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'Tire-lait' or breast reliever, Europe, 1701-1800

This breast reliever is known as a ‘tire-lait’ and is French for breast pump. Mothers used breast pumps, or relievers, to remove their milk. These mothers could not breastfeed their babies. This glass example consists of a cup with a small hole in the top. The nipple was placed in the hole to collect the milk. The milk was then fed to the baby via a bottle. Doctors of the period said babies should be breastfed by the mother if possible, or a wet nurse of ‘good moral character’. Babies during the 1800s might also be fed unboiled cow’s milk, a sugar and water mix from a bottle, or mixtures of milk and sugar with either bread or flour from vessels called pap boats.

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Glossary: breast feeding

The process of synthesising milk from the breasts, usually a child from its mother.

Glossary: breast reliever

Device to relieve pressure and soreness during breast feeding, originally made of glass later rubber or plastic is employed