I get such joy from the many wonderful things my grandmother saved during her life, from the rose she carried at her wedding to her letters from a European trip. My latest fun find is a set of doctor’s instructions from my uncle’s infancy in February-May 1945, which provides a fascinating window into state-of-the-art baby care, 1940s-style. Primarily her doctor is instructing her how to mix her own formula using a variety of brand-name supplements. Though the mid-century decline in breastfeeding is usually tied to the introduction of formula in the ’40s, it appears that the proliferation of such supplements also contributed. Though we now know that breast is best, this baby was born when better living through science was the national religion.
You’ll also see instructions for cleaning the baby’s navel, which respond to a different innovation from the ’40s: the introduction of newborn nurseries in hospitals, which increased the risk of cord infections. Judging by the dates, mother and baby were in the hospital for a week post-birth. Though the duration put baby’s belly-button at risk, overall the length of stay is one way in which the ’40s had it right.
Here are some of the highlights. Click on any image to see it full-sized: