The history of the feeding bottle


The Early Feeders

At first glance, the vessel looks like a piggy bank (fig 3, bottom right), but the artefact from the Cleveland museum of Art is a terra-cotta baby bottle from 450 BC. Whereas today’s mothers might feed their babies milk from a plastic bottle, the mothers of ancient Greece served a mixture of wine and honey from this hanging vessel, shaped like a shrew, to nurture their small children.

Supplementation of, or substitution for, breast milk probably existed prior to the Stone Age. Evidence of man's creativity in delivering nourishment to helpless infants when the human breast was unavailable, or did not suffice, can be found as early as 2,000 B.C. The British Museum houses the earliest known "feeding cup" discovered in Phoenikas, Cyprus. It looks like a teapot and is of decorated earthenware. Other examples from Babylonian, Greek, Roman, Etruscan and ancient Judaic periods  have been found at archaeological sites, particularly in graves of young children. Some vessels resemble oil lamps or miniature wine jugs.

Pottery was employed until the Egyptians developed the ability to blow glass from hollow rods, about 250 to 300 B.C. Perfecting their technique, Romans made clear glass  at the beginning of the Christian era by removing traces of iron impurities from sand. Interestingly, glass feeding vessels soon lost popularity and did not regain acceptance until the mid-19th century.

European wood-cuts of the 13th and 14th century demonstrate feeding of babies from cow horns to which teats were applied. These were glove-like sewn appendages made from leather or dried cow teats (stuffed with cloth or spongy material). The origin of these practices is unclear, but they were apparently widespread because of availability of material with its convenient shape and the lack of cost. Surion de Vallambert, in 1565, recommended the use of a cow's horn with cow's or goat's milk. At this same time, bottles of wood or leather were introduced in Germany and Italy. They were soon replaced by pewter flasks, during the period when this material was used for many domestic items

More images of early feeders

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References.     Neonatal feeding-Martin.H.Greenberg M.D

Published by Mead Johnson Nutritional Division, 1980
Not Copyrighted By Publisher



Cherchen Mummies

The Cherchen Mummies

The baby is 3 months old. Wrapped in purply red wool, the infant wears a bonnet of bright-blue felt with red wool trimming. Next to the baby lies a nursing bottle made from a sheep's udder. Blue stones cover the child's tiny eyes. The baby has been dead for 3,000 years.


pontiled glass feeder




Pewter feeding flask



fig 3

This shrew-shaped artefact, a terra-cotta drinking vessel from 450 BC, was once offered to infants. It served a blend of wine and honey.