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Does anybody know about the history of feeding recommendations?

(16 Posts)
CuppaTeaJanice Fri 19-Sep-08 12:06:00

Talking to MIL the other day about breastfeeding, and she told me that when she had her first baby in 1970, mothers were advised that formula feeding was better for babies than breastfeeding. In fact she was given pills to stop her milk supply.

Must admit I was a little shock considering the extent that breastfeeding is promoted today. I suspect that there were questionable ingredients in formulas 40 years ago (you had to boil them up in a saucepan, apparently), so does anybody know why they would say it was better? What research were the recommendations based on? And where can I read about more recent research that led to the current promotion of breastfeeding?

Kathyis6incheshigh Fri 19-Sep-08 12:08:41

There is a fabulous book by Christina Hardyment. Dream Babies on the history of childcare advice - there is a lot in it about feeding.
We just have the old edition which goes up to Spock but the new one has a new chapter all the way up to Gina Ford.

gabygirl Fri 19-Sep-08 12:58:50

Women were advised to bottlefeed for the same reason they were encouraged to smoke in pregnancy: because no good, large scale research existed to flag up the risks as we have now. Most of the important research into infant feeding has been done in the last 30 years.

I imagine that many babies didn't seem to thrive on breastmilk, which would have been down to poor feeding practices (women were recommended to bf only every four hours, even with a newborn).

Also, formula in those days was designed to make babies grow fat very quickly - being packed with sugars. The 1950's were the era of the 'bonny baby'; perhaps it was a response to the austerity of the rationing years that people valued very chunky babies and doctors took very fast growth as a sign that a baby was thriving.

My MIL was saying this the other day. She showed me some pictures of my SIL as a baby. I've never, ever seen such a fat child in my life. As a baby her eyes were buried in fat. My MIL said she felt so proud of her size.... but then SIL went on to develop type 1 diabetes as a child.

If you want to read the current research into bf you can start here:


If you click on 'subscribe' they'll send you regular updates on new research.

tiktok Fri 19-Sep-08 15:35:30

Pills to dry up milk were not uncommon years ago, but there was never any official advice that formula was better - at least I have never seen any and I collect old leaflets and books [geek]. However, the advice on how to breastfeed was just dreadful and anyone following it would have had a difficult time establishing happy bf unless they totally ignored it!

'Old style' formulas (ie 40 years ago) were not full of sugars (where did you hear that, gabygirl?). They were 'unmodified' cows milk powder. Babies were weaned onto solids sooner, and were often given sugar syrups as a supplement - baby clinics gave away/sold cheaply NHS orange 'juice' which was basically sugar liquid with a bit of orange in it!

Women who boiled up the milk in a saucepan were not using formula, but ordinary doorstep milk, diluted and then sugared. Evaporated milk was often used instead - you added water to it. It was useful in the days before fridges because it came in cans. I have just spoken to a lady today who told me her husband, born in early 60s, was fed on sterilised milk (you could buy this, it kept forever in the bottle, and was the old equivalent of UHT milk).

Formula milks - the way we understand them, as powders/granules of modified skimmed cows milk which you mix with boiled water - were not in widespread use before the 60s.

Kathyis6incheshigh Fri 19-Sep-08 15:38:44

"basically sugar liquid with a bit of orange in it!"

shock Can't have done their teeth much good!

DaisySteiner Fri 19-Sep-08 15:39:38

You can still buy sterilised milk tiktok - they sell it at the corner shop near my Mum's!

My Grandma used to talk about using 'National Dried' formula for my Mum. Don't know when that ceased to exist?

cafebistro Fri 19-Sep-08 15:44:42

My mum used to give me the NHS 'orange juice' in the 1970's wonder ive got crap teeth!

cafebistro Fri 19-Sep-08 15:48:11

And she was also considered a 'hippy' for breastfeeding me!

gabygirl Fri 19-Sep-08 17:31:14

I don't think I literally meant full of added sugar, but that they were formulated in a crude way to optimise weight gain. And surely the evaporated milk based formulas that many babies were fed in the 1950's were very 'energy dense' in the sense of having a lot of carbohydrates in them?

noolia Fri 19-Sep-08 17:41:49

My MIL was told by her doctor that bf wasn't worth the effort so she didn't do it. Sadly she still believes this 40 year old advice. Lots of useful info here for me to tell her when she tells me to "follow my instincts" and stop bf! I might get that book too!

tiktok Fri 19-Sep-08 18:59:20

Evaporated milk is certainly energy dense - but only 'cos the water is partially removed from ordinary milk before canning Mothers who used it for their babies had to add the water back again.

I still don't know what you mean, gaby, when you say the early formulas were 'formulated to optimise weight gain'. I don't think this is the case - they were basically dried milk powders with very little modification.

You may be thinking about stuff which was meant to be added to the bottle - branded foods like 'Farlene' and 'Farex' which were sweetened rice-based cereals, and commonly used from a few weeks old (or even earlier...shock) Now I am pretty sure they packed a pretty calorific punch

I'm not trying to win smarty-pants points here - honest!. This is a special interest of mine, and as I say, I collect stuff about it.

gabygirl Fri 19-Sep-08 20:12:26

Oh gosh - I'm not referring to anything I've read, just thinking about the comments of the mums I know who're now in their 70's and who have reminisced with me about feeding their babies. Am prepared to accept that my ideas are guff!

I love talking to older people about their experiences of birth and feeding. So interesting.

Re: that new book on parenting fads... haven't read it yet, but already feel that I might have a problem with it if it presents the choice to breastfeed and parent responsively as a 'trend' when I think of it as pretty much universal, instinctive human behaviour and something that hundreds of thousands of years of evolution has proven to be a successful survival mechanism.

lizzytee Fri 19-Sep-08 20:36:34

Gabygirl, interesting thread. I too would recommend Dream Babies, it's well written with a good sense of humour. If you can get hold of a book called Breasts, Bottles & Babies by Valerie Fildes it's worth a read- although it's long out of print I did find a copy on Amazon.

CuppaTeaJanice Mon 22-Sep-08 21:14:20

Thanks everybody - I'll put the Dream Babies book on my Amazon wish list!

Tiktok - have you found any ridiculous, dangerous or downright hilarious advice in your vintage baby book collection? Please share.....

LittleLipan Mon 22-Sep-08 21:17:28

MIL - who had her babies in the 60's told me that it was standard practice to be given this pill that dried up your milk as a matter of course. You werent even asked - it was just given and presumed you'd use formula.

She's always told me she couldnt b/feed anyway because she had 'leaky valves'. But, again, that'd have been a 1960's diagnosis.....hmm

JordTyler Thu 25-Sep-08 19:52:06

I read this thread the other day and thought of the book i'd just read. Call The Midwife is a fantastic read for anyone interested in past methods. Wether its feeding, Anti/post natal care, or labour. Its graphic in places but we've all been through it so not new!
I have a general obsession with all things pregnancy/babies though so i'd find anything facinating if it was to do with this.

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