These late nineteenth to early 20th Century baby feeding bottles at the George Marshall Medical Museum are made from glass, curved or rounded in shape, either sealed at one end or open both ends. The glass is graduated and decorated with branding information. A piece of rubber tubing and a teat were attached to the opening. The rubber tubing allowed for easier feeding (the bottle didn’t need to be held up to the baby) as the baby could hold the rubber teat in their mouth, essentially feeding themselves. This was an important development in child care as it freed up the hands of the carer - almost definitely a woman - to perform other tasks.
The bottles weren’t a complete success though. Initially the bottles were designed with one end completely sealed, however this proved fatal. The bottles were breeding grounds for bacteria, leading to gastric infection. The curved shape was difficult to clean and the sealed end meant that the inside of the bottle was difficult to sterilise. The porous rubber tubing and teat also allowed germs to spread easily if not completely sterilised. As a result, a new bottle with entry and exit points at both ends enabled the bottle to be sterilised the whole way through.
Doctors eventually condemned the use of the bottles as infant mortality rates were exceptionally high.
These items are on display in the Nurses and Midwives display case at the George Marshall Medical Museum.