‘The mother’s milk generally fails them in about six weeks’: Infant and child health

  • Robin Haines


As we have seen, the provision of an adequate supply of nappies did not loom large in either the regulations or discussions related to improving infant health — a strategy that might have contributed substantially to the well being of babies. Yet, leaving aside regulated sanitary procedures, from the mid-1850s more efficient ventilation techniques and technological improvements to water distillation undoubtedly improved the health of immigrants of all ages. In 1854 Caroline Ghisholm, the renowned champion of emigrants, was called before the Select Committee on Emigrant ships. She was undoubtedly an expert witness, having operated her own private emigration scheme for the respectable poor, the Family Colonisation Loan Society. This charitable organisation chartered and provisioned ships in accordance with the Emigration Commission’s regulations, and encouraged respectable candidates. By contemporary standards these were people who belonged to the upwardly aspiring poor, able to save towards their own passage via her generously subsidised scheme. Asked for her comments by the Select Committee, she argued that infants required more fresh air than adults to enable them to thrive. In her view improving ventilation was a top priority.1


Charitable Organisation Select Committee Soft Food Parental Neglect Ship Owner 
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  1. 27.
    See P. Atkins, ‘Sophistication detected: or, the adulteration of the milk supply, 1850–1914’, Social History, 16 (1991), 317–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. M.W. Beaver, ‘Population, infant mortality and milk’. Population Studies, 27, 1973, 243–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 28.
    For an analysis of different shaped feeding bottles and other types of feeding apparatus, and attitudes to artificial feeding, see V. Fildes, Breasts, Bottles, and Babies: A history of infant feeding, Edinburgh University Press, 1986, esp. chapters 11–17, and for pictures of feeding vessels, see 330–42.Google Scholar
  4. 29.
    I. Buchanan, ‘Infant feeding, sanitation and diarrhoea in colliery communities, 1880–1911’, in D.J. Oddy and D.S. Miller (eds). Diet and Health in Modern Britain, Croom Helm, London, 1985, 159Google Scholar
  5. 37.
    R. Haines, R. Shlomowitz and L. Brennan, ‘Maritime Mortality Revisited’, International Journal of Maritime History, June 1996, 157.Google Scholar

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© Robin Haines 2005

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  • Robin Haines

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