The Dark History of Breastfeeding…

Infant Mortality and The History of Baby Formula…

It’s official, breastfeeding is “in”.

What might surprise you, though, is that there was a long period in world history during which solid foods or formula was emphasized over mother’s milk.  According to doctors, it was a more complete source of nutrition for the baby and much easier on mothers.

Who were they kidding?  There’s nothing better than the ability to stop, drop, and nurse.  At least that’s my opinion.  Then there’s also the inarguable nutritional benefits of breastfeeding.

Still, it shocks me how many ways people have attempted to skirt breastfeeding over the years.  Less than 40% of infants worldwide are exclusively breastfed, despite the fact that in developing countries, formula-fed babies are up to 25 times more likely to die of diarrhea, among other ailments due to unsanitary conditions.

Since the mid-19th century when wet nursing became less prevalent in Europe and America, breastfeeding suffered more than a century of attacks. In 1845 something called the India-rubber nipple was invented so that infants could consume anything but breastmilk.  When infants began dying as a result of this “dry nursing”, the world’s first commercial infant formula was developed in 1867.

 

There was money to be made, and soon Mellin’s Food, Ridge’s Food for Infants, and Nestle’s Milk were marketed to moms who couldn’t be bothered with such an unsophisticated activity as nursing her child. (Hey, I’m not judging.  Knowing what they knew at the time, I may have been one of these moms!) Many of these formulas included cow’s milk, water, cream, and sugar or honey.

After disease and infant mortality shook the formula and dry-nursing communities, most infants were still breastfed in the early 20th century; despite the fact that formula-fed babies still suffered increased medical problems such as scurvy, rickets, and bacterial infections.  Overseas where dirty water was used, infant mortality rates shot up drastically.  The addition of orange juice and cod liver oil to homemade formulas did quell this trend to an extent, although bacterial infections were still common in the U.S. where milk was boiled before being given to babies.  Similac was introduced in the late 1920’s, named as such because it was “similar to lactation”.

 

Industrialization further compelled companies to market non-breastfeeding practices worldwide.  It is believed that the Gerber Company began producing baby foods in jars as opposed to formulas that required milk and bottles so that mothers could get back to work more quickly with easy, portable baby food in their purses.  Some doctors got so excited about giving babies this ostensibly nourishing mashed up food that they recommended that babies began taking solid foods as early as 24 hours after birth.

With the invention of the icebox, or first refrigerators, evaporated milk formulas became the rage.  In the 1930’s they surpassed the use of commercial formulas and by 1950 more than half of American babies took evaporated milk formulas.  Enfamil, or “infant meal” was introduced in 1959 accompanied by huge marketing endeavors.  By the 1970’s, over 70% of babies in the U.S. were fed on commercial formulas.

Breastfeeding For The Win?

Despite the plethora of corporate marketing campaigns that had now left entire generations of children without the benefits of human breastmilk, breastfeeding encountered a resurgence in the early 1970’s.  However, perhaps due to government subsidies for formula, breastfeeding is still very uncommon in U.S. lower socio-economic classes.

Nestle’s Milk ad, 1895

Ask any mother who had a child in the 60’s or 70’s and she will likely tell you that she formula-fed because it was a “status symbol”.  In a case of marketing for the win, companies such as Medela or other breast pump companies have contributed to research and “marketing” of breast milk so that they can sell breast pumps. I’m totally ok with this.

Who Cares About Breastfeeding, Anyway?

Here’s a brief list of just a few of the organizations who are DTB.  (Down to Breastfeed.)

The American Dietetic Association (ADA)

The ADA has stated, “It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that broad-based efforts are needed to break the barriers to breastfeeding initiation and duration. Exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months and breastfeeding with complementary foods for at least 12 months is the ideal feeding pattern for infants. Increases in initiation and duration are needed to realize the health, nutritional, immunological, psychological, economical, and environmental benefits of breastfeeding.”

The American Academy of Family Physicians

“Breastfeeding should ideally continue beyond infancy, but this is currently not the cultural norm and requires ongoing support and encouragement. Breastfeeding during a subsequent pregnancy is not unusual. If the pregnancy is normal and the mother is healthy, breastfeeding during pregnancy is the woman’s personal decision. If the child is younger than two years of age, the child is at increased risk of illness if weaned. Breastfeeding the nursing child after delivery of the next child (tandem nursing) may help to provide a smooth transition psychologically for the older child.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)

The American Academy of Pediatrics outlines 15 recommended breastfeeding practices and have gone as far as to recommend that babies are solely breastfed for their first 6 months of life with ideally a 12-month breastfeeding relationship.

US Department of Health & Human Services

The US Department of Health & Human Services committed to helping the American public increase the number of breastfeeding mothers to 75% of the total population breastfeeding infants, 50% of the population breastfeeding babies through 6 months of age, and 25% of mothers to breastfeed babies through the baby’s first 12 months.

International Breastfeeding Acclaim 

Australian National Health & Medical Research Council (ANHMRC)

ANHMRC released a document titled “Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents in Australia incorporating the Infant Feeding Guidelines for Health Workers” (10 April 2003): “In Australia, it is recommended that as many infants as possible be exclusively breastfed until 6 months of age. It is further recommended that mothers then continue breastfeeding until 12 months of age—and beyond if both mother and infant wish.” “In many societies breastfeeding continues well beyond the age of 12 months, with benefit to both infant and mother.”

Health Canada

Health Canada recommends, “Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first six months of life for healthy term infants, as breast milk is the best food for optimal growth. Infants should be introduced to nutrient-rich, solid foods with particular attention to iron at six months with continued breastfeeding for up to two years and beyond.”

World Health Organization (WHO)

WHO states, “Breastfeeding is an unequalled way of providing ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants; it is also an integral part of the reproductive process with important implications for the health of mothers. As a global public health recommendation, infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health. Thereafter, to meet their evolving nutritional requirements, infants should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods while breastfeeding continues for up to two years of age or beyond. Exclusive breastfeeding from birth is possible except for a few medical conditions, and unrestricted exclusive breastfeeding results in ample milk production.”

UNICEF

UNICEF holds that, “The aim is to create an environment globally that empowers women to begin skin-to-skin with her baby and breastfeed after birth, to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months and to continue to breastfeed for two years or more with age appropriate, responsive complementary feeding.”

What Are The Benefits of Breast Milk Vs. Formula?

If you’re a traveling mom, you’d be wise to breastfeed your baby as long as you can. It doesn’t just help guard against germs you will inevitably pick up while traveling, but it also serves as the easiest walking food truck imaginable for your little one. If you really stop and think about the ease of popping out a breast versus packing, mixing, heating, and bottling formula; there’s absolutely no comparison. For the traveling mom, breastfeeding is absolutely best. 

1.  It’s A Complete Food For Your Baby

I was a few hours from being discharged from the hospital with my newborn son. My husband hadn’t had any siblings or cousins. We had no family in town. We relied on what vague memories I had of my own cousins and siblings and, of course, good ol’ maternal instinct to keep this baby alive. I was petrified.

I suddenly had a thought and shot up in my chair after the doctor, who’d just done an “all systems go” check on my little one to clear us for takeoff. “Wait!” I said with obvious panic. “Doesn’t he need anything to drink?” The doctor looked puzzled and a nearby nurse piped up, saying, “No, your milk is perfectly sufficient for both his food and water requirements.”

I was floored. Wow. This little infant doesn’t drink anything but my milk? He won’t get up in the middle of the night needing water?   (Many months later I found out that water in and of itself isn’t even safe to give babies when a local infant died from his mother watering down his formula too much.)

Breast milk is perfectly sufficient for your baby. It’s packed with vitamins, nutrients, and infection-fighting antibodies to give your little one the best chance at surviving this new world outside the womb.

2.  It Wards Off Disease In Baby

This is perhaps the most important breastfeeding benefit for the traveling mom and baby. Breastfeeding helps to protect your baby from a plethora of illnesses including stomach viruses, ear infections, meningitis, and respiratory illness. This is one of many reasons the AAP recommends breastfeeding exclusively for your baby’s first 6 months of life. Even more interesting, breastfed infants have a lower instance of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) as well as a 20% lower risk of dying between 28 days and 12 months old verses formula fed infants. It’s also linked to less likelihood of cancer, Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes, high cholesterol, and IBS later in life. Even Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are more common for non breastfed babies later in life.

The primary immune-boosting component in breast milk is Secretory Immunoglobulin A (IgA), which is prevalent in colostrum and present (although in lower amounts) in later breast milk. IgA actually forms a shield around the mucous membranes of your baby’s intestines, nose, and throat to protect him from germs.

I was shocked to read that a mother’s milk actually forms in response to the pathogens present on your baby; creating a custom-tailored health drink for baby that is designed to protect his specific body from illness. This is why many moms say that kissing your baby helps fight disease; because the idea is that kissing your baby helps a breast feeding mom’s body sample the pathogens on the body of her child, thereby tailoring her breast milk to the baby’s needs. If it weren’t true, it’d be a fantastic superpower in a science fiction or superhero novel.

3.  It Wards of Depression & Disease in Mommy

Breast and ovarian cancer rates are much lower in mothers who breastfeed, especially those who make it a whole year. This could be due to estrogen suppression or to changes in breast tissue to make way for nursing your baby as well.

Traveling with a baby is full of surprises, but did you know that breastfeeding can help reduce your stress level as well as your risk of postpartum depression? The National Institute of Health found that women did not breastfeed or who gave up early on breastfeeding had higher incidence of postpartum depression.

The real breastfeeding benefit, however, is oxytocin. This sweet, happy little drug is actually a hormone that helps women who breastfeed feel relaxed. Oxytocin is often called the “love hormone” because it promotes nurturing and relaxation.

4.  It May Make Your Child Smarter

Researchers followed more than 17,000 infants from birth until age 6.5. Among other fascinating observations, they noted that breastfed children actually had higher IQ and intelligence test scores. Breastfed babies also had higher scores on a vocabulary test at age 5 that correlated positively with how long they had been breastfed. The fatty acids in breast milk are widely believed to be the cause of these intelligence surges.

Where Can I Obtain Breast Milk For My Baby?

Private Donation

I was shocked to hear my girlfriend tell me about her crazy letdown and sprinkler-like nipples. “You really get that much milk?!” I said aghast. I was even more surprised to find out that her child wasn’t gaining enough weight because her foremilk (the more watery milk that breastfeeding women emit before the more thick, nutrient-dense hindmilk) was so plentiful that her child would get full before he got to her hindmilk. In order to feed her son, she shared, she’d have to pump for five minutes just to make sure he was getting hindmilk during his feeding.

When I picked my chin up off the floor I thought about how lucky my friend was to have all that beautiful momma’s milk produced by her body for her babies as well as babies she would donate to. I resolved on that day to pump and pump like a maniac when my son was born so that I could donate my stores to a baby in need.

And pump I did. Every morning. That god forsaken rumble of my pump still haunts me, but I’m extremely pleased I found mommies in need of breast milk to whom I was able to donate. Neither mom asked me for milk, coincidentally. One of my milk recipients was an employee of mine when I was CEO of a health & weight loss company. The other was actually a woman I found on Facebook. Yep – Facebook. I posted in a Mom’s Forum that I had stores of milk I’d love to donate and 60 seconds later – I found my next precious milk recipient.

Don’t hesitate to mention to mommies you know who are breastfeeding that if they are interested in donating, you’ll be honored to be the recipient. What’s more, I haven’t encountered any private milk donors actually asking for money for their precious liquid gold. After learning all we have about the long-term benefits of breast milk, it really is the gift that keeps on giving! Keep an eye out for milk donors on Facebook groups and in mother’s forums. They’re out there, they need to know that you’re looking for milk.

Cross-Nursing

Many of my friends and family with babies discovered that I’m generally always happy to breastfeed their babies if they decide to party too hard. This is called “cross-nursing”. Cross-nursing with a mom you’re close to is a great way for a mommy to donate milk without having to pump. The only drawback of cross-nursing is that you have to be in close proximity to your milk donor and, well, she would be donating a lot of time, too!

Cross-nursing has been around for centuries. Be aware, however, that HIV, hepatitis, and other diseases can be past on through milk. That’s why receiving milk outside of a milk bank is categorically not recommended by the AAP and FDA.

Buying Milk Online

Craisgslist also has milk donation collectives; mommies who ban together to help milk-needy ones among us. However, many of these mommies are charging to ship their milk and the American Academy of Pediatrics found that 10% of this milk was contaminated with cow’s milk. Yikes!

Beware: with private donations you don’t actually get to screen these mommas for potential allergens or even tobacco and alcohol use. (Which is why my milk recipients were especially happy to take my milk as I’m a bit of a health fanatic!)

Milk Banks

A friend of mine recently had a baby via surrogate and I learned a lot about something that fascinates me a ton; milk banks. Most milk banks fall under the umbrella of non-profit Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA).   Milk from banks such as HMBANA-sponsored banks is hard to come by. It’s not generally available to women who simply don’t breastfeed, and hospitals generally get the majority of milk from banks.

Most milk banks donate to hospitals for babies who are born prematurely or otherwise don’t have their mothers milk. Donors are screened before milk is accepted and the milk is pasteurized – which contrary to popular opinion does not affect the nutritional benefits of the milk.

Drawbacks To Milk Banks

Pre-screened donors. Non-profit banks. It all sounds good unless you dig a little further. Although HMBANA is a non-profit, there is still a fee for milk obtained through HMBANA banks. If you aren’t close to or able to get high enough on the list for milk from a HMBANA bank, you can try contacting one of three for-profit banks: Medolac, Prolacta, and the International Milk Bank. At this time, all milk banks require a prescription from your doctor. However at this time, demand far exceeds supply.

In addition, milk from banks can run you easily four or more dollars per ounce. If your 10 pound child drinks 2-3 ounces per pound, that will run you $85 to $128 per day with milk from a bank. It sheds new light on the term “liquid gold!” If you’re going the route of a milk bank, it’s critical you check with your insurance company to see if the cost is covered, at least in part, from your plan.

Hospital Donations

The hospital at which you gave birth may have milk they can provide you and your baby. They call this “compassionate use” breast milk. It’s general donated milk used for mommies who have problems breastfeeding their babies but who have a hard time getting on the list for milk from banks.

Contact HMBANA for breastmilk donation or purchase at (817) 810-9984.


Also see:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infant_formula#cite_note-39

https://www.hmbana.org/

http://www.who.int/topics/breastfeeding/en/

http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/infant-nourisson/index-eng.php

https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/pdf/BF-Guide-508.PDF

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK52687/

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