Among the most outspoken of American health reformers of the mid-nineteenth century was Dr William A. Alcott of Boston. The health reformers offered an alternative to a public dissatisfied with the heroic practice of most physicians of this period by emphasizing that the individual had it in his or her own power to keep all members of the family in good health by forgoing most of the drugs prescribed by allopathic physicians.
Alcott1 was particularly concerned with the huge extent of infant mortality caused by "maternal dosing and drugging." He wrote:
But whether ignorant or somewhat enlightened, the vast majority of our mothers doctor, more or less, their own children. At least, if they refuse to call it doctoring, they give them a vast amount of small elixirs, cordials, etc. The closets of not a few house-keepers are a complete apothecary's shop. They may, it is true, have smaller parcels then the regular apothecary; but they have almost as great an assortment. And they not only keep it; they administer it. They may not intend it; they do not mean to give much; sometimes they really think they do not give much. But it comes to pass, in the course of the year, that much is given by somebody; and I greatly fear that the mother must be held responsible for it....
But now for the consequences of this maternal dosing; for this it is with which medical men have chiefly to do. Next to bad food and wretched cookery, as I have before intimated, this error is productive of more sickness and premature death than any other.
- Copyright © 1980 by the American Academy of Pediatrics