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

Harefield Gazette - - Past Times -

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.

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