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Wednesday 10 April 2013

Infant Mortality in the Victorian Era ~ Wednesday's Child

E. Porteous Born.? Died? 1899
G. Porteous Born.? Died.? 1914
George Burfield Porteous  Born March 16th ~ Died May 28th 1869
William Henry Porteous Born March 5th ~ Died March 19th 1871    

There are many little Victorian infant's graves to be seen when visiting Churchyards and Cemeteries and it is easy to make the mistake of linking these deaths to the usual suspects. 
A lack of immunisations against childhood diseases that had yet to be understood and no awareness of the potential and often fatal dangers of the things children were readily given.
The statistics show that approximately only half of all living babies born, survived until their 1st Birthday. Then only 2 out of 10 babies actually managed to reach their 2nd Birthdays.

This was mainly due to poor standards of general sanitation and the understanding of the requirements of hygiene was very poor. 
Those that were breastfed stood the best chances of survival, but the Victorian fashion for wearing such tight corsetry that required assistance to put on and remove, made the concept of natural feeding a totally impractical one. 
Queen Victoria hired wet nurses for her children ~ she did not want to ruin her own figure and these matronly shaped women would do the job for a fee ~ if such a luxury could be afforded then wet nurses were employed.

At a far more affordable cost was the very popular Babies Bottle. These were given wholesome patriotic names such as 'The Empire' and 'The National'. In the 1880's the popular Princess of Wales had one named in her honour 'The Alexandria' and 'The Princess'. 

The glass bottle was fitted with an internal straw that had a rubber tube attached to a bone mouth shield and rubber sucking teat. 
The appeal of these bottles was due to the baby being able to feed itself, as the bottle could be stood unattended beside them.  
Who would have believed that these feeding devices, with names such as 'My Little Pet' and 'Mummies Darling' could possibly have been the cause of so many Infant deaths.

The problem arose over the cleaning of these bottles and even though they were sold with a brush, they were virtually impossible to clean. In her book of 'Household Management, Mrs Beeton stated that a new teat could be replaced every three weeks without needing any further attention. 
This lack of sterilisation caused the build up of bacteria that ultimately lead to bouts of diarrhoea, this caused severe dehydration and death could follow in as little as 48 hours.

The latter day names for these bottles, such as 'The Killer' and 'The Murderer' soon became more appropriate and were now being condemed by the medical profession, but they still continued to sell well into the 1920's.
With time things improved and these 'Deadly Bottles' were replaced by the easier to clean 'Banana Bottle'.    

  For more information click on this link babybottle museum


  1. I was born in 1947 and when my mother stopped breast feeding me she used the banana bottle. I remember it well and used it to feed my dolls - we called them'titty bottles' !!!

  2. I was born in 1947 and when my mother stopped breast feeding me she used the banana bottle. I remember it well and used it to feed my dolls - we called them'titty bottles' !!!

  3. Are you actually sick in the head? this page is about the Victorian era and feeding babies and babies dying for gods sake have you not any morals at all???

  4. Maybe this is why breastfeeding was bought about, to prevent this sad outcome, just shows how sill women were, for the sake of stupid fashion their babies died...


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