London's Pulse: Medical Officer of Health reports 1848-1972

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Wandsworth 1873

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Wandsworth District, The Board of Works (Clapham, Putney, Streatham, Tooting & Wandsworth)]

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not provided before the 6th month, when they usually
begin to appear, and are not completed before the end of
the 2nd year. Therefore it is clear that mastication cannot
begin for many months, and up to that time solid food
should be withheld. More than this, proper saliva does
not appear before 3 or 4 months, and the healthy secretion
would seem not to be fully established before the 5 th or
6th month. Now saliva acts in the digestion of starch;
it is evident therefore that spoon-food containing starchy
matter should not be given before the saliva has been
established. Practically we find that mothers and nurses
pay little attention to these principles ; they pour into the
stomachs of infants indigestible matters, fermentation takes
place, Dyspepsia is produced, and the child wastes : they
infer from this that they are not giving sufficient food and
add to the evil by giving more indigestible matter. Finally
the child succumbs to Diarrhoea, or becomes rickety, and
the doctor is called in, often when too late. Until girls at
our schools are taught domestic economy, and the rearing
of infants forms a part of such teaching, we cannot hope to
meet effectually this form of mortality.
Diseases of the Respiratory Organs hold a prominent
place in the high death-rate of childhood. Measles and
Whooping Cough often lay the foundation for subsequent
Chest affections, particularly amongst the poor. Measles
may be specially noted ; a child may have but a slight
attack of Measles with cough, and want of care during convalescence
may lead on to a condition of chest often
impossible to cure. Too much care then cannot be bestowed
on children suffering from this disease. Throughout
the whole mortality table from every class of disease,
infant life suffers most. This is a serious matter, and one
which is deservedly claiming the attention of all Health