Synopses & Reviews
Food consumption is a significant and complex social activityand#151;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, itand#8217;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.
"Bentley, author of Eating for Victory, has meticulously scoured the literature on infant nutrition and presented a very fluid, flowing, and engrossing account of the history of baby food over the past century."
"There is no better introduction to the current vigorous state of food history, no better defense of its interest and intellectual legitimacy, and no better demonstration of how odd it is that the subject needs a defense."and#151;Steven Shapin, Franklin L. Ford Research Professor, History of Science, Harvard University
"This book is a treasure. Its clear and lively chapters on global food history instantly explain why food has become an essential entry point into the most intellectually challenging problems of our time. Any reader interested in the role of food in history, culture, or politics, its production or consumption, or the teaching of critical thinking will find this book hard to put down."and#151;Marion Nestle, Professor, New York University, and author of Food Politics.
andquot;Amy Bentleyand#39;s engaging, brilliantly researched book is a revelation. Who knew that all those little baby food jars could tell us so much about the commercial, cultural, and personal history of food in America. Inventing Baby Food
is an instant food studies classic.andquot; --Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics
andquot;Food scholars who think infant feeding means burping babies on their mothersand#39; shoulders should think again. Bentley shows how the corporate approach to babiesand#39; appetites rested on a shallow conception of babyhood and human taste. She also devotes attention to the changes in the past few decades, as longer breastfeeding and home-prepared foods have gained modest purchase. Her book leaves us better informed, perhaps even a little more optimistc.andquot; --Sidney Mintz, William L. Straus Jr. Professor Emeritus, Anthropology, Johns Hopkins
About the Author
Amy Bentley is Associate Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. She is the author of Eating for Victory: Food Rationing and the Politics of Domesticity and the editor of A Cultural History of Food in the Modern Era.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
1. Industrial Food, Industrial Baby Food: The 1890s to the 1930s
2. Shifting Child-Rearing Philosophies and Early Solids: The Golden Age of Baby Food at Midcentury
3. Industrialization, Taste, and Their Discontents: The 1960s to the 1970s
4. Natural Food, Natural Motherhood, and the Turn toward Homemade: The 1970s to the 1990s
5. Reinventing Baby Food in the Twenty-First Century