Mother-and-baby home deaths


Sir, – Would Catholic Church leaders care to tell us how many nuns died of malnutrition and associated illnesses while working in the Bons Secours children’s home and other similar institutions? Were they buried alongside their precious charges in a mass grave? – Yours, etc,


Tweed Street,


Victoria, Australia.

Sir, – There is some loss of perspective in the recent outcry about the sad infant deaths in mother-and-baby residential homes in the past.

Cohorting infants in institutions puts small infants at risk from cross-infection, particularly gastroenteritis. Early infection to the gastrointestinal tract can cause severe bowel damage. Without the availability of recent technology, many such infants would die from malabsorption resulting in marasmus [severe malnutrition]. The risks would have been much increased if the infants were not breast fed.

In foundling homes in the US in the early 20th century, mortality was sometimes reported as greater than 90 per cent among infants cared for in such institutions. Lack of understanding of nutrition, cross-infection associated with overcrowding by today’s standards, and the dangers of unpasteurised human milk substitutes were the main factors. – Yours, etc,



North Circular Road,