Three to four feedings in twenty-four hours are enough for any baby. Babies fed in this way develop faster than those stuffed in the old way. Over nutrition actually inhibits function and retards growth and development. No feeding should ever be done between meals. Every time a child cries it is not hungry. Dr. Dewey insisted that three feedings a day are preferable to more and added: “No infant can starve or fail to fully develop on three full daily meals.”
An infant is nourished in proportion to its power to digest and assimilate the food supplied to it, and not in proportion to the quantity of nutriment it may be induced to swallow. Not the larger quantity swallowed, but the right quantity perfectly digested and perfectly assimilated can secure best results with infants as well as in children and adults.
In spite of the obviousness of this principle, it is almost an article of faith with many parents, nurses and doctors, a dogma so firmly fixed in their minds that they cannot be persuaded to the contrary, that the infant that is fed most thrives best. If the infant is losing weight it always suggests the need for a larger supply of food, while every cry means hunger and must be silenced with more food.
The cat, dog, cow, hog and all other animals, do not permit their young to suck as often nor as long as they desire. The cat often absents herself from her kittens for as long as six hours, while I have seen dogs deliberately get up from their resting places when their puppies attempted to nurse, and run away from them. On the plane of instinct there is no such folly as the stuff-them-to-kill-them practice, and the animals are more successful than we.
All around us are healthy-born children who are “starving to death under the eyes of parents who would pay a dollar a drop for food to restore them.” Many of these children are surrounded with every requirement for a healthful life except one–namely, “the knowledge on the part of the attendants of the fact that the Creator did not design that a baby’s stomach should be treated like a toy balloon!” They are famishing from too much feasting.
The chief cause of digestive disorders and of all those other complaints that grow out of these is everfeeding. The habit of feeding babies every two hours during the day and every time it wakes up and cries at night is a ruinous one. Such feeding overworks the baby’s digestive organs and introduces an excess of food into the alimentary tract to ferment and poison the child. It weakens and sickens the child producing diarrhea, colic, skin eruptions and more serious disorders.
Dr. Oswald considers “involuntary cramming” among the chief causes of gluttony. “Fond mothers,” he says, “often surfeit their babies till they sputter and spew, and it is not less wrong to force a child to eat any particular kind of food against his grain–in disregard of a natural antipathy. Such aversions are allied to the feeling of repletion by which Nature warns the eater to desist, and if this warning is persistently disregarded, the monitory instinct finally suspends its function; overeating becomes a morbid habit our system has adapted itself to the abnormal condition, and every deviation from the new routine produces the same feeling of distress which shackles the rum-drinker to his unnatural practice. Avoid pungent spices, do not cram your children against their will, and never fear that natural aliments will tempt them to excess. But I should add here that of absolutely innocuous food–ripe fruit and simple farinaceous preparations–a larger quantity than is commonly imagined can be habitually taken with perfect freedom from injurious consequences.”–Physical Education, p. 58-59.
If these were Freya’s doctors they would have tested her for various genetic disorders rather than telling me to force-feed her round the clock. I’m glad my baby girl is home and I will follow the advice of her doctors because I’ve no other choice and because, for now, it seems to be working to help her gain weight, but if her doctors had been worried about her weight before she might not have had to be hospitalized. They never suggested supplements and kept me on the breastfeeding track. When she gains her weight back and all this is past us, I’m going to get her a new pediatrician, one that will listen to my concerns and pay attention to my children, if such a pediatrician exists in this money-driven society where persons on state insurance or no insurance get ignored or treated poorly.