Healthy babies are usually able to stay in the mother’s room if they had a normal birth — but you won’t believe how newborns were cared for back in the 1960s.

News | 3 years ago

Baby, Times Have Changed: Guide for Newborn Mothers Unearthed from 1968

Healthy babies are usually able to stay in the mother’s room if they had a normal birth — but you won’t believe how newborns were cared for back in the 1960s.

If you were to take a time machine back to 1968, you might not be that surprised to find that Lyndon B. Johnson was president or that NASA was deep in a space race to get to the moon. However, if you were to visit a hospital that year to observe a maternity ward, you would probably be taken aback at how different things were then versus now for new parents.

From the fact that fathers weren’t allowed when new moms were breastfeeding, to the guidelines about smoking in your room, to the rules about a popular delicacy known as green coconut cake, almost everything has changed since the ‘60s.

At least that’s what one woman found after her mother was going through a box of old things and came across hospital maternity guidelines for Cabarrus Memorial Hospital, (now Atrium Health’s Carolinas HealthCare System NorthEast) dated October 1968 – the year when her mother gave birth. She posted the guidelines on Facebook, and they have since been shared over 8,000 times.

Here’s a look at how things have changed, then versus now, and contemporary hospital guidelines from Atrium Health Levine Children's Suzanne L. Smith, MS, RD, LDN, IBCLC, a neonatal dietician and lactation consultant who has been in practice for nearly 20 years.

Baby Visiting Hours

Then: Babies were on “display” in the nursery at set times, from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m., and 7 to 7:45 p.m. Parents and visitors weren’t allowed to ask to see the babies at any other time.

Now: “In today’s society we target keeping families together,” says Suzanne. Instead of a strict viewing schedule, babies are usually allowed to stay in the room with the parents instead of in a nursery. There are exceptions if your baby is in the NICU, of course. But otherwise, you grew your baby for nine months and they are allowed to stay by your side pretty much 24/7.

Nursing Around the Clock

Then: Baby was brought to the mother at specific times throughout the day to nurse, from 9 to 10 a.m., 1 to 2 p.m., 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. and 9 to 10 p.m.

Now: Babies nurse on-demand. “If there were set times, we would be missing those cues to feed,” explains Suzanne. “We don’t put a time limit or time restraint on when an infant is allowed to nurse.” The idea is that nursing is a skill that takes time and patience for mom and baby. Plus, newborns need to eat every two to three hours — including overnight! Research shows that lots of physical contact is emotionally valuable for mom and baby, too.

The Forbidden Father

Then: In the 1960s, fathers had only just recently been allowed into the delivery room. But things were so formal back then they were still required to leave the room when their wives were breastfeeding.  

Now: How outdated! Now, anyone can be in the room with the mother, anytime. “As long as she is comfortable,” says Suzanne.

Dietary Restrictions

Then: New moms weren’t allowed to eat chocolate candy, raw apples, cabbage, nuts, strawberries, cherries, onions, or "green coconut cake."

Now: While some of these guidelines made sense back then — cabbage has a laxative effect and chocolate contains caffeine — hospitals today aren’t nearly as restrictive. “We don’t tell moms to stay away from anything, except maybe spicy food in the case the infant is reacting,” says Suzanne.

As for the green coconut cake, that remains a mystery as to what it is and why it was on the list in the first place. But whether it’s a popular dessert your family used to make or it just happens to be your favorite now, you can enjoy it without fear, she says.

The Smoking Scene

Then: The party line was: Don’t smoke while your baby is in the room. This one evokes images of the Mad Men-era when new dads or dads-to-be would sit around the hospital smoking. It's unthinkable today!

Now: This guideline was actually pretty smart, says Suzanne. “Not smoking around your baby is the guideline today,” she says. Of course, hospitals are virtually all smoke-free zones now, so smoking on hospital facility campuses is out of the question — whether or not your newborn is around!