In this post, I have shared a detailed guide on the history of baby bottles, when they were invented, and covered other topics on baby monitor history. More guides on baby feeding here.
This article is part of our education series on the history of baby products. We started with history of baby monitors and, trampolines, strollers, car seats and have covered topics such as history of baby showers.
Early History of Baby Feeding Bottles
Baby nursing bottles are among the oldest household items and there is evidence of pottery nursers as early as 1500 B.C. Most of them could not be entirely differentiated from other utensils as they didn’t have nipples. Some of the oldest baby bottles are now antiques, similar to the one shown in the picture below:
There is evidence, however, that baby bottles have been in use since the days of our forefathers. In the middle ages, for example, the people used cow horns and a small attachment of leather as baby bottles. During the 1600s, persons used leather, wood, and pewter-flask-shaped bottles with screw tops.
The use of baby bottles can be traced back to thousands of years BC when people used small urns, wood, and cow horn as feeding bottles where the cleanliness issue of the crude feeding bottles was written through the Roman Era, Middle Ages, and the Renaissance. The urns had one opening at the top to fill the milk and another opening at the bottom to feed the baby. Then, people used leather or dried cow’s cow’s teat filled with a cloth as the bottle teats.
The cow horn was the most common type of baby bottle during the Middle Ages.
But why did caregivers, throughout history, find the need for baby bottles? Here are several reasons:
- The death of the mother during childbirth or shortly after that. Infectious diseases such as puerperal fever, commonly known as milk fever, caused the death of many mothers. Children were often born prematurely, ill, or born with congenital deformities, which made it impossible for them to breastfeed well. As such, caregivers had to use a feeding bottle with the infants.
- Poor young mothers could not afford wet nurses and did not want to breastfeed to keep their youthful looks. As such, the mothers resulted in the use of feeding bottles.
By the 1700s, many infant-feeding bottles such as the pewter bubby-pot were made of pewter and silver. Then, small pieces of linen cloth, sponges, and rags were used as a teat, otherwise known as a nipple.
Pap boat, was another popular feeding bottle in Europe during from the 16th to 18th centuries. The pap boat had a spoon and a hollow stem to enable a caregiver to blow the food in the infant’s throat.
The feeding bottles used during the 16th to 18th centuries were difficult to clean, which resulted in many infants.
P.S; The reason why you should clean your baby bottles thoroughly and sterilize them often is to prevent poisoning your baby through artificial feeding.
The 18th century also saw many improvements in the manufacturing of baby bottles regarding the comfort of using the bottles and the ease of cleaning the nipples. The manufacturers developed a “flat-shaped” baby bottle. Soon after, there came a Saxon ‘banana” baby banana made from brown glass. The elongated shape of “banana” allowed the baby to stay in an inclined position while the caregiver controlled the milk flow by pressing her thumb over one of the bottle holes.
The Mid-19th century saw many evolutions in the manufacture of baby bottles and nipples. In 1851, France created an elaborate baby bottle that has a cork nipple and ivory pins at air inlets to regulate airflow.
In 1896, England developed a simpler boat-shaped baby bottle that was open-ended. The baby bottle became so popular that it was sold into the 1950s. The baby bottle nipples were mostly made of leather.
In 1845, India produced the first rubble baby bottle nipple; the rubber nipples had a repulsive odour and taste. The nipples, however, were improved at the beginning of the 20th Century.
During this period, the feeding bottles had common characteristics, including;
- The receptacles were tall, looked like a bottle, and had low-flow pierced tip with the shape of a nipple
- All tips had a piece of fabric or a small sponge to protect the gums of a child from hurting during feeding.
Also, baby bottles became popular between the 18th and 19th centuries following the lack of wet nurses.
P.S- Wet nurses are young women who were contracted to breastfeed other people’s babies.
The invention of the first baby-feeding bottle
The history of modern baby bottles dates back to 1851, when the first elaborate baby feeding bottle was invented. The first model had a cork nipple and ivory pins at air inlets to regulate airflow. While France society is credited with the first baby-feeding bottle, this bottle wasn’t actually popular in France then as parents still relied on spoon-feeding method as opposed to bottle-feeding.
Prior to 1851, Elijah Pratt of New York in 1845, filed a patent for a rubber nipple which was an incredibly ingenious idea. The rubber nipples weren’t used until far much late in 1900s.
What is a baby bottle?
A baby bottle is a bottle with a nipple that infants and young children drink infant formula, expressed breast milk, water, juices, and other solutions from.
A baby bottle is also called a nursing bottle or a feeding bottle. Today, most parents depend on baby bottles to keep the infant and young children well-fed, even when they are away.
Modern-day baby bottles range from simple to sophisticated, depending on how much you are willing to spend. Let us go down memory lane and discover the history of baby bottles!
When was the first bottle invented:
There were various innovations of baby bottles starting from 1845 (in India) to 1896 (UK) but various literature indicates 1851 as the official year when the first bottle was invented.
The first feeding bottles were created in 1851 in France and contained a cork nipple as well as ivory pins at air inlets to regulate the flow. Although during this time, it was more popular to spoon-feed infants or have children suckle milk directly from an animal’s teat. This first bottle looked like a miniature version of an adult’s bottle, which was created for a different purpose.
In 1845, the first Indian rubber nipple was introduced (Osborn, 1979b), which although having a repulsive odor and taste was refined and adapted by the beginning of the 20th century. This was the start of a new era in bottle feeding.
In 1896, England developed a simpler boat-shaped baby bottle that was open-ended. The baby bottle became so popular that it was sold into the 1950s. The baby bottle nipples were mostly made of leather and had to be frequently replaced.
Who invented the first baby bottle?
While there seems to be agreement that the first bottle was invented in 1851 by a French doctor, limited information online is available on details including the name of the doctor. While French and European inventors made progress in improving the bottle and nipple design, US inventors including R. Hemingway were submitting patents for their inventions. Hemingway submitted a patent to US Patents Office for a Mold for Glass Jars which he was awarded on September 18, 1860. W. Painter was awarded a patent for a bottle stopper in 1885 and several other inventors followed with their own patents for bottle and nipple designs.
In the 1940s, Adda M. Allen, a nurse, filed for various patents associated with baby bottle design–one of which was the first disposable liner for a collapsible baby bottle.
What was the first baby bottle made out of?
The first baby bottles were made out of glass and had a cork nipple. The rubber nipple was introduced in 1845 but did not become popular until it was refined in the early 20th century. Glass remained a popular material for baby bottles until the plastic bottle was introduced in the 1950s.
Glass bottles were popular because they were seen as more sanitary than their rubber or leather counterparts. See 1800s tools for making glass bottles here. The patent for the Hemingway Patent Bottle describes it as “an improvement in nursing bottles” and notes that it is made of “non-corrosive material, such as glass.”
When were baby bottles first used?
Antique feeding bottles from various cultures and regions, including the Etruscan, Hellenistic, and Roman civilizations, maintained a commonality in shape from the 9th BC when they were first used through to the 13th century. Though these small beakers with handles were often held in one hand and controversially debated for years due to their functionality.
Major advances occurred in the design of feeding bottles and nipples during the mid-19th century, with glass bottles being among the first products used. These early innovations paved the way for further development of similar devices in ensuing years.
Modern-Day Baby Bottles
Today, baby bottles have been manufactured to replicate the maternal breastfeeding experience owing to the shape or the bottle teats; the teats are similar to that of a mother and imitate the texture of the skin.
The modern-day baby bottle is made of plastic or silicone, virtually unbreakable, nut smooth to touch.
The baby bottles are sophisticated; the teat is anti-colic, available with different flow rates, and are made without bisphenol A (a synthetic compound thought to be toxic).
Today, parents have a wide array of baby bottles to choose from, depending on the budget and the type of feed.
For example, the MAM Newborn Gift Set is best for reflux because its vented base gets out air bubbles.
The Medela Breast Milk Bottle Set is best for pumping because it makes pumping directly into a bottle more seamless
The Best Glass baby bottle is Dr Brown’s Options Glass Baby Bottles
And the best baby bottle for essay latching is the Munchkin LATCH BPA-free
- Stevens EE, Patrick TE, Pickler R. A history of infant feeding. J Perinat Educ. 2009 Spring;18(2):32-9. doi: 10.1624/105812409X426314. PMID: 20190854; PMCID: PMC2684040.
- History of Infant feeding – 1953
- The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 131, Issue 2, February 2001, Pages 409S–420S, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/131.2.409S
- Baby bottle – Wikipedia
- Mothers and Medicine: A Social History of Infant Feeding, 1890-1950
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Sandra W. Bullock is a grand-mom to two boys and is part of the review board here at Motherhoodhq.com. She is responsible for the quality control of content and is among our most experienced moms. She has over 20 years of writing parenting content online focussing on baby safety indoors and outdoors. She has written widely on babyproofing nurseries and homes for infants and toddlers and published work on privacy and the safety of baby monitors. She is a renowned advocate for non-wifi baby monitors that cannot be hacked and spends a lot of time educating parents on how to secure their homes – including ways to secure the baby from harm in and around homes. Sandra is a native of Atlanta where she also works. She can be reached using her email, Sandra.w(at)motherhoodhq.com