by Gabrielle MacLellan The items used to care for infants have changed along with how babies are raised and cared for.
The baby carriage was invented in 1733 by William Kent, this carriage was a basket shaped like a shell and attached to wheels. The first baby carriage was low to the ground so a goat or pony could pull it. More designs followed in the following years. The models were made out of wicker or wood and had expensive metal parts, they were called perambulators or pram. Lighter strollers or buggies became available in the 1970’s and the pram and heavy carriages became less popular.
The baby bottle has come a long way as what and how babies has also changed. In the late 1700’s it was common for infants to be fed pap, a thin mixture of bread and liquid that was boiled into a pulpy texture. It was almost impossible to get the pap feeders clean, so the infants fed this way were exposed to harmful bacteria. It became clear around 1800 that glass was better for baby bottles, however more artificially fed babies died young than naturally fed babies. It was insisted by medical writers that human milk was better for infants than animal milk. Chemists in the second half of the 1800’s began to join doctors in the effort to modify cows’ milk to make it more like human milk which is sweeter and has more nutrients. By 1918 a wide variety of prepared infant foods were available in drug stores. These formulas are mixed at home with clean water and bottles. Through this long process of adapting infant formula has come a long way.
Baby walkers are seen in various different works of art from the 14th and 15th centuries. Medical writer Ferrarius recommended them in the 16th century to training a baby to walk. The style of baby walker most familiar is a round or square frame on wheels. A common name for these walkers was ‘go-cart’ the name common now, baby walker, was first recorded in America in the 19th century. In April 2004 Health Canada banned baby walkers in Canada. Between 1990 and 2002 data from sixteen Canadian hospitals showed that 1900 infants ranging from five to fourteen months suffered baby walker related injuries. These injuries included falling down stairs in the walker, flipping over, and crashing into a hot stove or heater. Due to this ban parents can not sell used walkers and retailers are not allowed to advertise of carry them. If caught, fines can be issued up to $100,000 or six months jail time can be served. The Dufferin Historical Museum has many baby items from long ago. Our collection includes baby carriages, walkers, and bottles.