Modermælken og dens erstatninger 1867-1980. En fødevarebiografi
Danish Breast Milk Substitutes 1867-1980. A Food Biography
This article investigates the ways in which knowledge about nutrition has been embedded in different types of homemade and commercial breast milk substitutes in Denmark from 1867, when the first commercial product was introduced, to 1980, at which point WHO issued a codex banning the advertisement of infant formula. Over this time span, we identify three main breast milk substitutes that were marketed and/or recommended to Danish caretakers: børnemel (children’s flour), homemade milk mixtures, and infant formula.
The aim of the article is twofold: first, to explore the historicity of foodstuffs, their contents and the kinds of knowledge that went into their composition; second, to find a baseline which, across time, allows for a macro nutrition comparison of infant formulas. We argue that the history of breast milk substitutes cannot be written independently from the history of breast milk itself, as knowledge about both was stabilised in a reciprocal process that began with modern nutritional science. The focus on macronutrients and energy percentages allows us to show that non-breastfed Danish infants were likely offered alternatives with a relative high content of protein, compared to present day nutritional recommendations – a diet that, according to modern hypotheses, includes an obesity risk in later life.