From here to maternity
What do you get the newborn who has everything? MARION McMULLEN looks at some weird, wonderful, and downright dangerous ways of bringing up baby
HOLLYWOOD star George Clooney is getting used to being a first-time dad after he and his wife Amal welcomed twins Ella and Alexander into the world last week.
The little bundles of joy were born in a London hospital and comedian and TV host Ellen DeGeneres was among the first celebrities to congratulate the new parents on social media saying: “Welcome to the world, Ella and Alexander Clooney. Congratulations, George and Amal, or as I’m now calling you, Ocean’s Four.”
The Baby Clooneys are certain to want for nothing growing up and have already had a special delivery of a trolley load of nappies.
But ideas about childcare have certainly changed a lot over the last few decades.
Mothercraft lessons for young girls started to be introduced in Britain at the turn of the last century as the importance of hygiene and nutrition began to be realised. Classes included tips on the best way to feed and bathe babies.
One of the wackiest concepts was the baby cage from the late 1930s. The wire contraption was designed to be attached to the outside of a high tenement block window to allow babies to enjoy some fresh air.
The cages were initially distributed to members of the Chelsea Baby Club who had no gardens and lived at the top of high buildings but, unsurprisingly, the idea never really caught on.
The 1930s also saw Wembley Monarchs ice hockey player Jack Milford launch his own invention... a carrying device to allow his baby to join him and his wife on the ice. It also failed to catch on, maybe because of the numerous health and safety issues it could have sparked.
Nurseries flourished during the Second World War as many were quickly set up with the express purpose of releasing women for war work. And why transport just one baby in a pram when you could carry six? Nannies in 1949 could be seen taking their charges for their daily walk and pushing a speciallybuilt pram big enough for six babies. Thinking big ,though, began even earlier when, to give the children a change of scenery, a matron of the East Ham children’s home devised a supersized pram in 1943. There were not enough nurses to control large numbers of prams so the 12-child pram was constructed.
If you wanted to keep your toddler safe from harm in 1946 then there was the latest baby high chair designed specially so it could not be tipped over from any position. But the pram and bike combination from 1953 looked a little more hazardous.
Some ideas were certainly ahead of their time. Special “pram-only” carriages were introduced at Newcastle Central Station as early as 1952. The child-friendly initiative featured wooden folding seats so parents could sit next to their babies and their prams when they were travelling.
Japanese inventors came up with an unusual sleeping aid for young children in 1963. They marketed a pair of artificial breasts that had a built-in heartbeat. The idea behind the contraption was that the sound of the beating heart would relax babies and send them off to the land of nod.
If your parents really wanted to spoil you then they could splash out on a vintage baby car in 1964.
However, when it came to the latest in wheeled transport, in 1969 families could opt for the new baby tandem. It was the first of its kind and came with a transparent weather shield which formed the side and back windows and was designed to protect baby from the elements.
A pram with a view was still a must-have in the early 1970s when Germany came out with their own version with a window on each side as well as one in the direction of travel.
A ruck sack for baby hit the market in 1974. The sling-type bags were made available in Tesco supermarkets and were designed to take a load of the mind of mothers so they could do their shopping without leaving their babies unattended.
Housewives Shirley Verity and Christine Probert tried out the sling in a North London branch of the store and found just one snag –they couldn’t see what the little rascals were getting up to behind their backs.
Queen Victoria would not have been amused though. The British monarch had nine children with her royal husband Prince Albert, but was not fond of pregnancy or her own offspring. “An ugly baby is a very nasty object – and the prettiest is frightful,” she once insisted.