There is no finer investment for any community than putting milk into babies.

 

WINSTON CHURCHILL (1874-1965)

Babies

Weight for weight, a four-month-old baby needs three times more energy than a 30-year-old.

DAVE BARRY

If you were to open up a baby's head - and I am not suggesting for a moment that you should - you would find nothing but an enormous drool gland.

 

Baby Cages


In the 1930s families living in small flats could save space by keeping their babies in baby cages outside the window. These were popular enough for Eleanor Roosevelt to order one for her daughter. Hers was made of chicken wire and she hung it from a rear window of her house in New York. According to one biography, a neighbour threatened to report the Roosevelts to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Eleanor recalled that 'this was rather a shock to me, for I thought I was being a very modern mother.'
 
Baby cages weren’t widely used in England but we know that twelve were constructed in Poplar High Street in the 1930s, and that they continued to be used until the Blitz. A survey of London written at the time tells how 'they were looking south so that a child could be put out in the open air to get the sunshine.'
 
In the 1940s, inventor B.F. Skinner came up with the 'Air-Crib' (also humorously called the 'heir-conditioner') - a temperature and humidity controlled box with a clear glass screen in which you could leave a baby to sleep. The baby stayed there without nappies or blankets and you could change the mattress whenever needed. Skinner’s daughter Deborah was kept in one for the first two and a half years of her life. Years later Lauren Slater wrote Opening Skinner's Box: Great Psychological Experiments in the 20th Century in which she said Deborah was psychologically damaged by the invention. Deborah replied in an article in the Guardian, saying her childhood was fine and that Slater had failed to interview her directly.
 
 

Foreign Babies


French and German babies have French and German accents. Researchers studied the cries of 60 healthy babies born to families speaking German and French. They found that babies begin to pick up the nuances of their parents’ accents in the womb. Dr Wermke, the study leader from the University of Würzburg, said that babies imitate their mother to attract her and to foster bonding: 'The French group preferentially produced cries with a rising melody contour, whereas the German group preferentially produced falling contours.'
 
Melody contour is not the only aspect of a mother’s speech that a baby can copy at such a young age. Infants can also match vowel sounds made by adult speakers – but only from the age of 12 weeks, after developing the necessary physical vocal control.
 
Five-month-old babies prefer people speaking their own language and dislike foreign accents; when shown videos of two speakers they stared longest at people speaking their mother tongue.

A baby's cheeks have tastebuds which adults lack.  This is why young children like to pack their mouths with food.

Babies in Boxes


The longest-running attraction at Coney Island was the ‘Institute of Infant Incubation’. From 1903-40, visitors paid 25 cents each to view rows of premature babies in incubators. It was deemed a great success (the fees paid for the nurses, and 80% of the exhibits survived) and it only closed because the City Hospital opened a premature baby unit which took all the business. People (mostly women) would visit repeatedly to follow the progress of a particular baby; one regular visited once a week for the whole 37 years.
 
Incubators for premature babies were invented around 1880 in France and were an immediate success: the death rate of babies with a birth weight of less than 2kg fell from 66% to 38%. To publicise their work the Paris hospital sent six incubators to the 1896 Berlin exposition. The doctor in charge borrowed premature babies from a nearby Berlin hospital to add realism. The exhibition, ‘Kinderbrunstalt’ or ‘Child Hatchery’ was a great success, and all six babies survived. The exhibit went on tour, though in England no one would entrust their babies to a French invention, so premature babies had to be imported from France.

Modern incubators can cost $40,000 and are difficult to maintain in developing countries. A team from MIT has designed the 'NeoNurture', which looks like a modern incubator from the outside but uses only standard car parts to run: headlights for warmth, dashboard fans for ventilation, and run off a motorcycle battery. These parts, and the expertise to fix them, are readily available in third world countries.

CHRIS BLISS

I felt like a man trapped in a woman's body. Then I was born.

The Afrikaans for a baby's dummy is fopspeen, which literally means 'spoof-nipple'.

Prams


Pram technology made a big breakthrough in 1850, when the first pram that you pushed rather than pulled was produced. This meant that you could watch the baby as you walked, so there was less risk of it falling out.

Prams had three wheels at this time, as there was a rule against taking four-wheeled vehicles on the pavement.