The breast milk is the best choice to feed a baby during the first two years or more, as desired by the child or the mother. 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 appropriate 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 starting milks (those that are indicated in children under six months), because the best option, whenever possible, is breastfeeding and it would not be ethical to compete against it .
- Although it seems very modern to us, it seems that artificial lactation has been around since the first civilizations.
- All artificial milks are obtained from cow’s milk, but during their elaboration the pertinent modifications are made to make it as close as possible to breast milk.
- The health authorities regulate its formulation and practically all are very similar. They are tailored to the baby’s age (early or type 1, continuation or type 2, and growing or type 3) to span six months to three years. There are also milks for premature babies.
A little history about artificial milk
Although it seems very modern to us, it seems that artificial lactation has been around since the first civilizations. It is not difficult to imagine that at any moment in history a baby has needed to feed and his mother has not been able to breastfeed; from the death of the parent 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 nurse was found or cow’s or goat’s milk was diluted in water and a little sugar was added to it.
- 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 nurse or used, as a bottle, cow’s horns. 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 in fashion; women thought they would grow old and ugly and could not 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 become pregnant again as soon as possible. Another myth 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: broth, wet bread or porridge.
- The first cow’s milk infant feeding trials of the modern era were conducted in the 17th century and led to 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 milk fresh unpasteurized, as today, was mixed with water (which was heavily polluted cities) and caused the cholera ravaged part of the child population. Between 60-90% of non-breastfed children died, mainly due to bacterial contamination of the milk (and the water with which it was diluted) that was administered to them.
- The erroneous medical knowledge of the time did not favor her either. They thought that breastfeeding beyond the ninth month caused the baby to have 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-1800s, the industry began to analyze breast milk in an attempt to create a substitute that was most similar to it, 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”.
- Industry pressure in the mid-twentieth century and selling the freedom “advantage” of working mothers and “better nutrition” for their offspring led to a radical decline in the promotion of breastfeeding, so that artificial breastfeeding it was the preferred feeding method.
- From the seventies, with the knowledge of the basic composition of breast milk, and due to the appearance of deficiency syndromes in children fed with acidified milk, the escalation of infant formulas aimed at meeting the needs of the infant began to imitate to the maximum human milk, being this, the “gold standard” of infant formula milk to date.
What is artificial milk?
All artificial milks are made from cow’s milk. However, during its preparation, the pertinent modifications are made so that it resembles as much as possible breast milk. This milk contains, in relation to cow’s milk, less protein, more carbohydrates and more essential fatty acids for brain development. The health authorities regulate its formulation and, practically all, 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, artificial milks can be classified into four large groups:
- Milks for premature babies : these are specially formulated starter milks for premature babies.
- Starter or type 1 milks : are those specially formulated for full-term babies under six months of age. They are intended for feeding 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 its growth since it is the only food that it receives during the first six months of life.
- Follow-up or type 2 milks : are suitable for babies older than six months. They can be offered up to a year or extend their use to 18 months. Its formulation must be adequate to provide 40-50% of the baby’s daily energy requirements and ensure adequate calcium intake for their 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 milks or type 3: are milks that can be given from 12 or 18 months to 3 years. Indicated for feeding young children, between 1 and 3 years old. They are a transition product between follow-on milks and cow’s milk, and therefore present an intermediate composition between them. According to pediatric associations, they are not necessary milk, since at twelve months babies can drink whole cow’s milk without problems.