Teething and feeding

by Herbert M. Shelton.

This section is from the “The Hygienic Care of Children” bookHerbert-Shelton

It was, until a few years ago, the almost universal opinion among civilized man, and it is still the prevailing opinion among most of these, that when an infant begins to teeth it is peculiarly liable to intestinal and other disorders and many deaths are attributed to this cause. Any disorder which may occur while an infant is teething is at once ascribed to the teething, and it is thought that the baby’s illness is an unavoidable misfortune.

Never was there a greater mistake. The ignorance of parents, attendants and physicians is the real misfortune in these cases. For, sickness is in no sense the result of the process of teething. “Can it be supposed,” asks Dr. Page, “by even the most ignorant, that the cutting of the teeth was an afterthought of the Creator, and that since the little ones generally come into the world toothless, this great mistake could be corrected only by a painful and dangerous abnormal process?”

It is absurd to even imagine that the Creator has inflicted the young with an abnormal physiological process which is dangerous to life. Cutting the teeth is a perfectly natural process and should not be anticipated with dread or anxiety nor blamed for troubles which may develop during the teething period.

Practically every child, from the age of six months to two and a half years, is cutting teeth almost continuously. It is an undeniable fact that most children cut all their teeth without any trouble whatsoever. But because the process of teething is almost continuous for a period of two years, it is practically impossible for the child to develop any trouble during this period, which is not coincident with the cutting of teeth. Multitudes of infants do become sick with stomach and bowel disorders during this time and mothers and grandmothers, and sometimes even physicians blame these troubles on the teething when the trouble and the teething are merely coincidental and are not related to each other as cause and effect.

In a few cases the child may be made temporarily irritable and fussy and may lose its appetite. This is especially likely to be so where the teeth erupt late and three to six of them come through at once. But it is due in most cases to over feeding. Teething does not produce any of the derangements it is accused of causing. These troubles are always due to other causes.

The common practice of rubbing an inflamed gum with paregoric is stupid. The drug possesses no local anesthetic action and can relieve the pain only if the baby swallows enough of this vicious dope to stupefy it.

A nipple dipped in cold water and placed in the baby’s mouth and renewed every few minutes will give temporary relief. But the most important measure is to stop all food, save, perhaps, orange juice until the feverishness and fretfulness are passed. This will lessen the pain, reduce the inflammation and prevent the digestive derangement present in such cases from developing into a more serious condition.

Many babies cut their teeth, early or late, in rapid succession with little or no disturbance to them and there is no reason why all of them should not do so providing only that they are properly cared for and are maintained in good health.

Where there is slight inflammation of the gum with restlesness and discomfort, a reduction of the child’s food will soon remedy this. It is my practice to take all milk from such a child and give it only fruit juice, preferably orange juice.

Yet there is a popular superstition that baby requires more and “stronger” food at this time. Dr. Page says: “I refer the backwardness of teething, that is, the delay and difficulty and sickness so common, in many instances to fatty degeneration caused by excessive feeding; and the consequent cessation of the normal growth of the body, including, of course, the teeth.”

Most animals are born with a mouth full of teeth, but they usually also cut some teeth after birth, but without difficulty or distress. Children seldom or never have difficulty with their second set of teeth, due, no doubt, to the fact that these erupt after the period of forced feeding is passed. Among savage children the teething period is not dreaded.

In his Shut Your Mouth, Catlin quotes the Register General of England as saying that 3660 infants died in England each year under one year of age “from the pains of teething.” At the same time Catlin could not find any evidence of Indian children dying from teething. A Sioux Chieftain told him that the children ‘always seemed to suffer more or less at that period, but that he did not believe that in the whole Sioux Tribe a child ever died from that cause.” The Pawnee- Picts told him their “children never die in teething.”

After comparing the enormous quantities of milk fed to infants with the relative amount a man would consume, if fed as the infant is fed, Dr. Page says: “Is it to be wondered at that the alimentary canal, from mouth to anus, becomes irritated, and the whole body, including the gums, becomes inflamed, in the case of our food-salivated infant, whose purging wetting, nose- running, and drooling, attest to nature’s efforts to get rid of the excess? And when, in due time the teeth ought to appear, they prove to have become ‘stunted,’ like the bones and muscles of the ribs, legs and arms, either through fatty degeneration or for want of the nourishment of which they have been deprived by reason of the inability of the diseased organs to digest and assimilate enough food. Nature is crying out for the nourishment impossible to obtain from undigested and unassimilated food–she cries out for growth–and there must be an upheaval, a ‘cure’.

“When diarrhea or cholera infantum have purged and cleansed the body of its impurities, including more or less of the fat–when the cure is effected, or well under way, and the general growth of the body resumed, the teeth also resume their growth and begin to make their appearance. It is not, perhaps, strange, in view of the universal belief in the superstition, that under such circumstances the cause of the sickness is attributed to ‘teething.’ ”

Dr. Tilden says: “The great sensitiveness of the gums in teething children is caused by the general systemic derangement. When these little folks are properly cared for, they will not be sick, and if they are not sick they will surprise their mothers by showing them a tooth every little while, without the slightest suspicion of any kind.”

Nature makes no provisions for the digestion of starches before full dentition: When starch digestion is impossible, starch fermentation is inevitable. This poisons the baby.

If we limit the following remarks of Page’s to the milk from a healthy well nourished mother, he is eternally right. He says: “Milk is the food for babies and contains all of the elements necessary to make teeth, and until they are made, it should continue to be the sole food. It is not enough that two or three or a half dozen teeth have come through, that they should be expected to do any part of a grown child’s work.”

Dr. Densmore, who did not favor starches, even for adults, says of them for infants (How Nature Cures, P. 55), a diet of cereal or grain and all starch foods: “is especially unfavorable for children, and more especially for babies. The intestinal ferments which are required for the digestion of starch foods are not secreted until the baby is about a year old; and these ferments are not as vigorous for some years as in adults. All starch foods depend upon these intestinal ferments for digestion, whereas dates, figs, prunes, erc., are equally as nourishing as bread and cereals, and are easily digested—the larger proportion of the nourishment from such fruits being ready for absorption and assimilation as soon as eaten.”

Dr. Tilden is equally as strong for what he calls the no-starch-for-babies plan. He says:–“It is a mistake to feed starch foods too soon–before the end of the second year; for young children cannot take care of too much starch.” “Children under two or three years of age have trouble in converting starch into sugar. They should get their sugar from fruits: fresh fruit in summer, and the dry, sweet fruits in the winter–raisins, dates and figs.”


Dr. Tilden says: “if we ever get on to a rational plan of eating, children up to two years of age will be fed on an exclusive milk diet, with orange or other fruit or vegetable juices.”

Certain it is that nature did not intend the baby to chew food until its teeth are sufficiently developed to perform this function. Since they reach this stage of development at from twenty to twenty-four months after birth, there seems to be no earlier need for “solid” foods. If earlier need for such foods exist why does nature not supply the needed chewing equipment at an earlier period?

The natural indications are for an exclusive milk diet for the first two years. We add fruit juices, not because there is any need for them in nature’s scheme of things, but because in our unnatural life, we do not supply them with milk of proper quality. Soft fruits may be used before the teeth are fully developed, but only after they are sufficiently developed to enable the child to mash these up well.

The chief cause of digestive disorders in infants and of all those other complaints that grow out of these is overfeeding. 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 over works the baby’s digestive organs and introduces an excess of food into the alimentary track to ferment and poison the child. It weakens and sickens the child producing diarrhea, colic, skin eruptions, and more serious disorders.

Feeding the baby at night prevents both mother and child from sleeping and teaches the child irregularity in sleep. When the mother’s sleep is disturbed in this way, she is weakened and normal secretions are interfered with, resulting in an impairment of her milk. The impairment of the milk reacts unfavorably upon the child. Feeding at night is not only unnecessary, it overfeeds and sickens the child.


What is the great secret of success in feeding babies?

Dr. Tilden well expresses it thus: “FIT CHILDREN TO THE FOOD AND NEVER ATTEMPT TO FIT THE FOOD TO THE CHILDREN.”How? Easy! Watch these few simple rules:

1. Feed the child natural, that is, uncooked, unprocessed, unsterilized, unadulterated, undrugged, foods.

2. Do not stuff the child. Feed it three moderate meals a day.

3. Feed simple meals. Do not feed foods that are mixed in such a way as to cause fermentation.

4. Do not feed between meals, nor at night.

5. If the child is upset, or feels bad, or is excited or tired, or over heated, or chilled, or in pain or distress, or is sick, DON’T FEED IT. IF THERE IS FEVER, GIVE NO FOOD.

No other food except milk or milk and fruit juices should be given the child for the first two years of its life. At about eighteen months of age soft fruits may be added to the diet. These should form one or part of one meal a day. If four feedings have been indulged in up to this time one of these should now be stopped

No starchy foods or cereals should be given under two years. Artificial sweets–candies, cakes, pies, sugar, etc.,–should never be fed to children.

The child should be taught early to thoroughly masticate all food. This is best done by giving it foods that require chewing when the child first begins to eat solid food. Many mothers feed their children mushes, gruels, and foods that have been put through a sieve (perhaps because the child specialist has ordered it), which may be swallowed without chewing. The result is they never learn to chew. Never give a child mashed food or mush. If the child can’t chew its food it is not ready for that kind of food.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: