The History of Bottle Feeding

February 25, 2008

Archaeological findings have shown that breast feeding substitutes were used thousands of years ago. Historically, substitute milk was given to infants whose mothers died or were too sick to feed their babies, usually with limited possibility of wet nursing at hand. Cow’s milk or goat’s milk were commonly used to replace mother’s milk. In addition, babies were sometimes given supplementary solid food, such as a paste made of bread or flour mixed with milk or water. Needless to say that infant mortality rate was extremely high – from 50 to 99% . History and cross-cultural studies have revealed that the increase in bottle feeding resulted in an increase in infant deaths, especially where standards of hygiene were not met. It is a fact, that artificial infant feeding can hold more risks for baby.

During the industrial revolution artificial feeding became popular in Britain as women had to leave their children behind to work in the factories. The first scientific breast milk substitute was invented in 1867 by a German chemist. It was a combination of cow’s milk, flour, potassium bicarbonate and malt. However, the popularity of bottle feeding increased when condensed milk was developed in the late 19th century. The social consensus about how best to feed baby in a modern world which was filled with new scientific achievements, changed towards artificial infant feeding. Bottle feeding was sold as nutritious, safe and easy to prepare with no need for refrigeration. More importantly, pasteurization of milk and sterilization of feeding equipment made artificial infant feeding a safer alternative; thus, making bottle feeding more popular. In addition, medical representatives and scientists celebrated this new supposedly convenient way of feeding baby. As a result, breast feeding became comparatively unpopular as figures show that only 20 to 30% of babies were actually breastfed during WWII in the USA. However, the 1980s proved difficult for companies such as Nestlé when their involvement with medical establishments in order to sell formula feeding in the third world was revealed.

Bottle feeding is still the number one choice for many new mothers. This can have different personal or even medical reasons, although modern living standards are mainly to blame for the change in maternal attitude over the past century.

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Breastfeeding Basics

February 18, 2008

Mother’s milk is best for baby! The composition is perfect for baby’s developmental needs. It is also the most convenient “fast food” we can think of: always at hand without having to warm it up or sterilize unnecessary feeding equipment and it is also the cheapest kind of food. No wonder the World Health Organisation promotes breastfeeding with the slogan “Breast is Best”. It is recommended to breastfeed for a minimum of 6 months to give baby the best start in life. This will greatly reduce the risk of SIDS, help reduce the risk of allergies in later life, support baby’s physical maturation and it will help develop a strong immune system.


How to get started

Whether you decide to give birth in hospital or at home, your midwife is trained to help you get started with confidence. Right after baby’s arrival he is put to the breast. This is important because baby’s sucking reflex is strongest in the first hour after delivery. Baby starts to suck on the nipple automatically because this is an inborn reflex. When looking at earlier ultrasound scans you may even be able to see your baby sucking his thumb. This shows you how early this reflex naturally develops! As soon as baby starts to suck at the breast, the hormone oxytocin is released which is responsible for the milk flow.

During the first days after baby’s birth, mother’s milk is yellowish and has a unique composition: it is very high in protein, vitamins, minerals and has less fat. So-called colostrum is particularly good for baby’s underdeveloped gestational system. Colostrum is also very high in antibodies which help keep baby’s immune system prepared to cope with the outside world.

After a few days, mother’s milk changes to eventually increase the caloric intake of the baby with a higher proportion of carbohydrates and fat. This change in composition is essential for baby’s growth.

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Experts recommend that baby should ideally be breastfed for at least the first year of his life. Breast milk is nutritionally perfect for your baby’s development and all he needs. In fact, in most non-Western cultures it has been observed that babies are usually breastfed for about 2 years before being weaned. This seems like a long time for us, yet it is perfectly plausible if we consider baby’s delicate immune system that has to sustain harsher living conditions.

In contrast, studies in modern cultures have shown that the average time a baby is breastfed is about 4 months. Some mothers may also decide against breastfeeding altogether because of medical or personal reasons. There are formulas on the market specifically designed for different ages of baby. They represent the only alternative to breast milk as they are designed to be “as close to nature” as artificially possible.

When it is time for baby to taste first solid food, health visitors now follow the guidelines of the World Health Organisation (WHO) which recommends that no solid food should be introduced before the first 6 months.

However, you may receive contradicting advice from older relatives and friends who advocate the introduction of solid food sooner than 6 months. Whatever your decision, follow your baby’s lead: He will show you if he is interested by watching you eat with eager anticipation or by showing signs of being hungrier than normal and requiring constant breast or bottle feeding.

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