Posted by: Jennifer | September 12, 2008

Why does bottle = baby?

I live in Toronto so it’s pretty socially acceptable to be a breastfeeder.  However, even in a fairly enlightened city, the almighty bottle reigns supreme.  Everywhere I look, and I mean everywhere, are symbols of bottlefeeding. 

Off the top of my head:

  • Ikea has a bottle warming station in it’s restaurant
  • wrapping paper and cards have bottles all over them
  • the majority of toy dolls come with bottles
  • clothing for newborns like sleepers and onesies often have bottles on them
  • some onesies say things like “I love milk” with a bottle on them and are sold at mainstream stores like the Gap or Old Navy
  • most diaper bags come with areas to store bottles and cans of formula
  • my daughter’s classroom has a poster with first words to read on it and one of the words (with a picture) is baby bottle
  • a picture of a bottle on the door to a nursing room
  • a picture of a bottle to represent any sort of child or parent area
  • children’s books almost always have the mommy feeding the new baby with a bottle
  • common shower games include guessing how many gumballs are in a baby bottle
  • bottles (and formula) are heavily advertised in baby sections of major store fliers
  • TV shows generally show bottle feeding unless mom is crazy in some way (see House, ER, Law and Order)
  • children’s TV shows (Dora the Explorer, Max and Ruby) routinely show bottles
  • the current issue of Time Magazine shows one of the US’ VP candidates, Sarah Palin, in photos with her young son and two of the photos have bottles prominently shown
  • most mainstream parenting websites put bottles on their list of what to get before baby is born

In the span of five minutes, I came up with over 15 examples how bottles represent baby in society.

How, as a society, are we supposed to become more enlightened toward breastfeeding when all we see is a bottle everywhere we look?



  1. Great post! I agree. That is why I try to nurse in public whenever I can to combat some of the “bottle” imagery with some breastfeeding imagery.

    In the case of the nursing room with a bottle on the door, I would probably write to the place and and suggest that they put a picture of a mother nursing on the door instead, unless of course it is a bottle feeding room because bottle feeding in public is not appropriate, whereas breastfeeding moms are welcome to nurse anywhere they want!

  2. Thank-you! I’m the same as you, I try to nurse in public as much as I can. Actually when I think about it, I don’t even have to try – my little guy wants to eat a lot and I need to feed him wherever I may be!

    As for the sign on the door, great idea!

  3. Ah yes, one of my daughter’s first onsies was bought from the hospital’s giftshop as she destroyed the ones I had in with me that day, and it had bottles all over it, I don’t think people even realise, they are so conditioned to accept bottles as normal.

    In Ireland they mostly seem to use a picture of a baby for feeding rooms, because the law protects our right to nurse anywhere they’d probably be afraid to put a “breastfeeding” sign on the door in case women complained that they were being forced to use the room if they wanted to breastfeed.

    Another breastfeeding anywhere mum & baby here!

  4. It’s so true.

    We were on the bus the other day and saw a mama with her tiny baby. They were both decked out in expensive clothes, they had the top of the line stroller, the “right” diaper bag. And then she pulled out a bottle.

    Now I don’t pretend to know her situation, and I certainly don’t blame *her*. It just struck me that our culture equates good parenting with having the right products. If only we invested time and money in quality education, promotion, and support of breastfeeding!

    Then Dr. Newman’s clinic would never close.

  5. Laura,

    I see that often. And I completely agree about our culture equating good parenting with having a lot of products. A lot of people find it really funny that we don’t have any exercausers, swings, playpens, etc. And while my children seem to have a remarkable amount of toys, when I see what other kids have, I’m really astounded.

    I’m really sad about Dr. Newman’s clinic. 😦

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