Breastfeeding and infant mortality

The current shortage of infant formula is pointing up the serious difficulties many mothers and infants have when it comes to breastfeeding. Most families seem to be getting by - albeit with a lot more stress and time/money spent searching for scarce formula - but at least a few babies have ended up in the hospital as desperate parents try to find ways to feed them without having enough formula on hand.

This makes me wonder about the time before infant formula. Was breastfeeding difficulty a significant contributor to infant mortality? Before mass-produced infant formula, was there anything else new mothers with breastfeeding difficulties could do to get by?

I’m told Mamaplant’s milk made me ill. As far as I know, I was given warm cow milk.

According to wikipedia, wetnursing was a thing until the invention of formula.

A wet nurse(for those who don’t know) is a woman who breast feeds other people’s children. Could be a family member or could be just somebody you hire to do it.

A couple of things - a lot of the children being hospitalized required specialty formula because they couldn’t digest regular formula, so it’s quite possible they would have died from breastmilk anyway.

And mothers have to start breastfeeding pretty much immediately after birth, and continue it regularly, or their milk dries up. So it’s not like moms with 2 months olds who never breastfed can start all of a sudden instead of using formula.

That’s a good, detailed wikipedia article. Here’s a short overview of wet nursing and its (minor) modern comeback

And relactation (breastfeeding again after stopping, or even after adopting) is possible but difficult

Infant mortality was high among the children of wet nurses:

Our kids were born in the 60s and 70s. My wife didn’t produce quite enough milk and we supplemented it with cow’s milk and also started on rice cereal after about 6 weeks. They grew up fine.

My sister was born in 1948 and my mother didn’t want to breast feed. I remember elaborate rituals of sterilizing bottles (I was 11) but I have no memory of what went into them. I think it was some kind of powdered formula mixed with sterile water. Much more attention was paid to sterility than to nutrition.

My mother told me the same thing. My sibs and I got that recipe that’s gone viral on social media, the one with evaporated milk and Karo syrup. I, too remember the sterilizer when my sister was a baby; it isn’t harmful, but usually isn’t necessary. It was an appliance that I still occasionally see in secondhand stores; you put 6 bottles in it, put the top on, pushed the button, and when it dinged, the bottles were ready.

Goat milk is actually closer to human milk than cow’s milk, and my maternal grandparents kept goats during the Depression and WWII for this reason.

I, too am hearing that the hospitalized babies for the most part need specialized formulas and can’t get them. Otherwise, FED IS BEST.

The failures of wet nurses were a concern in the 19th century. The first infant formulas were developed from 1865 on. It still took until post WWII before they were improved enough to catch on. A good history by a doctor is here.

My MIL (v.1.0) told me with the first child, that if she dropped the bottle on the floor, she ran it through the sterilizer again. By the third child (the later Mrs. Plant, v.1.0) if she dropped the bottle on the floor, she wiped it off on the seat of her pants and gave it to the kid.

I think goat’s milk is the O-neg milk equivalent. When we took in an orphan foal the feed stores had already closed. His dam had been dead for a couple days, we figured, so he was famished. I bought some goats’ milk and he accepted it greedily.

On a side note, I’ve never bought infant formula but mare replacer is expensive. I walked into the feed store the next morning at 6am, said, “I’ve got an orphan foal,” and wondered why their eyes lit up. Nine bags of replacer at $40 a bag later I figured it out.

How big were the bags? I, too have seen those at Theisen’s and other local feed stores.

Cans of baby formula that are the size of drink mix cans can cost that much, or more. So does KMR and PMR (kitten or puppy milk replacer), which people have also been advised not to use.

Like I’ve said here and elsewhere, some babies whose families are not otherwise income-eligible for WIC can get it paid for if they have a disease requiring a specialized formula, like PKU. I handled this one time at the grocery store pharmacy for a family whose baby required Human Milk Fortifier, which was basically protein powder for human milk.

Foal-Lac at 40-lb. each. This was 27 years ago. Looking now I see the going rate is $208 each. Land O’ Lakes’ Mare’s Match goes a bit cheaper.

Looking at the virtues I see The easily digested all-milk formula tastes great, so there’s no horsing around at mealtime. I can attest to this. When we were weaning Sage with mash he really preferred the liquid. When the bucket was placed in front of him he would poke a big dent in the middle with his muzzle, then drink the fluid as it seeped into the well. Finally he’d reluctantly eat the wet mash.

Smart horse!

You can lead him to mash, but you can’t make him eat.