By the 1970's only 20% of baby's were breastfed.

Breastfeeding in Decline

In the late 1920's to early 1930's a number of developments occurred which lead to an increased popularity of the use baby formula, and a decrease in breast feeding. Chemical analyses of Natural Milk, allowed makers of baby formula to mimic natural milk, by infusing it with vitamins and minerals. In 1929 the American Medical Association gave further credibility to synthetic baby formula, by affixing their AMA seal to qualified manufacturers.

Initially, formula was not allowed could only be marketed through physicians, yet by the 1940's, many Physicians touted formula as being superior to breastfeeding, causing the use of formula steadily increased. 

In parallel to the technological advances contributing to the demise of breast feeding, an important societal change occurred after WWII.  Women began entering the workforce in much larger numbers. Considering that electric pumps were not available on the market, the only alternative to nursing was using formula.

In a matter of 50 years, the U.S. went from virtually all baby's being breastfed to only 20% - 30%, and it seemed like the trend was here to stay.

The Trend is Reversed

Interestingly, initially, it was not science that reversed this trend. The Infant Formula Action Coalition and other advocacy groups were formed to advocate for breast feeding. While at the time, the knowledge of the scientific benefits of breast feeding was limited, they appealed to the emotional, and natural benefits of nursing.

Eventually, scientific studies were conducted regarding the benefits of nursing and natural milk, and was incorporated into their message. Their advocacy was effective, and towards the end of the 20th century, the rate of breastfed babies had increased as high to as high as 90%.

In 1988 synthetic formula makers starting marketing directly to consumers. This created tension with the American Academy of Pediatrics, who insisted that it should be ones pediatrician who advises on infant and baby nutrition, not the corporate formula makers. 

Pediatricians VS. Formula Manufacturers

By 1990, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a statement listing reasons for the organization's opposition to advertising infant formulas to the general public. The AAP believed the advertisements created a negative effect on breastfeeding, interfered with physicians’ advice on infant nutrition, led to confusion among consumers, and increased the cost of infant formula.

In the first few years of the 20th century, there had once again been a dramatic decline in breastfeeding. Many attributed this to aggressive marketing by the Formula Manufacturers. However this may have been a "last gasp" for the industry. As more studies are conducted and more data gathered, the evidence that nursing provides clear benefits over formula continue to compound.

The percentage of baby's who are breastfed is near historical highs, and the largest medical organizations, including the CDC, set annual targets to increase the rate of nursing. In a future article we will discuss the benefits of breastfeeding