BY BEC BOWYER
There is evidence that fifty-four per cent of babies who are bottle fed die. Oh wait, no, that was seventeenth century Britain.
Research indicates that out of 132 orphans who were bottle fed, only five survived. Um, no, that was eighteenth century France.
Oh, that’s right, this is the year 2013. Feeding babies properly manufactured and prepared formula, from a bottle, doesn’t tend to kill them.
“But BREAST IS BEST!” I hear you say. Yes, it certainly is, and so is exercising regularly, not watching any television in the first year of life, avoiding artificial colours and flavours, eating organic, vegetarian, unprocessed food, wearing natural fibers, using renewable energy and avoiding anything that may be carcinogenic (alcohol, smoking, the sun, donuts, processed meat, car pollution, plastic food containers, french fries, crackers, etc…).
Okay, so breast is best, you’ve convinced me. Perhaps we could do what our noble ancestors did when a mother couldn’t or wouldn’t breastfeed her own child: reintroduce wetnursing.
Wetnursing was very trendy in the seventeenth century among wealthy mums who allegedly complained that breastfeeding ruined the figure, stained their clothes and interfered with their social life (sound familiar?). Unfortunately the wetnurses didn’t necessarily take such good care of the babies.
One countess Elizabeth Clinton sent away eighteen of her children to be wetnursed: only one of them survived. Funnily enough, the decline of professional wetnursing in the second half of the nineteenth century correlated neatly with the improvement of artificial milk for babies.
Given there was a fair to good chance your baby would die if you didn’t breastfeed it back then, it was probably fair enough that mothers who chose not to breastfeed because they wanted to retain their youthful figure were subjected to much criticism (in Sweden they were fined by the government).
But today? In Australia? Let’s put it in perspective. Our infant mortality rate in 2012 was 4.55 per 1000 births, which means that more than 99.5% of babies born in Australia now live beyond their first birthday.