Bringing Baby Home

babies hospital nurse 1950s

May I make the Introduction, Mother? Vintage ad Anscochrome Film 1959

Here’s Your Hat…Whats Your Hurry?

While the Duchess of Cambridge, like most new Moms today, will get a very un royal speedy exit from the hospital after giving birth to her new little prince, my own mid-century Mom was treated like a Queen with a full 10 day stay in the hospital after giving birth to her own little princess…me.

When I was born in 1955, a hospital stay of at least 10-14 days was a must, although some progressive hospital sent patients home in as little as 7.

 A Womb with a View

baby womb birth

9L) Vintage Illustration Baby in Womb (R) Johnson & Johnson Vintage Ad 1949

The stay in the hospital mirrored  the lengthy time I spent in my mother’s womb.

Apparently I was in no rush to be born.

Just as a giant sigh of relief was heard echoing around the world full of royal baby watchers when Kate Middleton finally went into labor, so my own family could relax when, after my own due date came and went, my mother finally went into labor.

Since I had taken up residency for over 9 months in my mothers womb, I felt entitled to squatter’s rights.  However, by late March my lease was nearly up and option for renewal was out of the question.

A creature of comfort I was unenthusiastic about the prospect of relinquishing the premises and would have been happy to stay put indefinitely. Despite the fact that the cozy quarters had become a bit claustrophobic and there wasn’t much of a view, you just couldn’t beat the amenities.

Regardless of my reluctance to leave, Mom was more than happy to serve an eviction notice on me. Could she possibly get any bigger, she despaired. Dad joked that she was expanding as rapidly as the Russians were over Eastern Europe.

Mom was eagerly priming for my big move.

 Separation Anxiety

vintage illustration nurse feeding baby

“Carnation House Formula used in best Hospitals” Vintage Ad Carnation Milk 1945

 Once I was born my ten-day all-inclusive, all expense paid vacation in St Josephs Hospital was about to begin.

After fluffing up Moms pillows, a lovely nurse, who bore a striking resemblance to Nurse Cherry Ames, dressed in a crisp white uniform, her starched white cap perched on bouncing black curls, would bring me to Mom for my feeding. Wrapped in a sterile blanket,a sterile feeding sheet was  spread over the bed-clothes.

Although we were “housemates” sharing the same body  for over nine months, for the entire ten-day stay in the hospital, we were never roommates-my mother was in her room and I was in the nursery. We wouldn’t be formally introduced for several hours, at which time I could look forward to my very first meal.

After months of ordering in -“womb service”- I was looking forward to my first home cooked meal outside the womb.

Any hopes of latching onto a breast and getting me some bone fide mothers milk were quickly dispelled.

vintage illustration baby

“Babies begin life on Dextrose Sugar” Vintage Ad 1941

My Mom knew that most modern babies “begin life on Dextrose.” Being a typical up-to-date-American baby, my very first mouthful of nourishment was a synthetic, sweetened bottle formula, sipped through a-its-so-life-like-just-like-mother-latex-rubber nipple.

Talk about whetting your appetite for future petroleum-based products.

baby and doctor

Vintage illustration Mennen Oil for Babies 1943

In fact at the tender age of three minutes, I was baptized in a soothing petroleum product. I could look forward to a cornucopia of baby lotions, potions and potables that came from petroleum. These, their producer Shell oil confidently promised, would start your baby on his way to the 57,805 gallons of oil, they reckoned he’d use in a lifetime. (Lots of it from Shell they hoped.)

Breasts For Success?

vintage photo mother and baby

Vintage Ad Carnation Evaporated Milk 1954

While Mom was still groggy from the anesthesia, a bouncy candy striper had handed her a colorful pamphlet (thoughtfully distributed by Carnation Milk) discouraging breast-feeding.

Why nurse baby when there were herds of Carnations contented cows more than willing to offer up their services. Breast feeding might be okay for Elsie the Cow, but not for my post war-mom.

To her surprise Moms roommate, who gently tossed the booklet aside, was quietly breast-feeding. Mom was bewildered. Why live in the dark ages when modern science and medical know how could make feeding so easy.

vintage illustration dr, mother, baby

Vintage Illustration from Ad A&P Evaporated Milk 1948

Doctors did little to encourage breast-feeding and why should they.

Concocted by chemists in a lab, scientific baby formula was marketed as being as complicated as nuclear science and just as precise, so unless you had majored in bio-chemistry and physics, you would require detailed instructions from your doctor. Since formula feedings needed the special skills only he could provide, the pediatrician elevated his position in the mother’s life, and in his bank account.

Bottle-feeding formula became increasingly the norm, the relaxing, modern scientific, way. Feeding at fingertip control.

Better for baby, easier for you.

© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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  1. By coincidence, I was born in late March in another Saint Joseph’s Hospital!

    On the matter of breast feeding vs. bottle feeding, my mother breast fed her four children. She had polio as a child, recovered thanks to the application of steaming towels on her legs and exercises, an approach (controversial) developed by the Australian nurse, Sister Kenny. Apparently Kenny was not accredited as a nurse.

    Regardless of the efficacy of the treatment, my mother became stronger. She became athletic, but especially loved to swim. She gave a lifetime – 60 years!- to Red Cross swimming programs, becoming a bit of a local icon. She was honored in 2004 by having her name given to the bathhouse for the new swimming pool.

    That’s an aside by a proud son! What I meant to note is I always felt that my siblings and I were spared polio because we received the polio antibodies through breast feeding.

    The vaccine didn’t come out until I was in the prime years to catch the disease, but I went through the vaccinations (three) and, later, the Sabin vaccine, taken on a sugar cube, Mary Poppins style!

    I remember a class outing to Saint Joseph’s Hospital when I was still in grade school. For whatever reason, one place they took us tenderlings was to a unit when an old man and a girl out age were confined to iron lungs. Ugh! We were aloowed to ask them questions, which they gamely answered.

    From Kindergarten on, once a year we paid our dimes to the lady who came by for the March of Dimes. For the dime, we go a plastic crutch with dimes on the top. It had a tab on the back. It slipped over a pocket, proof that we participated in the March of Dimes crusade. The tab usually broke off in no time, thanks to curoius kids’ fingers wiggling it back and forth.

    It seems later on, the crutches were made of metal, and there was a fold-over tab that one used to attach it to one’s clothes. I may be wrong on that.


  2. Pingback: First Born Boy With Benefits | Envisioning The American Dream

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