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The Nursling

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The Nursling. Pierre Budin, France, 1907.

It was an infant about five weeks old that the aged Israelite held in his arms in Herod’s temple when he said: “Mine eyes have seen Thy Salvation.” The Infant had to be saved from Herod’s sword.

All the great thoughts that have emanated from human brains, all the great works erected by human hands, we owe to those who were once infants ready to perish. So easily does the new-born child die that Bergeron is cited in this book as saying that it has less chance than a man of ninety of living for a week — less chance of living through a year than a man of fourscore.

Sometimes it comes into the struggle for life with the handicap of premature expulsion from the womb. On December 25, 1642, a widow at Woolsthorpe, in Lincolnshire, whose husband had died a few months after their marriage, gave premature birth to a posthumous male child. He was so weak that two women sent to fetch a tonic to revive him did not expect to find him alive on their return. He was so small that he could have been put into a quart mug. So in after days his mother told him. When he grew to manhood he saw an apple fall from a tree in the Woolsthorpe garden; he pondered the matter; by-and-by he propounded the law of gravitation. Sir Isaac Newton was rescued from his infant danger by his mother’s love. But who may tell how many an undeveloped philosopher has perished from lack of an intelligent mother’s care?

In countries like our own, with a dwindling birth-rate, it becomes a matter of urgent necessity to discover and develop means for reducing infantile mortality. There are two departments of Puericulture — the study of (i) the Production and (2) the Preservation of children. France, which suffers in a very marked degree from shrinkage in the birth-rate, is fortunate in having the two chairs of midwifery in its metropolitan university filled by men who have devoted supreme ability and unwearied industry to the two sides respectively of this important subject. Professor Pinard has occupied himself with excellent results with the Eugenic aspect, which has regard to the conditions that foster and favour antenatal life.

In this volume Professor Budin explains in ten lectures to his students the methods he has found successful for preserving the life and promoting the growth of the Neonate. The first four concern the premature and the specially feeble; the other six have regard to the full-time child. The story he has to tell of his victorious battle with infantile mortality is of thrilling interest. It must arrest the attention not only of the physician, but of the philanthropist and the patriot. It is high time the tale should be told in the English tongue.

I have from time to time suggested to young graduates that they should visit Professor Budin’s Clinique and learn and teach the value of his Consultations for Nurslings. The work has at last been undertaken by Dr. Maloney.

In Paris, between thirty and forty years ago, I talked with a young obstetrician, who was taking part in Concours that were then in progress for some coveted appointments. I asked if he had not thought of going in for what seemed to be the most desirable of all. “That would be useless,” he replied. “Budin is competing for it, and we all know that nobody can stand against him.” Three or four years ago, in the Dean’s office in our University, I came across a student so well known among his fellows for his ability, that men who had put down their names as candidates for scholarships came and asked that they should be dropped from the list, because they had learned that Maloney was their competitor. In the last year of my tenure of the professorship of midwifery he gained the James Scott Scholarship as the most distinguished graduate of the year in my department, and thus became entitled to the position of House Surgeon in our Maternity, where he …

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