Historical Baby Information

I’ve come across some interesting historical baby- related advice. And wow, it doesn’t age well! Take a look at this information from hospitals in 1950-1968. And a 1950s baby formula recipe. It’s amazing how things have changed in just a few generations! We’ve learned a lot since that time. Scientifically, we know it’s probably not a good idea to feed a newborn juice in a baby bottle. But historically, parents did it for a good reason. And now, dads can attend their children’s birth, or be around mom when she’s nursing. Plus, I discovered a receipt from a hospital for a baby being delivered in 1950!

I find these types of documents fascinating. This is a peek into what my grandparent’s life was like when they were raising my parents! 

Instructions for Mothers

First we have Instructions for Mothers from a hospital in 1968. This is clearly some sort of official form that hospitals handed out to new moms. It’s even labeled as Form #17. Back at that time, dad wasn’t allowed into the delivery room, or in the room while mom was nursing. 
Often, doctors recommended that parents keep their baby on a strict schedule, like you see here for babies visiting mom at 9-10am 1-2pm, 5:30-6:30pm, and 9-10pm. As far back as the late 1800s, scheduling your baby became common, especially as the factories of the industrial revolution made parents follow schedules.

I love the very specific instructions of not eating green coconut cake. Is blue coconut cake okay? It’s not on the list…

If the green coconut cake looked like this, I definitely wouldn’t want to eat it!

But the food instructions may have been onto something, or may be just as silly as what we do today. Cabbage may reduce breast milk production in mom. Doctors go back and forth on whether babies should be exposed to nuts, and when. Chocolate contains caffeine, which nursing women should limit, and supposedly may give babies diarrhea. 

Baby Formulas in the 1950s and 1960s- Homemade Baby Formula Recipes

What kind of tea do you think doctors recommend? Jasmine? Chamomile?

Babies in my parent’s generation often drank evaporated milk mixed with water and corn syrup (Karo is a specific corn syrup brand) instead of formula! Plus they could have tea, vitamins (whatever that means) at 10 days, and diluted orange juice at three weeks! Turns out babies who were fed formula often got juice because of its Vitamin C content, which prevented scurvy. Babies can probably taste the different flavors at birth… not that we recommend feeding babies these things these days!

This doctor recommends bathing the cord three times a day  and offering boiled water.

I did some digging around this one. Doctors and hospitals gave these standard forms out, with instructions for moms to make their own infant formulas. In the 1950s, as many as half the babies in the US were fed these types of mixtures of evaporated milk, water, and sugar, like corn syrup or honey! 

Today I learned about Mercurochrome, an antiseptic used until the US and other countries banned it in 1998 due to the potential for mercury poisoning. 

There’s even a pink version of this form for girls. 

I can hardly imagine mixing up a big old batch of water, sugar, and evaporated milk, then dividing it into individual bottles! Especially with those weird measurements like 13 ounces of evaporated milk. Pretty sure that’s not a standard size! 

Next, I read into the history of infant formula and it’s fascinating, at least to an engineer like me! When moms couldn’t nurse their babies, at first, they would concoct mixtures of animal milk and other stuff- usually cow’s milk, water, cream, and sugar, or honey. A few companies, like Nestle, also offered commercial infant formulas as early as the 1860s.

A 1915 ad Nestle’s Food infant formula. At first, formulas were recommended instead of cow’s milk, but never instead mom’s milk.

In the 1920s and 1930s, canned evaporated milk started to become widely available, so many moms continued to make their own formula. In 1950, over half of babies in the US were fed on homemade mixtures of evaporated milk!

During this time, the infant formula manufacturers began to play catch-up. By analyzing and understanding the components in breast milk, they were better able to mimic it for their products. 

Chemistry lesson time! Moms made their own baby formula before companies offered mass-produced formula. Breast milk has a lot of lactose (milk sugar, glucose and galactose), which is how a baby gets their easy-to-digest carbohydrates. Today’s formula (and DIY formula from the 50s and 60s) often use corn syrup to get the same amount of carbs into a baby. Now, corn syrup (glucose)  is different than high fructose corn syrup (glucose and fructose). Read more about the sugar chemistry of infant formula here

Hospital Receipt for Baby Delivery in 1950

I love this receipt from a hospital in 1950. $67.90 for an 8 day stay at the hospital. According to an inflation calculator, that’s still only equates to $723.87 in 2019! After insurance, I paid about $3,000 out of pocket in 2019 for my daughter’s birth. Before insurance, it was something like $15,000!


I try to remember that this was the norm when my parents offer baby advice. Look how much things have changed in a few generations!  I wonder what baby care will look like in another 50-70 years and what our grandchildren will think of the instructions we followed. 

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Irene

    Awesome post! It’s really easy to see how different everything is these days with all of the info in one place. Keep up the great posts!

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