Gavage feeding of premature or debilitated infants was first described by Marchant at a meeting of the Academy of Medicine in Paris on December 23, 1850.1 Marchant's report of about 200 words is worth citing in full because gavage feeding was eventually found to be of life-saving value in feeding many premature infants.
My translation follows:
Care to Give to Newborns
1. Infants are often born in a debilitated state labeled frequently by the accoucheurs under the name of feebleness of birth: respiration is poorly developed; and the ability to swallow food is impossible; the smallest quantity of liquid placed in the mouth passes into the larynx and leads to suffocation. Feeding being impossible, the newborn infants die infallibly with a period of time that varies from a few hours to one or two days.
2. Asphyxiated infants brought back to life by artificial respiration are often in a state of prolonged asphyxia, and chilling of the infant has not been adequately prevented. In all these cases I intend to use a method of artificial feeding by using a rubber sound [catheter] of a number 14 Charrière [14 French]. The introduction of the catheter into the infant's esophagus is neither dangerous nor difficult. By this means, one will be able to overcome the [infant's] weakness and save a life which is the target of strong feelings and attachment; and one that humanity directs us to preserve.
Apparently, Marchant's report went unnoticed because it was not until March 22, 1884 that the practice of gavage feeding was introduced by Tarnier at the Maternité Hospital in Paris.
- Copyright © 1982 by the American Academy of Pediatrics