Breast milk is the best option to feed a baby for the first two years or more, depending on the child or mother’s wishes. The current recommendation is to offer exclusive and on-demand breastfeeding for the first six months. During the first year of life, milk (breast or follow-on) should be the main source of calories and nutrients in the baby’s diet. Breastfeeding can last up to two years or more.
In cases where breastfeeding is not possible, the pharmaceutical industry makes artificial milk available to mothers , which, imitating breast milk, would be the right food for non-breastfed babies.
At the public health level, breastfeeding is a very important aspect, both for the health of the child and the future adult; That is why the health authorities do not allow the advertising of starter milks (those indicated for children under six months), because the best option, whenever possible, is breastfeeding and it would not be ethical to compete against it. .
A little history about artificial milk
Although it seems to us something very modern, it seems that artificial feeding has existed since the first civilizations. It is not difficult to imagine that, at any time in history, a baby has needed to feed and his mother has not been able to breastfeed him; from the death of the mother to the presence of hypogalactia (insufficient milk production). In these cases, the human being has looked for options to survive. When a woman could not breastfeed, there were two quick options: a wet nurse was found, or cow’s or goat’s milk was diluted in water and a little sugar was added.
- In the oldest civilizations (Egypt, Greece and Rome) the upper class thought that breastfeeding was something that belonged to the lower social classes, so they looked for a wet nurse or used cow horns as a bottle. Greek women also thought that if they breastfed, they would age prematurely.
- In Germany, during the Middle Ages, they invented the first wooden baby bottles . From the 16th to the 18th centuries, breastfeeding was not fashionable; the women thought that they would grow old and ugly and would not be able to dress according to the canons of the moment. In addition, in the upper classes, the desire to have many children (heirs), made men not let women breastfeed so that they could get pregnant again as soon as possible. Another of the myths that harmed breastfeeding was the belief that the milk of menstruating or pregnant women was of poor quality for the baby. The introduction of foods other than milk during the first months or weeks of life was very frequent: broths, wet bread or porridge.
- The first trials in infant feeding with cow’s milk in the modern era were carried out in the 17th century and caused high mortality.
- The arrival of the industrial revolution and the incorporation of women into work (especially from the lower or middle social classes) did not favor breastfeeding at all. At this time, cow’s milk was promoted as an alternative. Access to fresh unpasteurized milk, as in our days, was mixed with water (which in the cities was highly contaminated) and caused cholera to devastate part of the child population. Between 60-90% of non-breastfed infants died, mainly from bacterial contamination of the milk (and the water with which it was diluted) given to them.
- The erroneous medical knowledge of the time did not favor it either. They thought that breastfeeding beyond the ninth month caused the baby to suffer from rickets, mental illness and weight loss. If to all this we add that they also believed that it caused fatigue, headaches, dizziness, deafness, blindness and madness in the mother, it is not surprising that many children were not breastfed.
- In the mid-nineteenth century, the industry began to analyze breast milk in an attempt to create a substitute as close to it as possible, and thus the first formula milk was produced. This liquid contained malt and wheat flour that was mixed with cow’s milk, cooked with bicarbonate of potash and presented as the “ideal food for babies”.
- The pressure of the industry in the middle of the 20th century and the selling of the “advantage” of freedom of working mothers and “better nutrition” for their offspring, caused the promotion of breastfeeding to radically decrease, so that artificial breastfeeding was the preferred feeding method.
- Starting in the 1970s, with the knowledge of the basic composition of breast milk, and due to the appearance of deficiency syndromes in children fed acidified milk, the rise of infant formulas aimed at meeting the needs of the infant began, imitating to the maximum human milk, this being the “gold standard” of artificial infant milk to date.
What is an artificial milk?
All artificial milks are obtained from cow’s milk. However, during its elaboration, the pertinent modifications are made so that it resembles mother’s milk as much as possible. Compared to cow’s milk, this milk contains less protein, more carbohydrates and more essential fatty acids for brain development. The health authorities regulate its formulation and practically all of them are very similar. It is enriched with vitamins (A, D, C and E, niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, folic acid, and group B), minerals (iron, iodine, zinc and the calcium/phosphorus ratio) and is formulated differently according to needs. at every stage of the baby.
The law also determines its caloric value, between 60 and 80 Kcal/100 ml of reconstituted product. In this way, the Artificial milk can be classified into four large groups:
- Milks for premature babies : they are starter milks specially formulated for premature babies.
- Initial or type 1 milks : they are specially formulated for full-term babies under six months of age. they are intended for the feeding of infants from the first days until the introduction of complementary feeding. They are the most complete and enriched formulas since they provide all the nutrients that the baby needs for her growth since it is the only food she receives during the first six months of life.
- Follow-on or type 2 milks : they are suitable for babies older than six months. They can be offered up to a year or extend their use up to 18 months. Its formulation must be adequate to provide 40-50% of the baby’s daily energy requirements and ensure an adequate supply of calcium for its development. Its consumption begins when complementary feeding has already been introduced , from 6 months, at which time new sources of nutrients are included in the baby’s diet.
- Growth or type 3 milks: these are milks that can be given from 12 or 18 months to 3 years. indicated for feeding young children, between 1 and 3 years. They are a transition product between follow -on milk and cow’s milk, and therefore have an intermediate composition between them. According to pediatric associations, they are not necessary milks, since at twelve months babies can drink whole cow’s milk without problems.
If you have any doubts, you should always consult your pediatrician.
- Although it seems to us something very modern, it seems that artificial feeding has existed since the first civilizations.
- All artificial milks are obtained from cow’s milk, but during its preparation the pertinent modifications are made so that it resembles mother’s milk as much as possible.
- The health authorities regulate its formulation and practically all of them are very similar. They are tailored to the baby’s age (starting or type 1, continuing or type 2, and growing or type 3) to span six months to three years. There are also milks for premature babies.