A Brief History of Infant Formula

by Dr. Chad Hayes, Pediatrician and blogger, Chadhayesmd.com

In the beginning, there was breastfeeding…and that was pretty much it. If that didn’t work out, your baby died. Apparently, some people find infant mortality objectionable, so over the past several thousand years, we’ve come up with other solutions. And, given the number of women who died during childbirth, it’s a good thing we did. We’ve come a long way since then–and while breast milk is still the ideal source of infant nutrition, our infant formulas are better than they’ve ever been.

A few thousand years ago, somebody brilliant realized that if one mom couldn’t make enough breast milk–or if the mom died during childbirth (which wasn’t uncommon), another mom could help her out. It was called “wet nursing,” and it was the first donor breast milk–just with a more direct delivery system. This practice began out of necessity, but in some cultures became a luxury, with wet nurses being hired (or sometimes enslaved) to provide milk for infants of the well-to-do. Often, these nurses would assume many other aspects of the maternal role as well. (A lady can’t be bah-thuhed by caring for her baby.) I found it interesting to note that many of the reasons that mothers choose not to breastfeed today aren’t new; they’ve been around at least since the 1700’s:

Read more on on ChadHayesMD.com