By Agnes York – Saskatoon, Sask.
Earlier this year, we were blessed with our fourth great-grandchild and went to visit him soon after his arrival home from the hospital. He was three days old and wearing a red sleeper with all the snaps in the right place for changing a diaper, and he wasn’t swaddled tightly in a blanket.
What a difference from when our children were born 50-plus years ago when they wore full length white flannel nighties that were open at the back and closed with ties. These nighties were tucked around their legs and then the baby was snugly wrapped in a flannel receiving blanket.
This continued until the baby was about two to three months old. Also for the first couple of weeks, the baby had a binder placed around the midsection to ensure proper healing of the navel.
Once the babies were out of the nightie stage, boys wore rompers, similar to sleepers but without the legs and snaps, and the baby’s legs were covered with white stockings that were pinned to the cloth diaper. The romper had to be removed in order to change the diaper.
Girls wore little dresses also with the stockings. Remember the “rubber pants” that were slipped over the cloth diaper? Prior to the birth, the nighties, diapers, and binders were all sewn at home out of several yards of white flannel.
Formula now comes ready to mix or is already mixed to be put in bottles, some with disposable liners. Remember when we made formula for babies? First of all, for those of us on the farm, we had to get the milk from the cows and sterilize it by heating it on the wood stove, and water was also boiled to add to the formula. Bottles were sterilized by immersing in boiling water for a few minutes.
The formula was made by combining a certain amount of milk with a certain amount of water along with a spoon or two of corn syrup. As the baby grew the amount of water was decreased until able to tolerate whole milk.
The amount of corn syrup was also adjusted according to the amount needed to keep the baby regular. Once the baby was started on solid food the corn syrup was reduced until it wasn’t required anymore.
Pablum was usually introduced at about six weeks and other pureed solids, which we made ourselves, soon followed. Nowadays the baby isn’t fed solids until the fifth or sixth month and then it comes already prepared in jars from the store.
We washed diapers and baby clothing on a daily basis, most of the time by hand. We didn’t have, or couldn’t afford an abundance of baby clothing and the nighties sometimes needed to be changed a few times a day.
Every second or third day when there was an accumulation of extras such as baby sheets, baby blankets, plus the diapers and nighties, the washing machine was used. The washer was not automatic but one with a wringer and a gas motor to operate it.
Bathing the baby back then was also quite different in that we didn’t have a bathroom with water on tap in an enamel tub where baby can be placed on a little cot-like gizmo which is meant for this purpose.
We had a small oval tub which was placed on the kitchen table and in winter if the room was cool around the edges the table would be pulled close to the kitchen range for added warmth while bathing the baby. Water was dipped into the tub and hot water added from a boiled kettle until it was the right temperature for the baby’s bath.
We carried and held baby wherever we went, we had no car seats and handy carrying units. These days, they have all kinds of educational and exercise inducing equipment right from the start for baby’s mental and physical development. All our babies started out with were rattles and wooden blocks.