Although "vintage-inspired" baby cribs are all the rage right now, most early baby products should stay where they are: in the past, along with all the old-fashioned child rearing practices that make us as what? why? how?! Products that were once considered "state-of-the-art" back in the day would now be considered primitive and downright unsafe, never making it onto the shelves and into people's homes.
Trust me, these pictures of antique car seats, milk bottles, and rudimentary breast pumps are sure to give you a new appreciation for advancements in product technology (and modern safety requirements). Although no one should ever let their toddler play with a splinter-laden Fisher-Price toy from the 1930s, some of these old contraptions are still fun to gawk at. While many will look familiar to you, others will leave you scratching your heads and wondering how so many of us survived to adulthood.
To be fair, parents haven't always had the resources and scientific know-how that we have available to us today, so we should probably give our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents a pretty big break. I'm sure they did the best they could with what they had, and hey, we're still here.
Ready for a fit of nostalgia? Here are 20 baby products that have come a loooong way over the years.
20 The Original Baby Bottles
Baby bottles were initially made from pewter, tin plate, earthenware and porcelain, with glass bottles gradually becoming popular at the start of the 20th century.
Crazy, right? God help the mother (or child) if they accidentally dropped it! These types of glass bottles were eventually banned as they proved a real breeding ground for bacteria, and in 1924 heat-resistant Pyrex bottles were developed and fitted with rubber teats. Starting in the 1960s, the ring, the body of the feeding bottle and the teat protector began to be manufactured out of polypropylene, allowing the bottle to be decorated with popular cartoon characters or brand logos.
19 Fisher Price Toys
This creepy little bear toy was all the rage back in 1963, but they obviously don't make them like this anymore (and that's a good thing, this looks slightly...hazardous). Founded in 1930 by Herman Fisher, Irving Price, Price's illustrator-artist wife Margaret Evans Price, and Helen Schelle, the name Fisher-Price was established by combining two of the three names.
Fisher-Price’s early toys were made of heavy steel parts and ponderosa pine, which resisted splintering and held up well to heavy use. Their toys were colorful, affordable and an instant success. Obviously they were onto something, because Fisher-Price is still very well-known by parents all across the world, almost 90 years later.
18 Car Seat From 1988
Nope, this isn't a carseat from the 1950s, this sucker was used back in 1988!! Which means children only slightly younger than me were risking their lives every time they got into the car, because this thing looks like it's being held together by tape. Keep in mind that car seat manufacturing and safety testing only became regulated in 1971 and what you see on the shelves today is a culmination of continually improved and advanced testing methods.
When child car seat technology began, car seats were used as restraints for the children instead of safety devices.
Who can drive a car when there's a little one climbing all over the seats, amiright?!
17 Baby Stroller Or Shopping Cart?
No, that's not a shopping cart from Aldi, that's a baby stroller from the 1950s. As vintage as this looks, the first "baby carriages" were actually pulled by animals (no, I'm not even kidding). English architect William Kent invented the baby carriage in 1733, which was nothing but a shell-shaped basket attached to wheels and pulled by a goat or pony. In comparison, this doesn't seem that low-tech anymore, does it? The first reversible buggy was patented by William H. Richardson in 1889 and was designed so that the child could face forward, or toward the person pushing the buggy. This model also allowed the wheels to turn separately, which made the buggy easier to steer.
16 Vintage Breastpump
The first breastpump patent was filed by Orwell H. Needham in 1854 and included rims made of flexible rubber to ease the discomfort normally experienced with the glass edges of conventional breast pumps at the time. In 1874, inventors Robert C. Gray and Charles E. Gassin included a milk collection vial which was removable from the breastshield. In 1908, Joel S. Gilbert invented a breast pump with two bulbs, which served two purposes: milk collection and suction, which was much more convenient. Breastpumps today are literally unrecognizable from their early predecessors, but thank goodness for all the early inventors who paved the way for women everywhere!
15 Baby Walkers
I would have thought that a baby walker was a relatively new development, but I couldn't have been further from the truth. Baby walkers were known as early as the 15th century in Europe and were originally called "go-carts" (seriously).
Early versions included a padded wooden ring, set at the height of the baby's waist, on a pole that was fixed into the floor and ceiling.
The baby was placed inside the ring and able to move in a circle around the pole. Although they were originally intended to help babies learn to walk, many later versions (such as the one pictured above) led to preventable injuries. As a result, parent-assisted baby walkers and exersaucers were developed as safer alternatives.
14 Baby Teether, Circa 1920
This vintage baby teether consists of sterling silver and mother of pearl and was made around 1920. Doesn't exactly look like baby teethers today, does it? As most parents are aware, teething occurs between the ages of five to six months of age, and the process can continue for a year or more. A teething baby may fuss and lose both their sleep and their appetite, but years ago doctors believed that teething was actually responsible for the high rate of infant mortality.
As a result, silver was used for both teethers and rattlers because it was believed to have purifying effects and ward off bad spirits.
13 1950s Baby Bouncer
Baby bouncers (also known as jumpers) originally consisted of a hoop suspended by an elastic strap that infants could exercise and play in. The one pictured above included a tray and a row of moveable wooden balls (exciting), and was designed to bounce slightly when the child planted his or her feet on the ground. I can't imagine that this version kept a baby entertained for long, but I guess it was better than nothing. Nowadays there are many versions of baby bouncers, including the ever-so-popular "jumperoo" by Fisher-Price, which boasts bright toys, music and a 360 degree spin. So were babies back then bored, or are they now just overstimulated?
12 Baby Rattle, Circa 1927
This vintage sterling silver and mother of pearl baby rattle comes from 1927, and as you can see, it looks remarkably similar to the teether. As I said previously, silver was once believed to have mystical properties and bells made of silver were thought to send out a pure sound that repulsed the bad and invited good spirits to draw near. Many of these lavish rattles were fitted with a loop through which a ribbon could be threaded in order to suspend the rattle from the baby’s neck or tie it at their waist. Silver is pretty heavy, so I can imagine a lot of babies got a pretty good bop to the head, but I guess warding off those spirits was worth a few bruises?
11 High Chairs
Baby high chairs have been around since the 18th century, although they have definitely come a long way in terms of design, comfort and functionality. In the mid-1900s baby high chairs evolved with materials such as steel and plastic (in lieu of wood), which led to a revolution in the different styles and designs manufacturers produced.
Nowadays baby high chairs come in all different styles, sizes, designs and price ranges, but before that they were pretty simple items.
Honestly, why does a baby need luxurious, expensive padding just to eat a banana? Maybe the old-timers had it right! The design above is pretty basic, but it definitely serves its purpose.
10 Bath Thermometer, Circa 1930
Although nowadays most parents just test the water with their hands, the practice of checking the bathwater temperature was relatively routine in the 1930s. Don't get me wrong, bath thermometers are still on the market, but they aren't nearly as popular due to modern fixtures that allow us to easily control and maintain water temperature.
In the 1930s parents would often heat up water over the stove, which would then need to be cooled down before it was safe for the baby.
The temperature of the bath water should be just above 100 F to prevent chilling or burning the baby, just in case you were wondering.
9 Playpens In The 60s
Before the safety and convenience of pack n' plays, babies and toddlers were often put in a wooden "play pen" while their mother got things done around the house. I can just imagine a baby getting their arms or legs (or maybe even head) stuck in between those wooden slats, but at least the walls were high enough for children to avoid climbing injuries! Ah, the good old days. Modern playpens are portable and typically consist of a basic metal and plastic support system and mesh sides, but these are what previous generations had to entertain themselves in (including me).
8 Sippy Cups Of The Early 80s
Sippy cups are actually quite a new invention, believe it or not.
Richard Belanger devised the unique spill-proof spout mechanism that characterizes all modern sippy cups back in 1981.
He licensed his patent to Playtex in 1981, and the cup was an overnight success. So what did toddlers before 1981 do during their transition from bottle-feeding or nursing? They spilled drinks all over themselves, obviously. It's hard to believe that people put a man on the moon decades before they came up with sippy cup technology, but thank goodness someone finally got clued in. Richard Belanger needs to be celebrated with a commemorative statue or something.
7 Vintage Diaper Pins
Can you imagine using a diaper pin to hold your baby's diaper together? I can't either, but that's how it used to be. The diaper pin was invented in 1849 and was used for years to secure folded rectangles of linen cloth, cotton flannel, or stockinet (the original cloth diapers). In 1946, a housewife named Marion Donovan invented the "Boater," a waterproof covering for cloth diapers, including the use of plastic snaps that replaced the traditional and dangerous "safety pins." Well, thank goodness for that! In the 1960s, the disposable diaper was introduced and cloth diapers fell out of favor. Starting around the late 80s, cloth diapers started making a comeback due to environmental concerns over disposables (but minus the pins).
6 Before Stride Rite
These Victorian-era high button baby shoes certainly served their purpose, but I can guarantee you that they weren't very functional (or comfortable). Throughout the nineteenth century, periodicals encouraged women to try their hand at creating shoes for their young children, so I guess kids just had to hope and pray that their mom was good at it. Children's increasing participation in sports was an important twentieth-century development for their shoes, and in 1923 the All Star Chuck Taylor Converse rubber shoe was introduced. Keds, which were originally produced by the U. S. Rubber Company, were acquired by Stride Rite in 1979 and now Stride Rite is the go-to place for a baby's first pair of shoes.
5 Pacifier, Circa 1970
Whether you call them a soother, a pinky, a dummy or a pacifier, these things are a freaking lifesaver. Honest, what did people do without them? Before the pacifier that we know today was invented, various objects were used to soothe babies, such as corn cobs, knotted rags dipped in honey or brandy, wooden beads, and teething toys made of bone, ivory, or coral. The first recognizable pacifier was patented in 1901 by Christian W. Meinecke, who called it a “Baby Comforter," and it consisted of a nip made of India rubber and a disc-shaped shield. Eventually latex and silicone replaced the rubber nips and plastic was used for the shields and rings.
4 Vintage Potty Chair
Wow, potty chairs have certainly come a long way, haven't they? Saying that, until the mid-1900s, the vast majority of babies finished toilet training by 2 years, and achieved nighttime dryness by 3 years.
Although we might have fancier and more comfortable potty chairs today, the age for toilet training has increased dramatically (possibly due to the convenience of pull-up diapers).
Maybe we've been too focused on designing potty chairs that sing and less focused on actually potty training our kids in a timely manner. Ouch. Maybe all kids really need is a chair with a bucket in the middle, after all!
3 Gerber Baby Spoons
Nowadays Gerber Graduates offers packs of BPA-free, silicone spoons for infants and toddlers, but that wasn't always the case. In 1960 Gerber started selling its baby food in glass jars, but it wasn't long before other items were introduced, such as pacifiers, baby spoons, baby bottles, and small baby toys. These silver plated Gerber baby spoons were all the rage in the 1950s, and are still being regularly sold on E-bay and Etsy as collector items. The famous Gerber baby embossed on the spoon is Ann Turner Cook, whose image was trademarked in 1931 after her neighbor submitted a charcoal drawing of her at 5-months-old.
2 Eat Up!
Vegetables and liver with bacon? I don't even know what to do with this information, but it's definitely making me sick to my stomach. Can you imagine how this must have smelled? Even so, Gerber has been (and continues to be) the most well-known producer of baby food in the world.
Founded in 1927, Gerber started with five products for the market: beef vegetable soup and strained peas, prunes, carrots, and spinach.
Six months later, Gerber's baby foods were distributed nationwide and they never stopped. As of 2017, Gerber controls 61 percent of the baby food market in the United States.
1 Vintage Baby Tub
I know, I know, this is just a tiny version of an adult tub on a rack, but I'm sure it got the job done. When my daughter was a newborn I remember using a reclining plastic duck bath, but many versions are a lot more advanced than that. Now you can buy ergonomically designed baby bath tubs that have soft, nonslip mesh that feels good against baby's skin and holds them in place (not to mention drain holes to prevent mildew build up). Honestly, some of these baby baths look so comfortable that I wish I could use one myself.