The ever changing times of baby care
If we are to believe it, today’s young mums spend all their spare time, when not looking after their offspring, either meeting friends in the coffee or wine bar, at the gym or having their hair or nails done! According to television programmes anyway.
How times have changed from the seventies when I was a young mum when our socialising was often a visit to the local baby clinic, and we had no means of communication with our friends other than landline telephones. No texting, Skyping or Facebook. How did we manage?
Of course, I don’t begrudge them the lives they lead. I’m sure that the insecurities we faced then are just as relevant today. It’s just that looking back we realise just how limited our lives were.
Having a baby on Christmas Day was not a good idea. Not only was the hospital bulging at the seams with visitors and children running around, but the atmosphere of goodwill to all men wasn’t really felt by me when I was taken down to the operating theatre mid-morning.
The two jolly porters were holding sprigs of mistletoe ready to accost any unsuspecting nurse as she walked past them, and there was a surgeon getting ready to perform a Caesarean operation who was most probably not very happy at being called out on Christmas morning.
But all ended well, and I became the proud mother of a beautiful baby girl.
Antenatal care then was at best fairly primitive. Visits to the antenatal clinic clutching a bottle of urine included being prodded and poked often quite painfully by a doctor who didn’t welcome questions. Once you were admitted to hospital, often to be induced as that seemed to be quite common, then you were given a hot bath, and enema and what amounted to a full Brazilian!
Exercise classes for couples was in its infancy and men still didn’t really relish the idea of being present at the birth.
Even today 14 per cent choose not to. Prince William chose to stay away as did chef Gordon Ramsay who said publicly that he thought his sex life would suffer had he witnessed his wife in that situation.
It was a throwback to Victorian times when many couples, even though they may have had umpteen children, had never seen each other naked! And anyway, childbirth, like childcare generally, was thought to be women’s work.
Certainly, during the 1950s and earlier it was thought that the labour ward wasn’t the place for men. The common picture of the prospective new father was pacing up and down in the waiting room ready to hand the cigars out.
After you’d had your baby and were faced with staying at least 10 days in hospital, you were subject to the rules and regulations of the nursing staff. All who I’m sure meant well.
Breast was considered best during the 1970s with a regimented four hour feeding routine. Although you might consider breastfeeding the natural thing to do, you could feel very inadequate if it didn’t happen straight away for you and at a time when you were very emotional anyway it was very upsetting to be made to feel selfish. Over the years since, fashions in feeding have come and gone but no longer are young mums made to feel almost criminal if they can’t feed their baby themselves.
One thing that was very different was the fact that everything for the baby from nappies to baby toiletries were provided for you in hospital in those days.
Once home, you found that your life had changed for ever! The 70s were a time when men were starting to play more of an active role in childcare, unlike their father’s day when they did nothing. Being in a permanent state of exhaustion, it was wonderful to get some support.
Your mother was, of course invaluable, even though you weren’t altogether happy with some of her well-meaning advice. Like leaving baby to cry so that it would expand her lungs, potty-training right from birth or dipping the dummy in whiskey!
Nappies were very much different from those today. Disposable nappies were not in common use although available, and so we used terry towelling squares which were soaked in a bucket of Napisan solution. It smelt dreadful and was definitely not a part of childcare that your husband had any part in.
However, once washed, there was nothing quite like a line of fresh white nappies blowing in the wind on the washing line. They could also be used for subsequent babies, so were quite cost effective.
My pride and joy was my Silver Cross coach-built pram. It was wonderful to push even though it took up most of the space in the hall.
When I had my second child, I acquired a little pram seat so that I could take them both out together. There was a tray underneath for your shopping.
Once we graduated to a pushchair, the fashionable ones at that time were baby buggies. Collapsible, and could be hooked onto your arm.
Light years from the running buggies’ of today where you can combine fitness with taking baby out for some fresh air.
And how I would have loved taking my baby out in a sling which were not available then.
In much later years when we had grandchildren and were faced with the intricacies of the modern pushchairs, we realised that things had certainly moved on, and today you really do need a degree in Mechanical Engineering to open them.
But generally, I suppose baby care has become much simpler, and if that means that young mothers can meet their friends in the wine bar, good luck to them, I say!!