Historically, infants who didn’t have access to breast milk almost always died.
In the early 1900 food scientists in Europe and America began developing milk substitutes, initially, to be prescribed by doctors for infants whose mothers had died in childbirth or were unable to feed their babies due to serious illness.
Even then, breast milk substitutes were inferior to breast milk because they couldn’t offer a baby passive immunity, but they could give a baby who had lost access to his mother’s milk, a chance to survive into childhood.
Soon it became clear that there was a business opportunity in infant feeding. But how could women all over the world be persuaded to pay for something that had once been free?
Through clever marketing campaigns, formula manufacturers began suggesting to mothers and health care providers across Europe and North America that infant formula was scientifically formulated and thus healthier for babies than breast milk. Mothers believed and breastfeeding rates plummeted.
Once the Western markets had been saturated formula manufacturers began targeting lower and middle-income countries, advertising, infant formula as a superior way to feed babies.
Because water supplies were unreliable in many of these areas, and mothers didn’t have the resources to sterilize the water and the bottles used to prepare the formula, the incidence of infant diarrheal disease and death, increased dramatically in these countries.
Without the protection of their mother’s antibodies, infants were unable to defend themselves against the pathogens in their contaminated baby bottles.
This was aggravated by the fact that formula feeding was extensive for many mothers.
So the formula would often be stretched, leaving infants malnourished and with a suppressed immune system. Around the world, outrage grew. And in response, an international boycott was launched against the leading formula manufacturers.
The World Health Organization released guidelines to regulate the marketing of breast milk substitutes, but in many parts of the world, the damage has yet to be repaired.
Breastfeeding was a skill that was passed down from one generation to the next with grandmothers coaching their daughters, on how to safely feed their new babies.
The practice of breastfeeding was interrupted by a generation of mothers who lost this skill.
A generation of fathers and community members had also become unaccustomed to seeing breastfeeding practiced in their communities.So another potential source of support was lost.
Healthy Babies are more likely to grow into healthy productive adults, who will contribute to the productivity and the well-being of the entire community. Because of this, a mother’s choice to exclusively breastfeed her baby may well be the start of a brighter future for everyone.