Photo credit: Baby Bottle Museum
Roman mothers used hollow horns to feed their babies, and baby bottles were nothing new in Victorian times. What was new was a special glass bottle fitted with rubber tubing and a teat. The idea was the infant sucked on the rubber tube, like sucking cola through a straw.
These bottles were backed by a popular marketing campaign and given names such as “The Little Cherub” or “The Princess.” Mothers loved how an infant could feed themselves; it was a source of great pride. These feeding bottles became the go-to accessory for the modern Victorian mother—but with deadly consequences.
There was a basic design flaw: The rubber tubing was set into the glass and nearly impossible to clean. Inside the bottle, warm milk made it the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. The advice given by Mrs. Beeton, the household guru of the day, didn’t help. Writing in 1861, she declared it wasn’t necessary to wash the bottles for two to three weeks.
The result was babies drinking a soup of bacteria, often with fatal consequences. Indeed, the bottles soon gained another name: “murder bottles.” This, along with the condemnation of doctors, should have stopped their use. But it didn’t. Sadly, many mothers were taken in by advertising and continued using them regardless.
It seems to me that the smell of sour milk remaining in the bottle would have been enough of a signal to the mothers to clean the bottles, no matter how hard it must have been. Not enough common sense, I guess.
Coffee inside once again. The rain just keeps on coming!