One of the biggest controversies for mothers today is whether or not to breastfeed their babies. The legacy of feeding infant formula to a baby was passed down by women from the 19th century who are long gone and forgotten. These women sold their industrialized sisters of the 20th century a bill of goods that said infant formula was superior to breast milk. What makes it all so unfathomable is that up until the 19th century, it was unthinkable to not give your baby breast milk-be it yours or someone else’s.
When we look at birthing customs as late as the 17th and 18th centuries, breastfeeding served a few purposes for working class English women-it nourished the baby, acted as a contraceptive to assist with birth spacing, and provided money via wet nursing. Conversely, wealthy women were discouraged from breastfeeding so that they could produce many children for their respective monarchies. To compensate for this, they hired wet nurses who were working class women or they used their slaves to breast feed their infants. The whole birthing process was handled completely by women, such as midwives, female relatives and neighbors. Men were generally off doing “men” activities, and had absolutely no interest in being a part of a woman’s care.
Fast forward to the 20th century and you will find that things were changing rapidly. The “sage” advice of male doctors replaced the midwives in the birthing process, and guess what the doctors got rid of next-breastfeeding. It was no longer appropriate for women to breastfeed, especially since the first infant formula had already been invented in Europe by Baron Justus von Liebig in 1867. By 1869, Liebig’s concoction was being marketed in the US as an equal substitute to breastfeeding. Soon after, Nestle created his version of infant formula along with a creative marketing plan that said his milk was superior to breast milk. Doctors and thousands of middle class mothers who had been using infant formulas were unanimously in agreement with Nestle. Needless to say, the working class women were sold on infant formulas and continued to feed their babies this processed milk well into the 21st century.
Today, most women in industrialized nations continue to promote the use of infant formula over breastfeeding. Although a higher percentage of women start out breast feeding, only 31 percent are still breastfeeding by the time the baby is 3 months old. Women and men continue to have poor perceptions of breastfeeding despite the research that shows a myriad of undeniable benefits.
The most important facts about breastfeeding are (1) it builds your baby’s immune system, (2) it protects againstlymphoma, crohn’s disease, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, asthma and allergies, respiratory infections, eczema, and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, (3) it improves your baby’s brain functions, (4) it helps your baby emotionally by being held close to its mother, (5) it improves your baby’s IQ, and (6) it saves you thousands of dollars. There are at least 400 nutrients in breast milk that processed milk cannot duplicate. These nutrients work in tandem, which maximizes their nutritional effectiveness. Conversely, any isolated, synthetic vitamin that is found in infant formulas offers no real nutritional value because they lack the whole food property of breast milk. Hopefully, we will correct the wrongs of our 19th century sisters and revert back to the days of yester year-the days when a human baby received it’s nourishment from another human being. If you are unable to breastfeed, you do have options, such as using a wet-nurse, patronizing a breast milk bank, or making your own healthy, homemade recipe of infant formula.
Hareyan. (August 2007). Percentage of US Women Breastfeeding Their Infants Reaches Highest Levels. EmaxHealth. Retrieved on August 1, 2009 from http://www.emaxhealth.com/84/14708.html
Olver, Lynne. (July 2008). Food Timeline. FAQs: Baby Food. Foodtimeline.org. Whale.to. Retrieved on August 1, 2008 from http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodbaby.htmlPalmer, Gabriel. (2008). The Politics of Breastfeeding. Retrieved on August 1, 2009 from http://www.whale.to/vaccine/palmer_b.html
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