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In 1865 Justus von Liebig invented Soluble Food for Babies. It was the world’s first commercial substitute for breastmilk and it has helped to shape the modern workplace.

Not every baby has a mother who can breastfeed. Indeed, not every baby has a mother. In the early 1800s, only two in three babies who weren’t breastfed lived to see their first birthday. Many were given “pap”, a bread-and-water mush, from hard-to-clean receptacles that teemed with bacteria. But in 1865 Justus von Liebig invented Soluble Food for Babies – a powder comprising cow’s milk, wheat flour, malt flour and potassium bicarbonate. It was the first commercial substitute for breastmilk and, as Tim Harford explains, it has helped shape the modern workplace.

Editors: Richard Knight and Richard Vadon
Producer: Ben Crighton

(Image: Baby lying down drinking from bottle, Credit: Lopolo/Shutterstock)

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9 minutes

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Mon 12 Jun 2017 03:50GMT

Sources and related links

Justus von Liebig - The Chemical Gatekeeper (Cambridge Science Biographies), William H Brock, 2002 

Harvey A. Levenstein  - Revolution at the Table: The Transformation of the American Diet, University of California Press, 2003 

Marianne R. Neifert  - Dr. Mom's Guide to Breastfeeding, Plume, 1998 

Geoff Talbot - Specialty Oils and Fats in Food and Nutrition: Properties, Processing and Applications, Woodhead Publishing, 2015, p287  

Bertrand, Marianne, Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz - "Dynamics of the Gender Gap for Young Professionals in the Financial and Corporate Sectors." American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 2(3): 228-55, 2010 

Tambora erupts in 1815 and changes world history 

Emergency relief during Europe's famine of 1817 anticipated crisis-response mechanisms of today 

The history cook: Lemco 

A history of infant feeding 

Maternal mortality in the past and its relevance to developing countries today 

Maternal mortality ratio (modelled estimate, per 100,000 live births) 

Infant feeding through the ages 

How parental leave rights differ around the world 

Why Mark Zuckerbery taking paternity leave really matters 

The effect of maternity leave length and time of return to work on breastfeeding 

Women face many barriers to breastfeeding; stronger national policies and programs key to eliminating them 

Market overview: Identifying new trends and opportunities in the global infant formula market 

Every parent should know the scandalous history of infant formula 

Got breast milk? If not, a Utah County company has you covered with imported Cambodian milk


  • Sat 10 Jun 2017 02:50GMT
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  • Mon 12 Jun 2017 03:50GMT