Baby bottles: A pictorial history

May 1, 2009

A retrospective look at the origins of nursing bottles is further proof that necessity is indeed the mother of invention.

Fast forward to today, and maternal breastfeeding remains the best means of infant nutrition. The days of infants suckling on animal milk and wet nurses, however, have steadily been supplanted with the invention of the baby bottle. What spurred the creation of this now-ubiquitous tool, and how did it arrive to its current forms?

Desperate times call for bottles

Socioeconomic factors also served as catalysts. Some children, especially female infants, were abandoned by families who could not afford to care for them. Prior to 1900, infant mortality was such that more than one in five infants did not survive past their fifth birthday.1 Hence, women were encouraged to have as many children as possible, and as soon as possible. During certain periods in history, breastfeeding was not considered "in vogue," with many women feeling that it would rob them of their youth.

These factors, combined with the fact that only the wealthy could afford to hire a wet nurse, led to the development of the nursing bottle.

Design evolution