This is the forth and final installment on my short piece about milk. This time, instead to focusing on human consumption of milk from other species, in particular from cattle, to the importance of human infants being given human milk until at least six months of age. The first three installments can be found here, here, and here.
Human milk was universally used up until comparatively recently as the sole food for infants. However, it was not always the mum of the child that supplied the milk. Throughout history, surrogate women have supplied milk for other women’s children, a practice know as wet nursing. This was pretty much confined to the wealthy class when the mum chose not to breastfeed her child and either hired other women to feed them or made slaves to that. Although not explicitly said, the Mammy character in the book and motion picture was assumed to be Scarlett’s wet nurse. In other cases friends of relatives of women who for some reason or another could not nurse a baby would fill in for her. More on that later.
In the 1950s many countries began to encourage the use of infant formula as the “scientific” successor to natural breast milk. While formula can be a wise choice in many circumstances, the latest research is pretty much a consensus that natural breast milk is superior in almost all ways to formula. More on that later as well.