for children, in spit of its defects. The body is endowed with a marvellous power to adapt itself to new conditions.


Breast feeding exerts a manifold influence on infants. First, it reduces mortality. In a survey of 20,000 children made in Chicago by Dr. Clifford G. Grulee, the mortality of the artificially fed children was ten times greater than that of those breast-fed. In England, a sustained breast-feeding campaign has brought about a 66 per cent decrease in the death rate of infants during the past thirty years. If your baby is breast-fed, it has from three to ten times a better chance of surviving that dangerous first year!.

Second, the occurrence of diseases is also decreased. All physicians agree on this point. In the statistics compiled by Dr. Grulee, 64 per cent of the artificially fed children were affected with diseases of the lungs, throat, stomach and intestines during the first year. But only 37 per cent of the breast-fed children became ill during this period.

Third, to aspirate milk from a bottle through a rubber nipple of the type generally used is not equivalent to breast suckling. It does not have the same formative influence on the face and throat. Artificial feeding is partly responsible for the protruding upper jaw, recessed chin, ill-formed nose, flattened mouth arch, which many children display today.

These malformations cause defective dentition, and predispose to infections of the tonsils, pharynx, ears, and sinuses. It is highly probable that breast suckling considerably reduces the bills to be paid later to dentists and to nose and throat specialists.

Alexis Carrel