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The Coming of the Maori



The child was fed at the breast, and there were no complications caused by other forms of milk being available. Trouble occasionally occurred, however, through the mother having an insufficient supply of milk. Chiefly families could, on occasion, find a foster mother from junior families or even from among commoners. The length of time before weaning was uncertain, one test being the time when the infant could turn over. However, it was a matter for individual decision, as mothers with a good milk supply would continue breast feeding longer than those with a meagre supply. As regards other infant foods, the Polynesians used the soft flesh of young coconuts which was held to be readily digestible, but the Maori could not avail themselves of this ancestral food. Infants were early fed with starchy foods such as taro and sweet potato, but the mothers chewed or mumbled each mouthful before feeding it to the child. Thus the ptyalin absent in the infant's saliva was supplied by the mother in her preliminary chewing and the insoluble starches were converted into soluble sugar which could be digested by the infant. Thus nature solves page 355the problems of the poor in ways that are not always appreciated or understood by the cultures which have so much.