Mothers and Infants, Nurses and Nursing

Translated from the French of A Treatise, etc., by DR. AL. DONNÉE, late Head of the Clinical Department of the Faculty of Paris, etc., etc. Boston: Phillips, Sampson, & Co. 1859.

WHEN the young Count of Paris was at the tender age which requires the food that only mothers and their substitutes can supply, M. Donné, the author of this work, was called in consultation at the royal palace. He had a new way of examining milk through the microscope, and deciding upon its healthy and nutritive qualities or its defects, as the case might be. The whole world was full of the great question just then,-for the deep-bosomed dame of Normandy or Picardy who should be selected was to be the nurse not of a child only, but of a dynasty. So thought short-sighted mortals, at least, in those days,-little dreaming what cradle would be under the square dome of the Tuileries before twenty years were past!

M. Donné, as we said, was the man selected from all men for the task of choosing a nurse for the most important baby of his time. This is a voucher for his position at that period in the great medical world of Paris. He is known, also, to the scientific world by a number of treatises, with some of which we have long been familiar, as, for instance, the “ Cours de Microscopie,” with the remarkable Atlas copied from daguerreotypes taken by the aid of the camera. The present work is of a somewhat more popular character than his previous productions.

Little "Nursing” America is the father of Young America that is to be. And there is no denying that our new vital conditions on this side of the planet suggest some very grave questions,-such as these: -Whether there be not a gradual deterioration of the primitive European stock under these influences ; and, Whether it is not possible that the imported human breed may run out here, so that, some time or other, the resuscitated tribes of Algonquins and Hurons may show a long shank of the extinct Yankee, as they show the Dodo’s foot at the British Museum.

It is this contingency against which many intelligent and worthy persons are now trying to provide. The indefatigable Dr. Bowditch has made a map of this State of Massachusetts, showing the distribution of consumption in its different localities. That is the first thing,-where to live. We have been told an alleged fact with reference to a certain large New England town, which, if it were true, would raise the value of real estate in that place a million of dollars, perhaps, in twenty-four hours. We do not tell it, though mentioned to us by a celebrated practitioner and professor, simply because we are afraid it is too good to be true. At any rate, attention is beginning to be thoroughly awake as to the point of where we shall live. Now, then, how shall we live ?

It is just as well to begin early. Infancy is too late. If men were dealt with like other live stock, a contractor might undertake to deliver at Long Wharf a cargo of three-year old human colts and fillies of almost any required standard of development and health, in five years from date. If only a cheap article were required, such and such parents would be selected ; if the young animals were to be of prime quality, he must know it long enough beforehand, and be particular in his choice. This is plain speaking, but true,- as everybody knows, who studies the laws of life. Ex nihilo nihil fit. Given a half-starved dyspeptic and a bloodless negative blonde as parents, Hercules or Apollo is an impossibility in their progeny. Yet people look with infinite expectations of health, strength, beauty, intellect, as the product of 0 ˟ - 1. The late Colonel Jaques, of the “Ten Hills Farm," knew ever so much better ;-what a pity so much sound physiology should have been confined to “ Cœlebs,” and “ Dolly Creampot,” and the likes of them !

Granted a sound, fair baby,-viable, as the French say,-liveable, or life-capable, and life-worthy. What shall we do with it ?

A baby answers to the lively definition of an animal as “a stomach provided with organs.” It lives to feed. It does not know much, but in its speciality it is unrivalled. The way in which it helps itself from the sources of life is a masterpiece of hydraulic skill. Once let it lose the Heaven-imparted art of haustion, and all the arts and academies of the world can never teach it again.

To manage this little feeding organism, with its wondrous instinct and capacity of imbibition, is the first great question after that of race is settled. Shall the mother’s blood continue to flow through its fastthrobbing heart, and all the subtile affinities that bind the two lives be continued until reason and affection take up the chain where the link of bodily dependence is broken ? Or shall it cleave no more to her bosom, but transfer its endearing dependence to a stranger, or learn to call a bottle its mother 1

These are some of the questions learnedly, and yet familiarly, discussed in M. Donne’s book. He has laid down many excellent rules for the physical and moral management of the infant, which the young mother can readily learn and put in practice. For the physician, his work contains many interesting facts with reference to the quality and the microscopic appearances of milk, as obtained from various sources and under different circumstances.

On one or two points our American experience would somewhat modify the rules commonly accepted in Paris. The nurse from the French provinces is evidently a different being from our Milesian milky mothers. So, too, the rules given by our own venerable and sagacious observer, Dr, James Jackson, as to the period of separating the infant from its mother or nurse, should be borne in mind, as laid down in his admirable “ Letters to a Young Physician.”

But there is a great deal of information applicable to children and their mothers in all civilized regions; and as we wish to start fair with the next generation, we are very glad to have so intelligent a guide for the management of our infant citizens.