There’s no avoiding it; babies are a lot of work. Parents spend much of a baby's first six months feeding, changing, washing and repeating the cycle. And anything that looks as if it might ease this burden can seem like a lifesaver.
The chances are that it doesn't take long after a woman finds out she's pregnant, that she begins searching the internet for “the best baby monitor” or “the best stroller travel system.”
But be careful.
Once you fall down the rabbit hole into the world of baby equipment, you can begin to feel like you won’t be a good parent unless you have all of the most up-to-date pregnancy, childbirth and childcare gear. This isn’t true. The mom-to-be who talks to her bump from time to time is just as nurturing as the one who buys a specialist baby belly sound system with which to “stimulate” their babies development.
Believe it or not, moms even managed to hear their babies crying before baby monitors were invented and they coped just fine, for the most part, before most of our modern gear was available. To prove the point, here are 20 pregnancy and childcare items parents can buy today along with how our grandmothers would have managed without it.
20 Did You Just Kick Me?
Begin browsing online, and in no time at all, you can discover items like the “Kickbee band” that a pregnant woman wears around her belly. This band uses vibration sensors to detect when the baby moves and then it sends a Tweet to let family members know your little sprout is kicking.
Before such “advances” in technology, an expectant mother had to rely on feeling the baby kick and sharing that information in other ways. Way, way back she would have shared the news of her little athlete in the village or with neighbors when she happened to go out. Later it would have also been by letter and then by telephone.
19 Window To The Womb
Not only did moms in the past have to rely on feeling their baby move and only letting other people close to them know, but they had no reliable way of tracking movement or heartbeat over a period. Until the last century, there was no medical advice about how often your unborn baby should move, nor was there any way of monitoring the heartbeat.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends women check for at least ten kicks, movements or rolls in a two-hour-period during the last trimester, and note any changes in movement trends and moms of our mothers and grandmothers generations relied on their own observations. This would usually require laying somewhere quietly so you could focus and observe those smaller kicks and movements.
Now you can buy pocket Doppler heartbeat monitors which you can connect to your phone and broadcast your baby’s heartbeat to anyone you should wish to on social media. These monitors with their connected apps also give you a place to track movements and your own weight gain, so kind of like a Fitbit for the unborn.
18 Hang In There
Up until recently, if you were out and about with your baby and had to take a bathroom break, your options were limited. Before public bathrooms were common, you’d be entirely out of luck and have to hang on until you got home. When ‘conveniences” started to appear, they were all single stalls so if you had a baby the choices were 1. Hold on until you get home 2. Take your baby in with you and juggle them while you go 3. Leave them outside the door in the stroller or ask a stranger to watch them.
Today we have family washrooms, disabled washrooms big enough to take a stroller and you can even buy a sling with which you can hang your baby on the back of the door. Yes, that’s a thing.
17 Pottying On The Go
Mom may have once had to plan her shopping trips with her bladder in mind, but there were no such considerations for her mini-me. If a child were small enough they would be in diapers if they were out of diapers the trip was either very short or junior would be encouraged to discreetly hide away somewhere and water a neighborhood bush.
Road trips were not a big thing, but on the off chance one happened, a stop at a service station or mom holding a bottle to your body was the only option.
No such problem today. You can purchase a nifty child's travel potty or urinal for the weaker bladdered members of your family.
16 Up Where The Air Is Clear
Way back when, before most families had cars and when moms and dads walked a lot more, kids also walked more. If you went out for the day, it would be by foot, bus, train, coach, or by hiring a car and driver to take you somewhere. Once you got there, the entire family would spend the day laying down the shoe leather, and if your little one became tired, and if they were lucky, dad might pick them up for a piggy-back.
Now we have vehicles, and even the traditional ride on the shoulders has been modernized with piggyback riders.
15 While We’re Talking & Walking
The chances are that buying your first pair of shoes was a significant event for your mom. Taking your baby, who was now more toddler, off to the shoe store to be measured up and kitted out used to be one of the childhood rites of passage, one that would be hotly anticipated and widely spoken about once it occurred.
Shoes were too expensive to buy before they were needed, so you didn’t rush out to buy them as soon as your blossoming walker took their first steps. Instead, you waited until your toddler spent more time on their feet than their butt before splashing out.
Sadly this is no longer such an event. You can buy foot prisons for your baby at any time, even high heels, sandals or flip-flops before they can walk if that's your thing.
14 Say What?
Learning what your baby wants and needs according to their cry is a skill that parents develop gradually, as they and their baby get to know each other but sometimes it is impossible to know what they want.
For millennia moms the world over have listened carefully to their child's cries, started out trying to meet the most likely need and worked down a list from there. There are plenty of occasions that you get to the end of the list, and you have a clean, dry, fed, warm, cuddled baby who is still crying and that is how it has always been.
Up until now.
No need to learn your baby's cries like generations of other mothers before you. Now you can buy a device that claims to interpret those whimpers and tells you if the crier is sleepy, hungry, tired, bored, or just plain grumpy. It is not clear if this also works on other members of the family.
13 Mixing Is Hard
If there had to be a taste of childhood, for many people, it would be chocolate milk. Not only does the chocolatey, creamy, goodness evoke memories of drinking the milk, but for many people it also reminds them of sitting on the kitchen counter, legs swinging over the edge, while mom mixes the cocoa powder into the liquid. Then there would be the tradition of holding the glass high in the air and cranking your head to one side so you could see if there was any powder left unmixed in the bottom. Moms back then must have had killer biceps with all of that stirring.
Now, we drive to the store and buy our milk ready mixed, or purchase a cup that is designed to mix the milk up for you.
12 Constant Amusement
Toilet training was once a simple matter of plonking your child down on a potty and waiting for them to pee or poop. Once they had done so, you’d tell them how clever they were, and maybe, if you were a fancy pants mom, there would be a star chart to put some stickers on.
A potty was almost a handy place to park your child and have them stay there while you did something else, without them getting under your feet. The kiddo in question would stay put, staring around the room and think thoughts.
Now, we have the “iPotty” and similar devices that allow you to mount a tablet or phone on the front of the potty to ensure your child doesn’t get bored while pooping.
11 Did I Feed You Today?
Did you realize there was a time when moms just went with their babies rhythms and didn’t bother tracking how much they ate, slept, and pooped, nor did they record when it happened? Moms would feed the baby when it cried for a feed and hanged the diaper when it felt wet or smelled bad. Sleep would begin to migrate to a night and day pattern which mirrored the setting and the rising of the sun.
Many of our mothers, or maybe grandmothers, adhered to the recommended practice of “training” your child to eat and sleep to a specific timetable which necessitated keep track of what time you fed the baby, so you didn’t ruin things and feed them too early.
We may no longer try to make our little ones to only eat at specific times, but it can be useful to remember when the last feed or nap was. “Luckily”, there are plenty of apps you can purchase that will allow you to religiously record every element of your baby’s day. Just try not to spend so much time on data entry that you miss out on time enjoying your baby.
10 What’s That Noise?
Before the first baby monitor was invented, after the Lindbergh baby kidnapping in 1932, moms would rely on the power of their ears to hear if the baby was crying. This was usually aided by the fact that most houses were so small you were never physically that far from your baby anyway.
The “Radio Nurse” was created in the 1930’s but because it also picked up radio broadcasts it never really became popular, and it wasn’t until the 1990’s that the basic “walkie-talkie” type baby monitor became commercially available and accessible.
Now we have video monitoring with pan and tilt that we can watch wirelessly from anywhere in the world via a smartphone. The problem with this is that you are in danger of becoming hyper-focused on watching your baby’s every breath, and that is a one-way ticket to a life of constant high stress.
9 Toughen Them Up
You may be enamored with those gorgeous little crawling knee pads you saw online but babies have been learning to crawl since time began and up until now we have managed pretty well without protecting their knees while they learn to crawl.
As a baby learns to propel itself on knees and hands, the skin and tissue are very slowly toughened up by a natural process. Before crawling knee pads were promoted as an essential item if you were learning to crawl you did so without the benefit of protection.
In rare cases, perhaps if you had stone or rough tile floors, you might use a pair of tube socks to protect the skin, if it was exposed, but generally speaking, moms used to go with the flow and let those knees take care of themselves.
8 The New “New Baby Smell”
Studies have shown that “new baby smell” is a real phenomenon that causes a woman's brain to release pleasure-inducing chemicals. It is thought that this is nature's way of making you stick with taking care of your newborn when things are tough for you in those first few weeks. Kind of like an energy drink in sniffable form.
Once taps were carrying clean water to our homes a once weekly tin bath in front of the fire was the height of hygiene but having to boil the water in a kettle and fill up the tub was an issue. Dad would get first wash in the clean water and then everyone else would use the same water, with boys first and then girls taking turns in descending age order. If the baby was lucky, they might get a lukewarm splash in the sink.
As baby powder hit the shelves and indoor baths with running hot water hit the bathrooms, we began to associate the new baby smell with the products most frequently used.
7 Getting The Bath Just Right
Depending on where you go for information, the correct temperature for the water in a baby’s bath is between 98.6 degrees and 100 degrees. To ensure you have the perfect balance of not too hot and not too cold you can buy anything from cheap and cheerful stick on the side of the bath thermometers to fancy pants digital floating options made to look like fun animals.
Before the advent of home thermometers moms, the world over-relied on the tried and tested “elbow in the water” option. This technique is exactly what it says on the label. You roll up your sleeve, dunk your elbow in the water and if it hits the Goldilocks point of “not too hot, not too cold, but just right” you have yourself a safe and comfortable baby bath.
6 Time For Solid Foods
Believe it or not, there was a time when there weren’t entire superstore aisles packed to the gills with baby foods. Around thirty years ago you were limited to jars of purees and powdered cereals. Seventy-five years ago there were even fewer options, and most moms made purees themselves by mashing up food with a fork and maybe thinking things out with milk. Go back in time far enough, and you find moms chewing food and passing the puree into their child's mouth.
Now you can buy freshly made purees, jars, cans, and packets, ready-made toddler meals and baby snack galore. You might even want to kit your kitchen out with one of the many baby food making machines that are essentially mini food processors.
5 Squirt For Your Little Squirt
Ancient moms had it easy. With their chewing and passing technique, they had no problems with bowls, jars, and spoons. They would only have to munch up a tasty morsel for their munchkin and either pass it mouth to mouth or share via the fingers.
Not like today when you have to juggle a container and spoon, both of which are like loaded weapons, just waiting to be batted out of your hand by an overexcited baby. Many are the mom who has had to clean food off of the floor, the walls, the furniture, and the ceiling. Luckily you can now find a feeding spoon with a giant bulb at the end. You fill the bulb with food, squeeze the food from the bulb and down a tube, onto the bowl of the spoon and then into your baby. Hmm doesn’t sound any more straightforward to me.
4 Warms Your Heart
Bottle or breast is a new decision for moms to make. Until the invention of safe and reliable baby formula, if you were not going to breastfeed your child, you would employ a wet nurse to do it.
The first ceramic and glass bottles were victims of ignorance. Because it was not understood how bacteria multiplied, these bottles were not kept clean, and the babies that had them often contracted infections, with some of them dying.
Once we worked out the formula and the hygiene we only had the temperature to worry about. Mom would have two options. The first was to make the bottle fresh and cool it down in cold water, checking the temperature by dripping some on the inside of her wrist. Alternatively, if she had a fridge mom could make up several bottles in advance and heat one when she was ready, by boiling the kettle, soaking the bottle and using the wrist check. As you can imagine this was terrific fun, waiting for the bottle to hit the correct temperature while your baby is screaming for a feed.
3 Am I Feeling It?
One of the advantages of having a baby today, instead of in the past, is that we have a much better understanding of what is and what is not healthy for a pregnant mom and a baby. At one stage there were no real restrictions or advice on what you should and should not eat or drink while having a baby on board. On the one hand, it made it easy - nothing to avoid for nine months, on the other you inadvertently risked losing or severely damaging your unborn child through eating or drinking the wrong thing.
Even the safety of breastfeeding has been improved with the knowledge that substances can be carried from mother to baby via breast milk, which is the principle behind “MilkScreen.” This product is dubiously publicized as “like a breathalyzer for your boobs” allowing you to check your breast milk for alcohol after you’ve knocked back a few.
2 The Shusher
Moms have always talked to, sang to, and shushed their babies as a way of soothing them. If you could go anywhere in time and place to visit a mom and baby, no matter when or where you chose, you would find a woman with a child in her arms making noise to calm them.
Even the most basic of parenting tasks is receiving a 21st-century technological makeover, including something as fundamental as “shushing” your baby. Enter the “Baby Shusher” a noise machine that says it mimics the rhythmic sounds of the womb, supposedly triggering your baby’s “natural calming reflex.”
1 Rock On
What have moms been doing throughout the ages while they have been shushing their babies? Rocking them, that’s what. Either in their arms, tied to their bodies, or later, in cribs.
Once we all had cars, it didn’t take long to realize that you could spend hours awake at home with a screaming baby or you could spend hours awake in the car, driving around a baby who is soothed to sleep by the movement.
We have also gone through a number of evolutions of swings, bouncy chairs, and rocking cribs until today a new mom can have a padded egg with multiple app controlled speed and motion options in which to get the little one off to the land of Nod.
References: userinsight.com, slate.com, webmd.com, simplemost.com, frontiersin.org, livescience.com, mayoclinic.org,