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A Very Brief History of Formula As We Know It

In addition to being a prominent mainstay of modern-day parenthood, formula is very big business. Despite the many options that make their way to the grocery store shelves, there are only a handful of major manufacturers in the United States, all of whom must meet the same well-defined standards established by the US Food and Drug Administration. As you might imagine, a quick look back tells us that this was not always the case.

Mid-1800s: Most attempts to create a substitute for human milk before this time were met with disastrous results. Almost everyone stuck to breastfeeding.

1867: In the mid-19th century, researchers began to analyze breast milk in an attempt to create a reasonable substitute, and the first in today’s formula lineage was introduced. A liquid containing wheat and malt flour was mixed with cow’s milk, cooked with bicarbonate of potash, and billed as the “perfect infant food.” We’re not exactly sure what potash is or if this primitive formula was met with open mouths, but by the late 1800s, the foundation of modern-day formula had been laid and the marketing of artificial infant formula had begun.

1951: The first non-powder infant formula hit the shelves and rapidly became the most popular product available on the infant formula market.

1950s: The developed world fully embraced artificial infant formula, and it soon became the feeding method of choice.

Laura A. Jana, MD, FAAP and Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP
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Heading Home With Your Newborn, 2nd Edition (Copyright © 2010 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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