Breastfeeding Around the World: Breast Milk Substitutes

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Breastfeeding Around the World: Topics
Table of Contents
Pre module evaluation
History of Breastfeeding
Importance of Breastfeeding in the Developing World
Disaster Situations
Post module evaluation

Prior to the 20th century, the only substitutes for human milk were gruels (diluted liquids from cereals) and other animal milks. Animal milks are very different from human milk in the composition and amounts of proteins and fats. A poster put out by the Chicago Department of Health in 1911 showed a graphic as described by Memorize Wolf, 1998 :

A long tube attached on one end to a cow's udder and stuck at the other end in a dying baby's mouth. Between the cow donor and human recipient, the tube snaked through a filthy barn floor covered with cow dung, a dusty railroad station, a steam engine, and a bottling plant. Eventually the tube wrapped itself around a horse-drawn milk wagon pulled slowly through hot, smelly streets. Its last stop, before baby's mouth, was a fly-covered, open milk bottle sitting on the hapless infant's porch. "And yet some people wonder why so many babies die!" "To Lessen Baby Deaths Let Us Have More Mother-Fed Babies. You can't improve on God's plan. For Your Baby's Sake - Nurse It!"

Infant formula came into use in the 20th century starting in the developed world. Its use has spread around the world.

Breast Milk Substitutes in the Developing World

In the early 1970's reports began to appear that infectious diarrhea was leading to malnutrition in bottle fed infants in many parts of the developing world. Rates of breastfeeding had declined, especially in urban areas. In 1973, a booklet entitled "The Baby Killer" brought this to the attention of many people around the world. The booklet described methods that were used by the formula companies to sell formula ( Memorize Jelliffe, 1979 p211-240). They tended to use pictures of healthy formula fed babies to imply to mothers that their babies would look equally healthy if they were fed formula. They used women dressed as nurses to extol the virtues of formula feeding for infants ( Memorize Jelliffe, 1979 p313-324). The biggest manufacturer of infant formula worldwide was the Nestle Company. As a result, in the late 1970's people around the world started a boycott of Nestle products in order to get them to stop using these techniques to sell infant formula around the world.

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email -- Copyright 1998 Mary O'Connor MD, MPH -- Unauthorized use prohibited