Hundred-Year-Old Nestle’s Food Advertisement

Source: Ladies Home Journal (August, 1913)
Source: Ladies Home Journal (August, 1913)

Hundred-year-old advertisements that pique my interest generally make me smile. This one didn’t.

I found the ad upsetting., and it raised so many questions:

  • When did companies first start selling commercial products that were advertised for use as a baby formula?
  • What information, other than advertisements, was available to help parents decide how to feed their infants?
  • What was the reaction of new mothers and mothers-to-be to this ad?
  • What percentage of the women breastfed their babies a hundred-years-ago?

I have no answers,  but I  just can’t get this advertisement out of my mind – so I decided to post it.

34 thoughts on “Hundred-Year-Old Nestle’s Food Advertisement

  1. I would imagine that most women had to feed the baby themselves due to cost if nothing else. Perhaps more affluent women were put off feeding – I seem to recall there was talk of it ‘ruining the figure’.

  2. Nestle’s is one of the companies that has made millions in the third world, convincing women that formula is better than mothers’ milk. There’s nothing wrong, nutritionally, with formula — particularly after the first weeks of life — but using it properly is problematic in countries with, for example, low rates of literacy and low income. Not being able to read directions, and “stretching” the formula by adding more and more water, leads to malnutrition. Our two biggest tasks when I was involved with maternal/child health in Liberia was encouraging immunizations, and discouraging the use of formula.

  3. My older sister and I were both born in the 50’s, back when breast feeding was discouraged. We were both raised on canned milk. Now our younger sisters were both born in the 60’s and were breast fed because the doctors changed their tune by then.

  4. The ad is very upsetting. I’m glad you posted it. The can is interesting. It looks like it is wrapped in paper.

  5. The scare tactics are SO heavy handed! Nestle seems especially willing to do whatever it takes to sell product, and morality doesn’t come into it.

  6. Such a manipulate ad! Unfortunately, not much has changed with Nestle’s awful policies over the years. They do the same now with bottled water. I highly recommend watching “Bottled Water” documentary, to understand how they operate.

  7. Hi. In the late 1800s The Ladies Home Journal ran a series of articles by nurse Elizabeth Schovil on how to care for and feed baby. I know this because a member of my writing group is writing a biography of her work.

  8. How sad that they were telling women that cow’s milk was probably so tainted that it could kill their babies! The photo is so sweet, but the words are very disturbing.

    1. I am not condoning any of the Nestlé adds, but the referrenc to boiling was made due to water being added, and H2O in those days was not safe to drink, espsecialy for babies who had not been breast fed. As to wether Nestlé were aware of any facts pertaining to the imune system I cant say. However I can reflect on my childhood days, late 40’s. early 50’s which was spent in Germany, and the only milk we were officially alowed to drink came out of a can,* and Nestlé rings a bell. I don’t think they had anything to do with that restriction, it was based on the fact that the German dairies were not up to standard at the time.

      * Applied to whole families, not just babies.

  9. My mother used canned milk and sterilized bottles for me as her milk just wasn’t good. By the time my brother came along formula had debuted and after she nursed him for a few weeks he went on formula and sterilized bottles.

    I have one bottle baby and one breast baby – both turned out very healthy! I think it is a matter of personal choice. The mother should be informed and do what’s best for the baby. Not everyone can breastfeed successfully and if so, mom should not be made to feel guilty.

    This ad really seems to paint a tainted picture of cows milk, so I have to wonder if dairy milk was really that unsafe at the time.

  10. If the infant’s mother eats a balanced diet, she will have good milk. If the mother’s diet is questionable, then formula assures the infant balanced nourishment.

  11. I again reviewed the ad. The issue isn’t whether to breast feed or not.

    The ad is disturbing because it makes it sound like everyone is using milk with no mention of breast feeding. Definitely an ad for Nestle and how it is better than milk. I remember when I was young my dad sold Raleigh products. As a sideline, he also sold small home pasteurizers. We never drank raw milk products directly from our cow, one of the few families that had a pasteurizer. That was an option in the 1950’s. Just sayin’. My mother breast fed us kids in infancy.

  12. Back then they obviously did not know what we do today – I remember reading somewhere that at one time it was frowned up to breast feed and that buying or making your own formula was healthier for the baby (I can’t remember exactly when the time period was but probably the turn of the century) That said, many children grew up and did not die from cows milk, so it could not have been that harmful But and this a big BUT -with what we know today I would never feed an infant cows milk. And because we are more aware of the dietary needs of our babies is the reason we are amazed at this. Remember your grandmothers and great grandmothers thought they were doing what was best for their families. For the record my brother and sister were breast fed – I was not, the dr convinced my mother formula was more healthier…I am now 55 my sister is 58 and she has bone issues and arthritis. Just saying… 🙂

  13. A very interesting post, and yes it stills goes on, businesses, governments its seems its all they know, scare mongering folk into do their bidding no matter the cost, shameful!

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