23 July 2008

Mothering circa 1938

So while I was at the antique shop with my daughter last week I stumbled upon some old pamphlets. I found two that I just couldn't resist buying. One was written by a doctor in Wisconsin, and mostly concerned mothers postpartum care. The other was written by a doctor in London, and mostly concerned the baby. Both were dated 1938.

The first pamphlet, by the doc in Wisc. is just entitled "Postpartum Instructions." Some of the information was just common sense. I have pulled out the things that made me laugh or gasp! (I put my comments in italics : )
"Now that your baby has been born, you need and deserve a good rest. You may turn onto your stomach 24 hours after delivery and should do so at least 15 mins everyday. (do you think that was to help flatten her stomach?) You may use a backrest for meals by the 3rd day and you may sit in a chair on the tenth." ( You may sit in a chair on the tenth day? How many days did these women stay in the hospital?)

Here's what it says about going home:

3rd week: "Stay in your nightclothes and remain on one floor and be in bed at least half the day. You may get up for meals if you like." (Quite the life of leisure. Did these women have household help?)

4th week: "You may now go to the lower floor, but not more than twice per day." (Have they gone stir crazy yet?)

5th and 6th week: "You may go out and get fresh air and take short walks, but do not drive in a car. Your first drive should be to my office at the end of the 6th week." (It doesn't say do not drive A car, it says do not drive IN a car. Are we to assume women weren't supposed to drive at all?)

"You may take a shower anytime after the twelfth day and a tub bath when your discharges have ceased to be bloody." (TMI! No shower for 12 days?)

I've got to tell you , this first booklet was cracking my daughter and I up at the antique store.

Here's more concerning caring for the baby......didn't find this info quite as funny:

"Now on to care of the baby: "Keep to your schedule-Do not decrease the interval between feedings and do not feed for more than 20 mins. Do not handle your baby anymore than is necessary or let others do so. A baby must cry some and if you pick him up to stop him a habit that may take months to break will be quickly started. Turn the baby occasionally, but avoid picking him up too often. The less the baby is handled and stimulated, the better he will sleep, eat and grow. " (I feel sorry for those babies.)

Now onto the next booklet written by the female doctor in London. It appears there was a series of these pamphlets given out for each month of a child's development. I could only find the one concerning the babies fifth month. I can only imagine what the other pamphlets had to say.

This booklet was entitled "Baby Care, A helpful guide for mothers on the care of Infants, Fifth Month."

The book covers the basics. A lot is very similar to things we do today. I will touch on the things that made me open my mouth and go "wow".

Here is the schedule the booklet says the mother and baby should be following:

6am: Baby's feed. Change him and put him back to bed.

8am: Baby's orange juice. Sun bath for half an hour, if summertime. Mothers breakfast.

9:30am: Wash the baby's face, hands and buttocks and dress him for the day. Baby's Cod Liver Oil.

10am: Cereal feeding. He should then be put outdoors, given his half hour sunbath (unless he had it earlier) and then left in his carriage. Mother may find it convenient to take him for a short walk in the morning.

12noon: Mothers lunch. Offer the baby some water.

1pm: Mothers rest.

2pm: Baby's feed, breast or bottle. Change him and put him outdoors again. During the afternoon he should have another 1/2 hour sunbath.

4pm: Offer the baby some water.

5pm: Undress the baby, leaving on his diaper, and leave him lying on the bed for his daily exercise.

5:30pm: Baby's bath.

6pm: Baby's feed. This may be breast or bottle, or towards the end of the 5th month, a second feed of cereal.

6:30pm: Mothers dinner.

10pm: Change and feed baby, breast or bottle. He should now sleep all night, and if he wakes up, should be only offered water.

Here is some additional info regarding the schedule:

"Baby should be receiving 1 teaspoonful of cod liver oil once or twice a day depending on how much fresh air and sunshine the baby is receiving."

"Cereal should be thinned with milk so that it can be given in the bottle."

On weaning: "If the mother keeps well, there is no reason she should not continue nursing up till the 10th month. Nursing beyond the 10th month is unnecessary and may even be harmful as by that time the natural nursing period has passed and the milk loses it's nutritive value."

And this next part cracked me up:

"Taking baby to the seaside: When the family spends a vacation at the seaside, the mother should avoid taking the baby to the beach. Small babies, bare heads bald and wobbly, bright pink under a scorching sun, eyes screwed tight against the glare of the sand, fretting against flies, grit and heat, must be miserable at the beach. Even when the baby is placed in a bassinette, which is shaded by an umbrella, and covered with mosquito netting, there are still many objections to his being on the beach. He is in the midst of and surrounded by far too many people; he may even be jostled by them, sneezed over, coughed over by them, splashed with salty water dripping off their bodies, sprinkled by sand flung up in their games. He is exposed to too much heat, too much light, and too many germs. No, the beach is no place for the baby."

It must've been hard to be a mother 70 years ago. There were so many rules. How about one rule....ok, maybe two: Love your baby and follow your gut. The stuff about not picking the baby up makes me so sad. The schedule for feeding makes me sad. I can't believe those mothers didn't really want to pick their babies up. I wonder how many actually followed these booklets?

The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.


Stephanie said...

I think we both have similar thoughts about those *rules*
I can't even imagine someone telling me what time to eat and sleep let alone my baby.

All that stuff, poor babies, totally detachment parenting. Why do you think older generations say let them cry, don't pick them up, you'll spoil them etc.


unschoolermom said...

Wow! Was that child-care book written by the Ezzos? Sorry, that was bad. :^(