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.

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  3. sdaven5191

    I never could figure out how bottle feeding could be likened to being “easier” than nursing, from a standpoint of effort, and cost. It made no sense to me, and having been a Boomer Baby myself, born in late February of 1957, it made little sense to my mother either.
    There were so many things to buy right off the bat to bottle feed ~ all the bottles (heavy, breakable glass back then), the caps, discs and the rubber nipples, which required frequent replacement from wear and tear of use, boiling, and general break down of the rubber; the sterilizer, whether it was a big pot with bottle racks to use on the stove, or the fancy electric kind that sat on the counter taking up space, and needing to be plugged into the nearest wall outlet. Then there was the dedicated pot to mix the formula in, and never use for cooking anything else, measuring cups and spoons, the pitcher, the funnel to get the formula in the bottles without spilling. The bottle and nipple brushes needed to keep those items absolutely surgically clean everytime they needed washing, which was usually daily, and washed first in the hottest water your hands could stand, and rinsed in scalding hot water. Plus, there was either the evaporated (not condensed) canned milk, or all the extra regular whole milk, and whatever sweetening ingredient was being used that year ~ Karo syrup was a favorite from what I understand.
    Then, you had to learn the “magic formula” for the formula you were to dedicate quite a bit of time every day, or every other day, depending on how many bottles you had available for filling, to concocting. Cow’s milk in its purest form was perfectly fine for feeding baby cows, but for baby humans required quite a bit of alteration to make it digestable for our delicate digestive systems. Colic became a frequent topic of discussion amongst the many mothers of the day, over the morning coffee breaks, the afternoon over-the-fence conversations, or whenever two or more moms got together in any situation, from which breast fed babies rarely suffered.
    Of course the routine for all this “easier living” was prescribed by a male pediatrician (in 99% of cases, not recognizing the 1 out of 100 or so who happened to be female) who never had to deal with any of it, and who was happily ensconced in his office practice 10 hours of every day leaving his wife and a hired nurse or three to deal with it in his own home.
    My own mom, having been nursed herself by her own mother in the mid-thirties, knew that it was not financially prudent to invest all those heaps of money in all those piles of equipment, when she already came fully and completely equipped to handle the job from day one. Nursing bras being the only real investment required, and since bras were already required for every grown woman anyway, it was a great excuse to buy a few new ones! And at less of an investment than all that bottle feeding stuff. A family friend, who happened to be a nurse, offered up her services for after our return home and was also “nursing friendly” at a time when it was not popular. My mom also decided that since she would not have the excuse handy of handing me off to anyone else to feed with a bottle, it was going to be a great excuse to use when there were things requested of her time that she really didn’t want to do! “So sorry, ” she would say, expressing regret, “that’s when I have to feed the baby. And since we’re not using bottles, I do have to take care of that myself!” Voila! Mission accomplished. No bottles to purchase, wash, sterilize, fill with concocted formulas, or wait on while the baby screamed for nourishment and the bottle had to be warmed. She was always ready, no waiting, no warming, no purchasing or danger of running out of, especially in her case. She said she always had plenty and more for two kids! I did not ever have colic fits, issues with not thriving, and grew up ahead of all the charts’ predictions, no matter where they said I should be at any given month; or ever throw my formula back up after feeding, no stained baby clothes, because the sugars in the formulas would and did stain baby clothes, and mother’s blouses and dresses as well, if not thoroughly washed out before drying. And that is still true, even today. The pile of “spit up” rags and cloths always seemed to be nearby when any baby was being bottle fed.
    There were just infinite benefits to nursing that the milk, formula and chemical companies would never mention, and could never beat! Was it any wonder that my three siblings, who came along 8, 9 and 11 years later, were also breast babies? Or that the two very healthy, happy babies of my own were fed the same way?
    I watched younger moms than myself ~ I was 22 and 24 when our babies came along in ’79 and ’81 ~ struggle with the costs and inconveniences of formulas and bottles and colic and multiple ear infections, which have been linked to giving your child his/her bottle to hold and self-feed while lying flat. We never had issues with any of it. My first, our daughter, never even spit up after feeding, and rarely required burping. Our son, who came along after his sister, weighed 10 pounds, was 22 1/2″ long, and both born without “benefit” of drugs either, and he was popping his head up from the delivery room baby bed to look around the room! He was also a very enthusiastic nurser and enjoyed setting his own schedule at about every 2 1/2 to 3 hours to enjoy a meal! His sister had been a little more laid back about the whole thing, but still grew an inch and gained a pound every month for many months. He, on the other hand, was in a bigger hurry, and was 14# 11oz at 2 months! All on mother’s milk. And now our daughter has followed my lead and then some, delivering four of the first five with midwives, at home in a birthing tub, and has nursed all five, and will be starting number six the same way in the next few weeks!
    No formulas in our house, and I think under the circumstances, I would have been like your mother’s room mate in the hospital. Formula easier? Easier for whom?

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