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

1701-1800 in Europe

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Tire-lait, cased, 18th century. Full view, glass alongside open case. White background.
Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Tire-lait, cased, 18th century

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.


Nursing & Hospital Furnishings
Object Number:
complete, glass, leather, metal
overall (cup): 96 mm 87 mm, .43kg
overall (case): 105 mm 90 mm,
breast reliever, child care (feeding)
  • furnishing and equipment
  • tools & equipment
On loan from the Wellcome Trust

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