Vintage Baby Bottle Collection

Edit:  BECAUSE images were stolen from this post, they have been removed.  empolo.com has one shelf posted on “images” when you search for vintage baby bottles.  WorthPoint and Little Stuff are other sites that took my photos for their pages.  People on Pinterest have also been using my photos without permission.  Save the lectures about everything on the internet being up for grabs.  Decent people have values, and don’t take things without at LEAST giving credit where credit is due.

I’ve had a vintage  baby bottle collection for several years, and have found out from various sources (eBay, websites for collectors, etc) that there are a lot of us out here !! 🙂   My collection started via the realistic baby doll collection, when I wanted to get a ‘period’ bottle to put with a doll that had an outfit that was from the same time period as when I was born (early 60s), along with a vintage 60s infant seat for a complete display.  I wanted it to be a cohesive ‘set’. So, I found my first one at an antique store in Comfort, TX (near where I lived)… a 4 oz Evenflo glass bottle with the black ring and disc- perfect !  It was the black ring and disc that were the hardest to find, as well as the vertical Evenflo name on one of the sides of the bottle.

Then I started seeing vintage bottles now and then at thrift stores, as well as ‘hospital issue’ newborn nursery type bottles, which was what the doll collection was beginning to look like- a nursery!  The local Salvation Army Thrift Store manager would see things come in and hold them for me (I was in there many times a week- big entertainment in the small Texas town I was living in).  Thus began a bigger effort to find bottles that reminded me of babies I’d known, or times in my life, as well as my original dream of being a hospital nursery or NICU RN (that’s why I went to nursing school…that’s covered in another post).  That grew into wanting to get a bigger representation of how babies were fed over the many, many decades of bottle-feeding.

The next ‘dream’ bottle was one of the old white Playtex nursers with the pull-over nipple.  I’d known many babies who had those, from friend’s siblings, to neighbors, to babies I babysat.  I never thought I’d find one, when low and behold, my Salvation Army ‘dealer’ showed me an entire bag of the white ‘shells’, some caps and retaining rings, and a few of the old nipples.  Nipples are always the biggest issue in getting a complete bottle, as latex deteriorates over time.  First they discolor (not usually a display/collection issue), then they become stiff, harden, and start to crumble… not something I desire in my collection 🙂  I had several complete bottles  (minus the insert bags I could find at the grocery store- those hadn’t changed enough over the years to be an issue).  I later sold two of them via eBay for over $80 to someone who lived about 100 miles from where I got a bag full of them at a thrift store for 8 bucks.  One  was also sent to Switzerland.

Once I discovered eBay (in 2004), it was game on !  I found many more Evenflo bottles (different models), along with old Davol, Storck, Hygeia, Curity, Gerber, Nursematic,  and the various versions of old Playtex bottles of the old brands of ‘home use’ bottles.  I also got some really old hospital nursery bottles from Similac, Enfamil, SMA, Wyeth, and some others I have no clue about, other than some vague assumptions about the general time period they likely came from. A few have the paper labels with the actual dates/expiration dates (1960s).

I’d never had much interest in the bottles from the late 1800s, since getting decent nipples had been nearly impossible.  Well, eBay to the rescue again !  Someone in the UK found some ‘new old stock’ in the basement of an old pharmacy- meaning they were brand new nipples that had been forgotten, and saved in perfect or near perfect condition.  WOW !  I’ve been able to put together complete bottles with those, and have a history of bottle feeding on my shelves ( which are being rearranged to display them in less of a ‘sardine can’ manner). I still have a few of those left if I find a narrow-neck bottle that would be nice to have, and doesn’t have a nipple. Note the aqua box in the second photo- more on that in a minute !

I’ve discovered some interesting information along the way when researching the time period bottles have been from, and even some of the ways bottles were used to advertise anything from formula to diaper services to insurance.  I’ve acquired some odd triangular Evenflo bottles (that the Evenflo company couldn’t pin down the production dates for, though the font is a clue; we agreed that they were likely from the 70s).  I’ve also added some more recent bottles that will one day be vintage- and mine will be in perfect condition 🙂

The bottle in the aqua box is called a ‘banana’ bottle.  They didn’t  have nipples on both ends.  Both ends were open, and one would get a pullover nipple, and the other end was covered by the finger of the person feeding the baby (over a latex ‘barrier’) to adjust any flow rate issues.  Before nipples, pieces of wool, leather, or even wood would be stuffed in the hole at the feeding end, so the flow rate adjustment would be even more critical.  I wonder how many babies ended up choking on those pieces of wool, leather,  or wood.   😦   There were also early nipples that were black rubber- evidently they tasted more like present-day car tires, but were an improvement over risking the babies  inhaling wood, leather,  or wool.  Latex was a huge deal in improving feeding safety. 

I’ve started getting a bit irritated when I see listings on eBay that call something ‘vintage from the 50s’ that I was still using with pediatric patients in 2003.  The Similac (Ross) company used the same basic 4 oz bottle for decades… take off the label, and it’s hard to tell when it’s from- but when someone puts on a nipple from a different bottle that wasn’t on the market until the 90s, and I get a bit huffy.  I don’t like the false advertising.

I keep a list in my head of bottles I would still like to get for my collection.  Dairies used to give bottles with their names on them to families with new babies , back when milk used to be delivered to the door.  I’d love to find one from one of the bigger dairies around here (Muller Pinehurst). I see them on eBay now and then, but for whatever reason, don’t have the money at the time.  I’ve sold several bottles over the years, and am now going through my collection to weed things out a bit.  I’ve decided I don’t need 6 of any one size/shape/brand.  🙂

I’ve learned how the way the bottle is labeled narrows down when it’s from.  Evenflo changed from a vertical block type capital-lettering to a more ‘relaxed’ font with only the ‘E’ being capitalized, being read horizontally sometime in the 70s, and it’s the same font/labeling they use now. The rings and discs have also changed, from black bakelite to opaque black, white, and even brown plastic, to pastel colored plastic, to a translucent white plastic. For my collection, there is no excuse for putting a translucent disc/ring on a vintage Pyrex Evenflo bottle.  They just don’t work as a collectible ‘set’. Fortunately, I can still get the same latex nipples to complete Evenflo bottles I find, though I’m not sure I don’t already have the vast majority of their glass and plastic bottles. I have one of their disposable bottles from the 70s… haven’t been all that interested in those, though a mint-in-box set would be nice !

Hospital nursery bottles started the most recent update in the early 2000s. The last overall change came in the 1950s, when they were labeled with raised glass directly on the bottle (no paper labels), with Similac, ’20’ ( the number of calories per ounce), and the measurement readings . With the most recent update,  first Enfamil went to 3oz glass bottles, and Ross/Simlac went to 2 oz plastic bottles, then Enfamil also went to 2 oz plastic.  Those were the most common brands I’d see when I was working pediatrics (with the occasional ‘float’ to the NICU, with the preemies).  Good Start also was in the mix on drugstore shelves, but the big players were (and are) Enfamil and Similac. SMA and Wyeth bottles (when seen now) are always ‘recent’ vintage- those were basically phased out by the other two sometime by the late 1980s to early 1990s.

I keep spare parts from various brands on hand if I find something I didn’t know I was looking for 😀  There is also some collectible value in having the original packaging for nipples and parts, as well as the bottles- even if empty.

I’ve recently found a complete 8-bottle set from one of the last brands I’ve been looking for for  years: Sears.  It should be ‘in the mail’ any day now, and it’s truly a great ‘find’ for me. I was looking for one bottle, and ended up with a set that includes all but the nipples (Gerber latex nipples are a suitable replacement; not Evenflo). Anyhoo, I’m really looking forward to this latest addition.  I’m sure I’ll do more research on one of the baby bottle history sites, and see others I’m interested in- but that’s half of the fun…. the ‘hunt’ !

I’m sure this seems like an odd collection to many people. But I guess it just goes to show the diversity of interests we all have.  Some folks have shelves of salt and pepper shakers, teddy bears, inkwells, paperweights, ball caps, fishing lures,  and just about anything else you can think of.  This collection of mine came about somewhat by accident.   I’d just wanted that one black ring/disc Evenflo from when I was a newborn, then the one old white Playtex with the pullover nipple that reminded me about babies I’d known when I was young.

In the end, I’ve gained some information about how babies were fed over the many decades once something other than the breast was available. Back in and before the early years of bottle feeding, maternal death in childbirth was a huge issue and the baby had to get fed somehow, so the bottle industry began and literally saved lives.  It’s given me some insight to the struggle and risks associated with newborns and childbirth 100 + years ago that we don’t think much about these days.  It’s turned into more than just a bunch of bottles on a plastic shelving unit.  It’s taken me back in history, and awakened me to social, medical, and childrearing issues I’d never thought about.    Beginning  in the late 1800s (when adequate nipples were first being made), more and more families  didn’t have to face the tragedy of losing a child  by having a safe way to feed their babies.

Edit: As of July 29, 2015, this post has had 866 ‘hits’… most read blog I’ve done.

My Mom Was Complicated

I’m guessing that most mother-daughter relationships are complicated unless the whole family is smoking something funny. This is just my version based on my mom and me.  It was complicated.  She was complicated…

I was adopted as a newborn a few years after she and my dad had two baby boys about 1 1/2 – 2 years apart, who had each died from hyaline membrane disease before they were 2 weeks old.  My dad had to do all of the funeral planning as moms were kept in the hospital for quite a while after C-sections, and then ‘grounded’ at home while they recovered. She never saw the babies at all. She would have been no older than 25 years old when the second baby died.   That does something to a mom.  Regardless of age- but that adds a component to how someone sees life in general. Looking back, I think it was a huge factor in our relationship.  It was broken before it got started.  I firmly believe she wanted me, and sought out the adoption with a near life-or-death urgency.

But then she got me, and was terrified I’d either be taken back, or something would happen. She couldn’t really form the sort of mother-child attachment that a young child needs. For decades I never knew if she even liked me.  I know she loved me in the only ways she knew how- but none of that included anything that showed me that love in a way a little kid needs.  She wasn’t a cuddly, reassuring mom.  She was hurting, and needed comforting that she could never express ‘enough’ to get her own needs met.  She had nothing to give. Nobody was warm and fuzzy back in the early 60s from what I can figure out.  Dad loved her, and they were together for almost 46 years…but he was young too- and nobody figures on two babies dying. Nobody has a guidebook for how to get through that.  They did the best they could.

She ended up going to college to become a teacher, starting with night school when I was three years old. I’d end up being sent to my playroom so she could study.  Now that doesn’t seem like any big deal.  At the time, I thought she wanted me out of the way on a much deeper level.  Later on, I’d hear how her students loved her, and thought she was a wonderful teacher. Some still look back at their second grade year, and call her their favorite teacher ever.  I didn’t get it.  She wasn’t a demonstrative sort, but evidently she communicated something as a teacher .  She told her students about me all the time...I found that out at her visitation after she died.

I remember feeling more like a guinea pig while she was in school as she read books to me that she intended to read to her class.  She’d try out various testing methods on me, and even took me to one of her child psychology classes to be the ‘test subject’ for her professor.  The experiment was supposed to show how a kid will keep doing what they need in order to get a reward (in this case, M & Ms).  I didn’t want to be rude, so I avoided the ‘magic number’ that would send an M & M down a little chute, and make a light go on.  I was six.  And worried about being rude.  I got the whole box of  M & Ms anyway…maybe for being a fluke.

Manners, and the importance of the feelings of others were driven into me from a very young age.  Some of that is fine, but in other ways, I felt like it was my job to ‘make’ mom happy.  Her emotional state was my responsibility.  That is wrong.  NO kid should ever have that saddled on them.  I was also taught never to ask anybody for anything, and as a four year old, I remember dissolving into tears at a neighbor’s home when I’d asked for a piece of paper and a pencil to play tic-tac-toe with the kid who lived there…I felt I’d been horribly rude.

At four and a half years old, I got in trouble because I’d cried when the kindergarten bus came (regular school bus), and I was so cold I hurt.  The bus driver took me back, screaming, to my door, and asked mom to  get me some warmer hats or mittens or whatever.  I’d been dressed well- it was just that cold. It’s not that she hadn’t considered the weather; the weather was just beyond the standard winter gear that year.  And I was a little four and a half year old kid, out in front of the apartment (out of sight of my mom) waiting for the bus. Back then, nobody thought about that being odd.  She got mad at me for making a scene.  But I don’t think she was a ‘bad’ mom…she was just unable to move past the deaths of those babies, and needed me to be OK at all times. She couldn’t put herself in my position, and understand anything from my point of view- yet she was a very successful teacher.  I felt lost in the various ‘jobs’ she had…it seemed that ‘mother’ wasn’t at the top of the list.  At least from my perspective.  But I know she did care deeply about me.  She did love me.  That became very clear as I got older, and saw her from an adult perspective.

Mom couldn’t stand anything that didn’t ‘look’ good.  That was definitely an issue with my weight.  She primed me for my later eating disorders (those weren’t her ‘fault’, but the seeds had been planted that how I looked was much more important than health or self-worth).  I was always being told how overweight I was, and as I look back, I don’t see a fat kid (and I’m super-critical of my appearance now).  In this photo, I’m not fat by a long shot- yet that’s when the restrictions started.

Summer 1969

She had to have me look like my world was completely intact- and it wasn’t.  I needed her.  I needed a mom who let me be me, within set boundaries.  Our shopping trips were legendary for all of the wrong reasons; they were battles. I was to be dressed like a perfect little doll.  I wanted jeans and shorts.  She wanted Marshall Fields & Co.  I wanted K-mart (back before K-mart upgraded in the 80s).  She wanted something that could be pulled from a catalog layout.  I wanted something that looked good in mud.  I wasn’t a frilly kid by a long shot.  I didn’t fit the image she wanted. I was happy with frogs- not tea sets (though I did take my dolls into climbing trees!).  Our wills collided constantly. I felt like my individuality was being crushed (and it was); she just wanted things to look good.

Now, I believe that she was trying to mask her own pain from deep, unresolved  (and understandable) grief. I understand a bit better what it may have been like for her- so the years of being mad are over. I can’t imagine losing two babies, and not having ‘real’ support to grieve (it just wasn’t something that was adequately addressed in the late 50s/early 60s). Now, I just try to make sense of what I need to get from other sources (my faith in God has helped-  and that was the single most important thing she and my dad gave me- being brought up in a solid church).  There were also adults at church  that helped my sense of being an OK kid when I played with their kids.

Mom later developed breast cancer, then pre-cancerous tumors in the other breast, metastatic lung and brain cancers.  She went through the wringer.  The radiation from the brain cancer resulted in dementia that stole her last 10-12 years in a progressive manner.  She didn’t die from cancer when she eventually left this earth 17 years after her last cancer diagnosis (brain tumor).  My dad was amazing with her.  She was something else, and I’ll blog about her dementia at some other time; this is about her and me.  She didn’t complain during her various physical problems. I never heard her whine about the chemo or radiation, or surgeries.  She just did what she had to do.  But she never said what SHE needed.  She was incapable of communicating on that level- whether from me, or TO anyone else.  ‘Needs’ weren’t addressed, or really even allowed. What was supplied was supposed to be ‘right’ and ‘enough’.  NO questions.

I miss the mom I knew before the dementia, even though it was a rickety relationship.  We did love each other.  I couldn’t express MY feelings towards her very well either.  I paid a lot of money for therapy to figure out a bunch of things about myself, and in return, figured out things about important relationships.  I learned that everyone does the best they can (unless they are psychopaths).  They give what they have gotten, and a lot of that was determined by the way things were done at the time, and the ability of important people in their lives to supply those needs.  It’s passed down.  All of those folks did the best they could, too.

In the end, we all have to figure it out for ourselves, and fill in the blanks. We become responsible for what we need, or needed.  At some point, it’s no longer about what mom didn’t do, but what I need to do for myself.  For me, that involves looking to God as the only true constant in my life.  Yes, I need relationships with other people, but no human can supply  what He can.  I also need to forgive humans for what felt ‘wrong’…and look at what they have endured.

My life isn’t always about me.