Inventing Baby Food: Taste, Health, and the Industrialization of the American Diet

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Univ of California Press, Sep 19, 2014 - Cooking - 236 pages
Food consumption is a significant and complex social activity—and what a society chooses to feed its children reveals much about its tastes and ideas regarding health. In this groundbreaking historical work, Amy Bentley explores how the invention of commercial baby food shaped American notions of infancy and influenced the evolution of parental and pediatric care.

Until the late nineteenth century, infants were almost exclusively fed breast milk. But over the course of a few short decades, Americans began feeding their babies formula and solid foods, frequently as early as a few weeks after birth.

By the 1950s, commercial baby food had become emblematic of all things modern in postwar America. Little jars of baby food were thought to resolve a multitude of problems in the domestic sphere: they reduced parental anxieties about nutrition and health; they made caretakers feel empowered; and they offered women entering the workforce an irresistible convenience. But these baby food products laden with sugar, salt, and starch also became a gateway to the industrialized diet that blossomed during this period.

Today, baby food continues to be shaped by medical, commercial, and parenting trends. Baby food producers now contend with health and nutrition problems as well as the rise of alternative food movements. All of this matters because, as the author suggests, it’s during infancy that American palates become acclimated to tastes and textures, including those of highly processed, minimally nutritious, and calorie-dense industrial food products.
 

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Contents

Introduction
1
Commonly accepted age of introducing solid foods
10
Trade card for NestlÚs Milk Food circa 1880s
24
Hurry Motherits Libby time December 1938 ad in the Ladies
37
The Golden Age of Baby Food at Midcentury
43
the baby food
57
The midtwentiethcentury motherconsumer
68
The 1960s to the 1970s
71
Baby food labels and ingredients circa 1960s
81
9
101
Natural Food Natural Motherhood and the Turn
104
Baby food and consumer activism
124
Reinventing Baby Food in the TwentyFirst Century
133
Baby Food 2 0 A FreshDirect delivery truck with baby food
151
Acknowledgments
165
Copyright

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About the author (2014)

Amy Bentley is Associate Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. She is the author ofEating for Victory: Food Rationing and the Politics of Domesticity and the editor ofA Cultural History of Food in the Modern Era.

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