Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Not exactly mother's bosom



This is a somewhat morbid little piece of culinary ephemera I picked up at the Boston Book and Paper Expo this weekend. Those tubes the babies are sucking were known as infant-killers, and for good reason:


According to Valerie Fildes (1998), ‘it seems likely that the eradication of the long-tube feeding bottle was a major factor in the… fall in infant mortality'. Before 1900 a glass bottle with a long rubber tube attached was popular. The convenience of the tube was that the child could be left to suck unsupervised. The problem was that these tubes, and also the bottles, were difficult to clean. Accumulations of dirt and congealed residues were inevitable and it is no surprise that infections and deaths were much higher for babies fed with this method than with the newer, boat-shaped bottle, which had a rubber teat and was much easier to keep clean. Medical Officer of Health data indicate that tube bottles were used in about 78 per cent of cases of artificial feeding in 1904, where a child had died, falling to nil by 1925.


P.J. Atkins, "Mother’s milk and infant death in Britain, circa 1900-1940." Anthropology of Food, September 2, 2003.

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