©Wellcome Library, London

Roman feeding bottle

This bottle, shaped like a female breast, was constructed so that no flies or dust could reach its contents. The milk was introduced by inverting the bottle, and pouring it through an open tube ascending within from the centre of the base almost to the apex (see cross section). This same tube prevented the escape of milk when the bottle was placed on its base. The child sucked through the spout, on the opposite side of which is a small round handle. Bottles like this from the 1st to 5th centuries CE were often found in the tombs of very young children, usually with a rattling toy. This one is made of earthenware but others were constructed of glass. Substitutes for human milk included honey diluted with water or goat's milk although neither would have provided the correct balance of nutrients and fat content. Soranus taught that breast-feeding should not begin until 3 weeks after birth so that the mother might regain her health and produce wholesome milk. If a wet-nurse was not available for this important period in a new-born's life, its survival prospects on artificial feeding would have been grim.Votive offering excavated from Forum of Augustus, Rome.

Source: SH Sadler. Infant feeding by artificial means: a scientific and practical treatise on the dietetics of infancy. The Scientific Press, Aberdeen 1909.