Objectives: To analyze the debate that arose in the 1970s concerning the commercial practices of companies manufacturing baby formula that favored the abandonment of natural breast feeding. To present the health outcomes, shown in various research studies, for recently born babies in Mexico who were fed this type of milk.
Methodology: Analytical and descriptive.
Results: The author describes the disclosures and presentations by periodicals and consumer groups in Europe to demonstrate the unethical advertising used by companies producing infant formula. These disclosures and presentations showed that mortality was 2-3 times greater in bottle fed children than in breast fed children. The article also describes the companies reaction and the extraordinary economic and political power which they used to impugn the reputation of the movement for breast feeding and people who criticized the use of manufactured milk as a substitute for breast feeding.
As shown by studies between 1960 and the early 1980s, breast feeding in Mexico declined precisely during the period when the use of manufactured milk for newborns began to spread. A national study showed that 22% of mothers never breast fed their children. In one rural community, the number of women who breast fed their babies dropped from 95% to 73% between 1960 and 1966. Analyses of health services revealed that newborns increasingly did not remain with their mothers during their confinement in hospital, that mothers were not educated about breast feeding, and that physicians prescribed manufactured milk for reasons not tied to maternal health or to mothers capacity to breast feed their babies.
In lower-income countries and population groups, the gravity of substituting mothers milk with infant formula is linked to the high cost of formula for family budgets. This situation frequently means that newborns receive insufficient nutrition since more water than is necessary is added so that a given quantity of formula yields more volume. Another problem affects communities without access to potable water, which causes an increase in serious gastrointestinal illnesses in children fed commercial milk. In a population with potable water, the rate of formula fed babies with gastrointestinal problems was 67 per thousand, while in a population without access to potable water the rate was 116 per thousand.
Conclusions: The market in infant formal needs closer regulation. The author highlights the international standard recommended by the 1981 Assembly of the World Health Organization.
Copyright 2007 University of New Mexico