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Friday, January 27, 2012

Colonial Baby Bottles


I’m currently writing a third novel in a series. The first is The Chamomile that was released by Ingalls Publishing Group in November 2011, and the second that will be released in 2012. The third has a working title of "Cassia." In Cassia, my heroine, Lilyan, rescues a newborn after the mother dies in childbirth. While researching about how Lilyan could manage to feed a newborn after they are abandoned on an island in the Outer Banks, I discovered some really interesting information about baby bottles and thought I’d share.
The word “pap” is supposed to have been derived from the Scandinavian for the sound a baby makes when he opens his mouth to feed. It was first recorded in literature in the mid eighteenth century.
Pap usually included bread, flour, and water. Sometimes mothers would add butter and milk to the pap or cook pap in broth as a milk substitute. Other mixtures included Lisbon sugar, beer, wine, raw meat juices and Castile soap. Sometimes drugs or chamomile tea were added to “soothe the baby.”
To feed these mixtures to babies the “pap boat” was designed. These looked like a sauce boat or a small bed pan and were made of wood, silver, pewter, bone, porcelain, or glass. They ranged from plain for poor families or foundling homes, to highly decorated pieces for wealthier clients.
In the eighteenth century, as new materials and methods of production became accessible, many types of feeding implements were created in different shapes and sizes. Some pap boats were closed, others looked like animals, most often a duck. 

 
Sucking pots make of pewter were used and later replaced by porcelain; some stood upright and others were submarine-shaped.
In 1770, Dr. Hugh Smith invented the "bubby or bubbly pot," made of pewter and resembling a gravy pot or tea pot. This was a time when there was a strong move to make artificial feeding safer, and reduce dependency on the wet nurse. The perforated spout was covered with cloth, which served as a nipple. Dr. Smith, in recommending his idea, stated, "Through it, the milk is constantly strained and the infant is obliged to labor for every drop he receives."

Although Smith’s pot underwent many variations and existed in porcelain, it never replaced the sucking bottle. An American equivalent, the nursing can, used by the Pennsylvania Germans, may have been copied from the bubby pot. This gained little popularity and, by the 19th century, the sucking bottle was almost the rule. Glass rapidly replaced the porcelain successors of pewter. They were now easier to clean and their acceptance coincided with understanding of bacteria, contagion, and improved sanitary conditions. Increasing cleanliness, reliance on milk as the chief "artificial dietary source," and diminished use of pap helped to lower the devastatingly high infant mortality rates in urban foundling homes which often approached 100%. 



Although Smith’s pot underwent many variations and existed in porcelain, it never replaced the sucking bottle. An American equivalent, the nursing can, used by the Pennsylvania Germans, may have been copied from the bubby pot. This gained little popularity and, by the 19th century, the sucking bottle was almost the rule. Glass rapidly replaced the porcelain successors of pewter. They were now easier to clean and their acceptance coincided with understanding of bacteria, contagion, and improved sanitary conditions. Increasing cleanliness, reliance on milk as the chief "artificial dietary source," and diminished use of pap helped to lower the devastatingly high infant mortality rates in urban foundling homes which often approached 100%.

13 comments:

  1. The babies fed from pewter pots would have been at increased risk of mental retardation from ingestion of lead.

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    1. Susan said ...

      It's amazing all the dangerous chemicals people were exposed to back then. I recently had an indepth email discussion with CACW members about the use of arsenic to set green dye in clothing and wall paper and how people became ill from it. I'm sure there were all manner of things that we now know that would have explained "unexpected" deaths back then.

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  2. Fascinating! I had the same concern about the metals as the other poster.

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    1. Susan said ...
      It amazes me how sturdy our forefathers must have been, although the infant mortality was high. I found lots of stuff about babies when researching about the bottles. One word I ran across was "clouts" -- their word for diapers. I debated on whether to use the actual word in my novel. I decided that even though that was the word they would have used, most of my readers wouldn't be familiar with it. So I settled for "diapers."

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  3. Adding Castile soap to baby food? The mind boggles. Thanks for a very informative post.

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    1. Susan said...
      I know, Iola, I wondered about the soap too. In my novel, The Chamomile, my main character, Lilyan, walks past a shop and makes a mental note to buy her friend some of her favorite lemon Castile soap. But to put it in baby food -- makes me wonder what medicinal purpose they thought that might serve. I'll do some more research on it.

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  4. I did some research on this topic last fall and was amazed that pap was used instead of cow's milk or goat's milk. It seems like either of those would have been the most logical substitute.

    A woman I knew many years ago (she was in her late 70s then) told of being orphaned at birth and raised on "oatmeal water". She said her foster mom boiled oatmeal, strained it, and that's what she was fed with. She would be close to 100 years old now, so the grain/pap supplement was still being used in the early 1900s.

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    1. Susan said...
      Pegg, I ran across something really yucky when I was doing this research. It's about how a Cherokee Indian man managed to feed his infant son after his wife died. He boiled some corn, chewed it until it was like liquid, and then, like a bird, spit it into his infant son's mouth. I know he was trying to do the best he could to keep his baby alive. But e-e-e-e-yew!

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  5. I'd never thought of earlier methods of bottle feeding...this is very interesting!

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    1. Susan said ...
      Maggie Ann, I find it interesting too. Another interesting thing I ran across that I couldn't resist including in my novel The Chamomile was something called a "pudding cap." It was usually made of a soft cloth, like velvet, and was stuffed with horse hair. Women put the cap on toddlers who were learning to walk. If a child fell, the cap was supposed to protect them from harm. Like the bicycle helmets of today.

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  6. This is wonderful info, Susan. I know I'm going to love your books as you like the nitty, gritty details of historicals like I do. I've also uploaded your post to share with readers soon via the blog. Bless you and happy writing!

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  7. Thanks, Laura. I'm so interested in even the small details of life--the things that make people who they are; the everyday struggles. The questions like "If I were out in the middle of nowhere, how would I do this...or that...or care for my children...or feed my family...or care for the sick?" If my nearest neighbor is 20 miles away and I can't read, how would my creative thoughts be fed or would I be too busy with making candles, sewing, cooking, farming, and surviving? Is that why some women became wonderful cooks or seamstresses or quilters or fabulous story tellers?

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  8. Fantastic post, Susan, and I have enjoyed all the lively discussion and comments as well!

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