The historical evolution of infant feeding includes wet nursing, the feeding bottle, and formula use. Before the invention of bottles and formula, wet nursing was the safest and most common alternative to the natural mother’s breast milk. Society’s negative view of wet nursing, combined with improvements of the feeding bottle, the availability of animal’s milk, and advances in formula development, gradually led to the substitution of artificial feeding for wet nursing. In addition, the advertising and safety of formula products increased their popularity and use among society. Currently, infant formula-feeding is widely practiced and appears to contribute to the development of several common childhood illnesses, including atopy, diabetes mellitus, and childhood obesity.
In Ancient Mesopotamia and Ancient Greece, breastfeeding was of high value and this is depicted in numerous sculptures or statues of goddesses like Hera, Gaea, and Demeter breastfeeding their children. Alternatively to breastfeeding from the mother, or to adoptive breastfeeding, ancient Greeks used to feed their children with a mixture of wine and honey in special pots. Wet nursing was also widespread in these societies. In Greece (950 BC), wet nurses were in frequent demand, particularly by women of higher socioeconomic background, in whose households they came to hold a position of great responsibility with authority over the slaves and often with prolonged care of the children they nursed, up to their adolescence.
The primary goal of the IYCF intervention (Infant and Young Child Feeding) in Greece is to support breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding caretakers in mother and baby areas, where they can rest, feed and play with their children, bathe their babies, and receive nutrition and psychosocial support.
- Mitra Bijoy