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INVENTING BABY FOOD: GERBER AND THE DISCOURSE OF INFANCY IN THE UNITED STATES By: Amy Bentley.

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Presentation on theme: "INVENTING BABY FOOD: GERBER AND THE DISCOURSE OF INFANCY IN THE UNITED STATES By: Amy Bentley."— Presentation transcript:

1 INVENTING BABY FOOD: GERBER AND THE DISCOURSE OF INFANCY IN THE UNITED STATES By: Amy Bentley

2 100 Years of change from 19 th to mid-20 th century  Industrialization & new technologies  Discovery of vitamins in 1906  Evolving notions of the body and health  Changing consumption patterns  Emergence of science as the authority  Medicalization of childcare  Advertising

3 Baby Biology  At age 4 months an infant’s gastrointestinal system can’t process anything but breast milk or its equivalent  Earlier than this can cause stress on the baby’s kidney function  Breast milk is considered the best option for infants because of the nutrients that assist in development

4 Early 19 th Century  Pre-industrial West: 95% of children were breast fed by mothers or wet-nurses  5% received a mixture of boiled flour, water, or animal milk  Mid-19 th Century first advice manuals  Most infants were still on breast milk but a new integration of modified cow’s milk was introduced  Grandmother’s aphorism: “only milk until the eruption of molars (12-16 months)

5 Forbidden Fruit  Fruit/vegetables were discouraged because of folk ideas that eating fruit made children and adults feverish and caused severe diarrhea  Infants were restricted from eating fruit/vegetables until 2-3 years of age  Although liquid mixtures such as cereals, gruel and beef broth could be given during the 1 st year

6 Late 19 th Century: Chemical Period  There was a new dependency on science as an authority on human health  Vs. common sense  Doctors began birthing children in hospitals vs. at home  Medicalization of health care discovery of vitamins  Diets improved

7 Industrialization  Canned goods became available  Mass-produced foods were added to milk or water  This was a forerunner of infant formula  Mom’s became worried about their ability to produce nutritious breast milk  Doctors increased the strength of formulas for infants  Breast feeding declined

8 Expert Advice  : Discovery that fruits & vegetables also have vitamins  1928: Manuals & “Foods and Homemaking” recommended earlier introduction of solid foods:  1 tsp orange 3 weeks of age  7 months  8  9 months  Egg 10 months  Meat 1 year

9 Advertising  “Nestle’s Milk Food: Baby’s Friend”  Other companies:  “The Incomparable Food for the Growth and Protection of Infants and Children”  “A Scientific Food for Infants and Invalids”  “Children fed on our infant food are remarkable for muscular strength, firmness of flesh, and a lively and intelligent appearance”  “The perfect substitute for Mother’s Milk”

10 Gerber Makes its Move  Grew not out of corporate search for new products, but a mother’s complaint  Mrs. Dan Gerber complained to her husband—owner of Freemont Canning Company—of the difficulty of mashing peas for their baby  The company changed from canning vegetables to specialization in baby food  Gerber became a right of passage for babies

11 Gerber Perfects its Method  First produced pureed foods (strained)  Then a line of cereals  Later, chopped produce for older toddlers  In 1930: produced 842,000 cans of baby food  In 1931: 1,311,500 cans  In 1932: 2,259,818 cans  1935 Gerber competes with Beech-Nut, Heinz, Libby’s but stays on top

12 Why Gerber did so Well  Canned foods were becoming cheaper, and parents could afford to buy them  Doctors and health officials were becoming more involved in children’s healthcare and advertising  Working moms found processed food to be easier to manage  Other inventions were being created to help women in the home: washing machines, refrigerators, diapers, ect.

13 Gerbers symbolizes Trustworthiness & Quality  1930s advertising of Gerbers for:  Purity and wholesomeness  Convenience and modernity  Scientific efficiency  Even the Gerber baby becomes an iconic symbol for the age a child should be to start eating solid foods  By the 1950s there was a dramatic decline in breast feeding  Gerber substitutes for breast milk

14 Gerber Convinces Dieticians  Gerber began advertising in the Journal of the American Dietetics Associate (ADA)  Gerber baby foods are scientifically prepared  Free of contaminants  Are vitamin-filled  Have high nutritional value  Are wholesome for infants

15  The baby in the photo is Ann Turner Cook. She is 87 years old (2014) and is an English professor and writes books. In 1928 her face was drawn in carbon by Dorothy Hope Smith.

16 Convincing Mothers (Ladies Home Journal)  “The new Gerber Products make Mother and Baby alike independent of the kitchen’s restrictions. Baby can really travel now.”  “Square Meals for Baby…and better for him than vegetables you could prepare yourself with ten times the work!”  And husbands: about not having a wife who looks “worn and haggard” from having to be a slave to the kitchen for her child


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