The "Murder Bottles" of the Victorian Era
During the Victorian era, a newly developed feeding bottle for infants was introduced.
There were many benefits to the new bottles, making them extremely appealing to mothers. In an age when corsets were all the rage, nursing a baby was considered a “challenge” to some, even with maternity corsets. So a device that allowed baby to pretty much feed him/herself could seem like a Godsend.
The bottles were made of glass or earthenware. Attached to the bottle was a length of rubber tubing and a nipple. The bottles were very difficult to clean because of its "banjo" design.
It also didn't help that women at the time, in an effort to make household chores easier, turned to the advice of Mrs. Beeton. Isabella Beeton, in her popular book, Mrs. Beeton’s Household Management (1861), a go-to reference guide on how to run a Victorian household, doled out advice on cooking, hiring and firing household staff, and child rearing.
Mrs. Beeton advised new mothers that it was not necessary to wash the nipple for two or three weeks, making the bottles the perfect incubators for deadly bacteria.
Although doctors condemned the bottles and infant mortality rates of the time were shocking – only two out of ten infants lived to their second birthday – parents continued to buy and use them. The bottles eventually earned the nickname, “Murder Bottles.”