The History of Bottlefeeding
How we feed our babies has become a divisive topic in the parenting community.
Bottle feeding gets a bad rap because it isn’t “natural” or the “way we were designed”. But the practice has saved thousands of babies, especially during the modern era because of what we know about nutrition and hygiene.
What if I told you bottle feeding was natural?
We have solid evidence of bottle feeding going back at least 2,500 years ago.
Archaeologists in Bavaria found small clay cups with spouts that contained leftover traces of milk in the cups.
In the Puglia region of Italy, researchers found small pig-shaped clay vessels. The belly made a rattling sound and could function as a baby bottle. You could pour milk in the round hole on the back, and it would come out the nose. That find dated about 2,400 years ago.
These two sites are a great distance from each other which could mean that the practice was widespread.
We have much support for bottle feeding during recorded history
Askoi receptacles from ancient Greece are small jugs that are suspected to be bottle feeding vessels at least in some areas. Besides the size and spout on these vessels, they are often found with child burials.
Gutti bottles, found in Rome, tell a similar story. Small, with a slow pouring spout, and found with children’s graves.
Different societies have used different methods for feeding their kids. Medieval people most commonly used cow horns. More modern people used metals and glass.
What’s really natural?
When we talk about feeding babies, all of our actions are natural, whether bottle feeding or breastfeeding or even feeding using a gastric tube. A mother’s instinct is to protect her baby--and that’s what bottle feeding does.
For all the time that our ancestor’s carefully shaped clay into feeding vessels, mothers were protecting their babies the best they knew how to.
Bottle Feeding in the Modern Era
Past mothers knew nothing of washing bottles or changing out the milk they used to feed their babies, but we do now.
This makes bottle feeding safer than ever. And this has saved millions of babies.
Sometimes babies have conditions like allergies or genetic conditions that make them unable to digest certain proteins, and those babies need formula.
We also need to recognize the fact that not all moms can breastfeed. Some women don’t have the time. Some physically can’t. Others don’t want the responsibility of being the only one that can feed the baby. Even sexual trauma can cause a woman to decide breastfeeding isn’t for her.
In conclusion, bottle feeding is natural. It’s probably as old as agriculture. Humanity has a long history of protecting our babies the best we know how. So the next time you see a baby eating out of a bottle or breast, remember it’s the most natural thing in the world.