Monday, May 6, 2013


It looked like a ceramic submarine that a child could use in the bathtub.  However, it predated submarines (it had an early 19th century pearlware glaze), so I needed to guess again.  It was approximately 6.25 inches long and about 2.5 inches wide.  Perhaps the 1 inch hole at the top was used for putting something in?  Perhaps the tiny hole at the tip was for drinking?
I learned the oddly shaped object was an infant feeder.  The liquid (breast milk hopefully) would have been put into the large hole at the top and secured with a cloth or cork stopper.  Some sort of nipple (cloth or leather) might be attached to the spout.  I worried that the small hole would be hard to clean, which could result in infection.   I also wondered why the babies weren't being breast fed, but many women did die in childbirth in the nineteenth century or shortly after from infection.  Hopefully, the infant feeders weren't used very often.

Ceramic Baby feeder circa 1830, 6.5 inches long by 2.5 inches wide

Ceramic Baby Feeder circa 1830 (same one as above, but a different angle)

Ceramic Baby Feeder circa 1840, 8 inches long by 3.5 inches wide

Ceramic Baby Feeder circa 1840, 8 inches long by 3.5 inches wide (same one as above, but a different angle)

I had to remove links to a wonderful feeder website, as it is no longer operational.  Oh well.


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  2. These baby feeders were also made in all sorts of shapes in glass.

    You mentioned the possibility of infecctions : it was later discovered that these items were responsible for the deaths of many, many chikldred as they were impossible to clean properly and acted as incubators for huge numbers of bacteria.

  3. Thanks for adding this information.

  4. The ceramic feeder website has returned and it is better than ever - check it out at

  5. Not all women are able to breastfeed or even if they do, they aren't all able to produce enough milk for their babies. Some women have flat or inverted nipples which make latching difficult for babies. Some babies aren't able to latch/suck well regardless. There are lots of reasons people might have been using infant feeders that go beyond the mothers dying.