Jornal de Pediatria
Print version ISSN 0021-7557
CASTILHO, Silvia Diez and BARROS FILHO, Antônio de Azevedo. The history of infant nutrition. J. Pediatr. (Rio J.) [online]. 2010, vol.86, n.3, pp. 179-188. ISSN 0021-7557. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0021-75572010000300004.
OBJECTIVE: To retrace the history of infant nutrition with the objective of better understanding breastfeeding. SOURCES: Bibliographic searches were run on MEDLINE, LILACS, SciELO, and the Internet. Encyclopedias, scientific textbooks and books for the general public, in addition to literature, art and history, were also used. Texts on child care from several different periods were consulted, in addition to the history of medicine and recent scientific articles on infant nutrition. SUMMARY OF THE FINDINGS: During the preindustrial period, customs varied little and the likelihood of survival was linked to breastfeeding or its substitution by a wetnurse's milk. Where this was not possible, infants were given animal milk, pre-chewed foods or paps that were poor in nutrients and contaminated, which caused high mortality rates. There was nothing that could successfully substitute breastfeeding and the survival of the species was dependent on breastfeeding. Once the industrial revolution had started, women who had been accustomed to breastfeeding went to work in factories, stimulating the search for alternative infant nutrition. Consumption of animal milk and formulae (diluted, flour-based, powdered milk) and premature introduction of complementary foods compromised children's health. The feminist movement and the contraceptive pill caused a fall in birth rates. Manufacturers in search of profits developed modified formulae and invested in advertising. Society reacted with breastfeeding support movements. CONCLUSIONS: Nowadays, the advantages of breastmilk are recognized and exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months, to be supplemented with other foods from this age on and continued until at least 2 years of age. Infant nutrition, whether natural or artificial, has always been determined and conditioned by the social value attributed to breastfeeding.
Keywords : Breastfeeding; weaning [history].