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What was it like, when you were a mother to a small baby?

(87 Posts)
Newishmum Wed 26-Sep-18 11:02:56

Bit of a clumsy title, sorry!

My grandmother died when I was little. Apparently we are very similar in many ways, and I wish I had known her as an adult. She was born in a cottage with no electricity or running water, and she had her children in the 40s and 50s. I know that's going back a little too far for many of you grin but I've put my two month old baby down for a nap, and was musing over my coffee - just wondering how it was, how she would have coped. I use cloth nappies, and as we've a large garden with steps up to the washing line, it's been a tricky process wrangling the baby, the basket and the nappies! I imagine that hasn't changed much (except I have a washing machine) but I doubt she would have sat down with a latte afterwards!

I was pushing DD through the village for her morning walk earlier, and she was all cosy in her little knitted hat and blanket, and I just felt so proud of her. My granny was a wonderful knitter, and won prizes for her jumpers, so no doubt she would have knitted her own little baby clothes-I'm rubbish at it so DD's woolly blankets are begged, borrowed or bought, but she looked like my dad in some of his baby photos, and that made me think of my grandmother too. What did she put her babies in? A big pram, a moses basket? Little things like that

I suppose having my baby has just made me feel so connected to all the women in my family, and those who have gone before me- we've all been up at nights with a crying baby, we've all held them and counted their little eyelashes and loved them. I suppose I'd just like to hear some stories of what it was like, being a mother in different decades and through different generations.... Sorry for the odd request!

annsixty Wed 26-Sep-18 11:42:53

Congratulations on your baby. You sound like a good and connected mum.

I dont think you will get many answers to your query as I dont think many people will go back that far.
I am one of the older GN's and I had my first baby in 1965.
It wasn't so different really then I had a washing machine but it had a wringer and it did take a long time, terry nappies as you said and no baby wipes.
we didnt work so no rush to get back and life seemed leisurely.
Not many women had cars then so we walked everywhere with our big coachbuilt prams. They were marvellous and baby went down to sleep in the garden between feeds and would sleep for 2/3 hours.
We never seemed so in thrall to our babies as some young mums do today.
They fitted into our lives, we didnt alter them to play second fiddle.
My H expected to come home to a meal on the table and a tidy house.
One thing that has certainly changed for the better is that dads play a much bigger part in their childrens lives today, my H never changed a nappy or even fed a child.

annodomini Wed 26-Sep-18 12:05:41

In 1971, living in a rented cottage in Devon, DS1 was born on a lovely April day. I had 6 days in hospital and needed daily iron injections for a few weeks, but my parents were there to help us. DS was a perfect baby although he wasn't very demanding; the midwife thought he was 'failing to thrive' and recommended supplementing breast milk with formula. That wise child refused the formula so I put him on a strict regime and heard no more about failure to thrive! I had a big Silver Cross pram which was a bit awkward on the narrow pavements of our village, especially when big lorries came through! I was often stopped and asked, 'What's her name?' He was a very good-looking baby! DH had a job in a school in Exeter and kept school hours, so was usually home at a sensible time. We would pile the pram, complete with baby, into the back of our Morris Traveller and take a trip to the seaside, to walk along the prom at Torquay. We all thrived during those early months! DS had one imperfection - he hated being driven and this was only solved when he was 17 and could drive himself!

goldengirl Wed 26-Sep-18 12:18:05

I enjoyed my children who were born in the 70s but it was hard work as my parents lived 200 miles away and I had no grandparents to help. DH was on a research grant which came up for renewal on a regular basis - a nail biting time - and so we didn't have lots of new stuff. In fact I made a lot of the children's clothes and sold some in various sales. I also made birthday cakes for them and knitted toys and didn't mind purchasing nearly new toys etc from various sales and charity shops. I had a network of friends with similar aged children and we went out for picnics in the park and developed a rota for looking after each other's offspring [2 on duty at a time - never on one's own] so we could have some 'me' time. Our shopping centre area was car free so it was safe for the children to run around and although tiring as DH worked long hours, it was a very happy time too.

Willow500 Wed 26-Sep-18 13:24:17

Congratulations on your new baby. I think every generation's experience of motherhood is different. Certainly mine was 'easier' than my grandmother's and my mum's. When my first baby was born in '71 we were so young - my husband was still an apprentice earning £4 a week so we struggled for a long time. He had to leave me at the maternity hospital doors both times I was in labour and was told to ring at lunchtime - he went to work. We have no photos of our newborns - we had no camera. We also had no car, no phone, no tv, no central heating in the grotty flat we first lived in, sharing a bathroom with another tenant. My pram was one of the new types which lifted off the wheels in turquoise blue. I always wanted a coach pram but had nowhere to keep one. I did knit quite a lot in those days and also made my maternity dresses then several pairs of trousers both for me and my sons. When we bought our first 2 up 2 down terraced house thanks to the £200 deposit my in-laws gave us we thought we were kings. Terry nappies soaking in buckets of Napisan and a wringer washing machine although I did get my mum's old twin tub which was such a blessing. I did work - waiting on tables in hotels during the summer and helping at my in-laws guest house for £2 a week which just paid for the groceries bought from the shop over the road. And yet in all that time we never felt sorry for ourselves - even when my husband carried a sewing machine all the way from his mum's which must have been 2 miles or went to work with plastic bags on his feet as his shoes had holes in them. It was just life and we got on with it.

SueDonim Wed 26-Sep-18 13:27:01

I loved having new babies. I had babies in the 70's, 80's and 90's so things changed a bit over that time! Terry nappies and ice-cold-in-winter nappy buckets. Bbeautiful, impractical prams, little choice of nursery equipment, handwash-only baby clothes, no car seats, small choice of foods, early weaning for my first babies.

Disposable nappies, travel systems, car seats, better baby foods, cute, machine-washable baby clothes, baby wipes, fitted cots sheets etc for my later babies.

We didn't have family around but my Dh has rarely worked a 9-5 job so I was lucky he was able to be around a fair bit in our dc's early years.

From what my mum told me, when she was a baby, in the 20's, you were surrounded by wider family so raising a child was more of a joint effort and much less isolating than nowadays.

Though you could also have been like my poor father - both of his parents were dead by the time he was 11yo. sad

TwiceAsNice Wed 26-Sep-18 13:27:54

I had my first baby in 1975. I spent 10 days in hospital as it was normal to stay 7 days anyway and I was admitted from ante natal clinic with high blood pressure. I breast fed and she wouldn't tale a bottle at all anyway but I had plenty of milk and was lucky to find breast feeding easy. It was the norm then to start a bit of mix d feeding at 3 months so she had a bit of baby porridge and some fruit and veg purée I cooked myself. I had a washing machine and used terry nappies. I had a big silver cross pram and we went for long walks or caught the bus into the nearest town I didn't pass my driving test until she was 2. I kept her in white until she was 1 ( God knows how when I look back) and my grandmother knitted her cardigans and pram blankets. I knitted for her also the same Nan had taught me how. I made some friends from the same area but we moved house when my second child was born in 1980 and it was a new estate so masses of women all having children at the same time and I am still in touch with many of them still.

My grandmother only had one child, my mother . My mother had 2 . My grandmother never worked outside the home and played a big part in my upbringing as my mother did go back to work full time quite soon after my brother was born. I hope you can find a nice new mums network for yourself, I found that invaluable.

DoraMarr Wed 26-Sep-18 14:06:48

I can relate to this- I often wonder how my great grandmother managed, in a terraced house in Shad Thames, with nine children, including one set of twins and one of triplets. Her husband was a docker, so his income was unreliable, and he was a drinker too. I knew two of my great uncles when I was growing up, and one went into local politics and was Mayor of Stepney. My grandfather left school at 14 to work as a stable lad looking after the dray horses for a brewery. I wonder how my great grandmother would have managed all the washing for three babies at a time as well as the other children, and how she eked out her housekeeping, and how she delivered the babies before the NHS was established. It must have been very hard.

Grandma70s Wed 26-Sep-18 14:19:18

I had my babies in the early 70s. I stayed at home with them and loved almost every minute. We did have a washing machine, and there were nappy liners that helped with the Terry nappies. We had nappy buckets with Napisan (?) to soak them before they were washed. My husband joined in with everything. I had no time for fathers who expected to be waited on. Even my father (born 1907) had changed the occasional nappy when I was a baby! He never cooked, though, until my mother became disabled and he had to. My husband could cook as well as I could, or better.

My time with babies seemed so much more relaxed then my DIL’s was, all that worry about childcare all the time. I and OH were the childcare, so it was simple. I used to love taking them for walks in the big pram, where they were were facing me so I could talk to them. The back of a car is not as good!

callgirl1 Wed 26-Sep-18 16:33:53

I had my babies between 1963 and 1971. When the first 2 were born, in hospital, in `63 and `65, we were living in an old rented cottage that used to be a blacksmiths, so there were hooks everywhere from the ceilings. We had no hot water, and a shared outside toilet, no washing machine, so half the washing was taken to the launderette by bus, the rest I washed by hand and pegged on the line, which meant up and down cellar steps to get outside. Terry nappies of course, we purchased a Baby Burco boiler for the nappies, but managed to burn it out! I had a secondhand Silver Cross coach built pram, like new because it had never been outside. My auntie gave us her old cot. Family allowance was only for 2nd child and any after, so none for first baby. The weekly baby clinic was almost a mile away, held in the village working men`s club, so there was always a pong of beer in the air. After weighing, we`d buy concentrated orange juice and rose hip syrup, I didn`t buy baby milk for ages, as I breast fed. When my first went onto the bottle I used Nestles condensed milk, there was a table on the label for mixing for babies. By the time baby 3 arrived in 1967, we were in a brand new house, nearer to shops and everything else needed. She was born in hospital because the powers that be decided I needed a blood transfusion before the birth...…….I still haven`t had it! Babies 4 and 5 were born at home in 1969 and 1971, a much better experience to be heartily recommended. A new pram was purchased for baby 4 which did for 5 as well, before being donated to the local home for unmarried mothers. After baby 5 I decided to be sterilised, I was still only 27, or who knows how many more I would have had!

JenniferEccles Wed 26-Sep-18 16:36:14

I had my first two in the 70s. We were living in our first home which was a 3 bed mid terraced property on a brand new housing estate. It was a lovely first home as we were all young married couples buying our first homes and having our babies at about the same time.

I didn't work which of course was quite common in those days. I quickly made friends on the estate and we baby sat for each other for the occasional night out.

My parents bought my pram, a large Silver Cross which I was very proud of! I also had a carry cot on wheels which fitted in the car.

Nappies as you can imagine were a daily battle. Disposable ones were just coming out but they weren't very good so I used terry ones, washed in a Burco boiler. I bought good quality ones (on advice) and they did for all of my children, although by the time my last baby was born, disposable nappies had improved enormously so I used those more and more.

I walked everywhere as we only had one car then. I walked to the little local supermarket most days, and the shopping fitted on the pram tray underneath.

Money was tight as we had more than one mortgage. We had noticed how property prices were shooting up where we lived in the Home Counties, so we took a chance and bought a second property to rent out, as an investment for the future.

Happy days. I look back on that time with much fondness.

Auntieflo Wed 26-Sep-18 17:38:08

Gosh, I was beginning to feel really ancient, as my first two were born in 1963 and 1966, at home looked after by the very strict, visiting midwife. We lived in a two bedroomed bungalow, a long way from my parents, and when I left work, I was terribly homesick. Our third was born in 1975. Terry nappies for all three, and we had a gas heated, boiler type machine for washing, with a wringer/mangle on top. I had lovely white nappies, but it was quite a business filling and emptying it. We also had a Fridigidaire spin dryer, which was very efficient. The babies slept in their Marmet pram, in the garden, in all weathers, protected by a cat net, and hood and apron. I well remember the Napisan soaking bucket, not nice. We walked to town and back a couple of times a week, no car until our second child was nearly three. The pram was useful for ferrying the shopping, and the second child could sit on a board across the end of the pram when tired.
We had moved to our present house when DS 2 was born, and as I was considered an older mum at 33, he was born in hospital. By this time we had an automatic washing machine. I tried breast feeding all three, the boys were not impressed, but DD was much more amenable. I used to liquidise dinners for them, put them in little glass jars, and freeze them, as they were nicer than bought baby food. They all survived. I also look back with fond memories, especially as I was a stay at home mum for all three, although at the time I may not have always been looking at life so rosily. DH was not a hands on dad, but our two sons are great with their children and grandchildren.

Anniebach Wed 26-Sep-18 17:57:07

Our first baby born 1969, she was born in the night and because my husband was on night duty out in the wilds of Wales I was allowed to stay on the labour bed with my baby for just over an hour waiting for my husband to get back to the hospital, it was the most. wonderful hour of my life , just the two of us. We stayed in 10 days. 1970 our second daughter was born, different hospital, she was taken to the nursery shortly after birth, stayed in 36 hours. Bought a washing machine after second birth, single tub hoover . Brest fed our first daughter, couldn’t for second daughter she was rushed to hospital when 3 days old. Didn’t go out to work, husband was very hands on with nappy changing, bathing . Loved those years .

Greyduster Wed 26-Sep-18 18:14:29

We were living in the Far East when my first child was born, firstly in a bungalow and then in a large apartment. I, and all other service families, had domestic help, but the one thing I would not let my ahma do was wash terry nappies. I soaked them in Napisan and washed them myself because it was such a horrible job I didn’t want to give it to anyone else. We had no washing machine. It threatened to become an issue between us (she thought I didn’t trust her and threatened to leave - we had tears!) so I conceded defeat, and had to accept that she made a better job of it than I did! She made a better job of everything than I did and adored my son. My second child was born in an American military hospital and on leaving we were issued with packs of disposable nappies, which I had never seen but thought were a wonderful help. I saved them for when we were travelling and used shaped terry nappies the rest of the time because DH could never get the hang of folding nappies! We stocked up via our American neighbours before we came back to England, where they were still not widely available. I used them sparingly! I had a Silver Cross pram which detached from the frame for DS, but because of the difficulties of shipping it, we didn’t bring it home with us. DD had a rather basic carrycot on wheels which was the only thing that would fit into the back seat of our small car! She has seen photos since and thinks she was rather hard done by! Compared to what her own son had when he was born, she was!

Hellomonty Wed 26-Sep-18 19:55:11

I’ve really enjoyed reading all of these. Thank you.

sodapop Wed 26-Sep-18 21:25:34

I had my first child in 1968 and was in hospital for 10 days. When my second was born in 1974 it was just a couple of days. How things change.
We had a big coach built pram as well and walked for miles with our friends and their babies as we couldn't afford to do much else.
I had to have a consent form signed by my husband before I could be sterilised. There was no requirement for him to have my consent if he wanted a vasectomy.

Beau Wed 26-Sep-18 21:42:50

My DD was born in 1975 and I was in hospital for 10 days - 3 days in a maternity home to try to get my BP down then to hospital to be induced as it didn't work then back to the maternity home as that was where I was booked in. I remember the nurse carrying the baby in the rickety old ambulance between the two places. Then home to no washing machine, no car, no central heating - getting coal in at 5 am to try to get the lounge up to 16 degrees to bring the baby in there when she woke up (her room had a thermostatically controlled mothercare electric heater on all night). That was a rented bungalow - we were a tiny bit warmer when we bought a house the following year but still no central heating - gas cylinder heaters - inconvenient but not as bad as breaking up huge lumps of coal every morning.
Terry nappies in cold buckets of Napisan, hand washed every morning, frozen solid on the washing line in the winter. That's my main memory, the cold and the difficulties of getting washing dry in the winter. Now I look after DGS full time and everything is just easy peasy and convenient - it's a different world and a million times more pleasant.

DoraMarr Wed 26-Sep-18 22:41:46

I was born in 1949, and my first brother four years later, with four more children culminating in my youngest brother who was born when I was 20. I remember the Napisan bucket under the sink, no central heating, and fetching in the washing in the winter, frozen stiff, and hanging it on a wooden clothes horse around the coal fire. I also remember my siblings sitting in a foldable metal chair hooked over the back of the back seat of the car, with one of my siblings squeezed on the front bench seat, and some of us in the back of the estate car. No seatbelts. I think mothers were more keen on getting their children potty trained earlier- most children seemed to be trained by two, although this sometimes meant sitting them for long periods on a potty. Washing nappies and drying them was a bind.

paddyann Wed 26-Sep-18 23:13:51

My first was born in 76 ,she only lived 4 days ,Baby 2 arrived 16 months later on her due date,she was jaundiced so we spent a whole week in hospital.I was back at my desk the next day with her in her pram by my side.Self employed so there was no option,dont work dont eat! She came to work with me until she started nursery at three and a half and she was and is the most sociable person .We would leave work an hour before her dad so we had time to get her organised and a meal made .She loved to help in the kitchen and could make simple things before she was 4.Baked potatoesin the microwave or toasties .When she was 6 one of our staff asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up."I'll be your boss" she said ...and she was .My son was born 10 years after his sister and his life more or less mirrored hers although he spent his first 10 weeks in special care .My kids came everywhere with us,to parties,in a carrycot,to restaurants to concerts classical and pop.We are the closest family I know .They are now 40 and 30 and spend their holidays together with their families and speak to each other most days .I wouldn't change how we did things despite some people thinking we had it wrong and I should have given up work .It suited our life and they were very happy children .

pinkprincess Wed 26-Sep-18 23:16:51

My first baby was born in 1969 second and last in 1972. Both boys born by emergency caesarean section under general anaesthetic. I never saw either of them until they were 2 days old which was ''normal'' then you did not question it. No immediate skin to skin in theatre like now. My second baby was introduced to me in the arms of a very young nursery nurse who said ''Here is a present for you'' smiled and left. I am ashamed to say I cannot remember much of seeing my first baby as I was very ill at the time.
We stayed in hospital 12 days, but came home more or less back on my feet with all stitches out vertical wound both times.
Both bottle fed as I was considered to be poorly to breast feed.
My first was born nearly three weeks late, no paternity leave in those days, my DH had booked two weeks holiday around the time of the expected date, but as I was in hospital for nearly all that time he had to return to work the day after I came home.
I had very little help from family, my mother was working full time and my MIL would come to just cuddle the baby then find an excuse to go. I managed though.
When my second son was born DH was in merchant navy and did not return until baby was two months old.
I had a Marmet medium size pram bought new with my maternity grant cost £28 it was lovely pram and lasted for the two of them, my sister gave me her toddler seat when second was born so he could sit onto of it.We had no car and walked miles with that pram.I once carried a vacuum cleaner on it, fastened across the lower end with baby sitting at the hood end, also rolls of wallpaper on the tray by the wheels. This pram was still in perfect condition the I parted with it.
Both babies wore terry nappies, washed everyday, a nightmare to dry in the winter. No baby wipes, I used a damp facecloth, which was only used for washing their bottoms after I had first cleaned them with damp cotton wool, then applied zinc and castor oil cream.I put used nappies in a plastic bag if outside the house to take home to wash.
We were encouraged to start solid food at 3 months, I fed mine with tinned Heinz baby foods and Ready Brek for breakfast which they loved.Both were drinking boiled normal milk from 6 months.
I knitted most of their jackets and hats etc when they were tiny.Ready made little coats and hats were deemed to be extravagant.As soon as you announced you were pregnant everyone started knitting.
As a previous poster said we were not so much in thrall of our babies then. We loved them very much but they were not allowed to rule our lives.As soon as the baby was fed washed and dressed each morning you put them down in pram or cot to sleep in the early days and got on with washing and housework.When they got a bit older they were put in a playpen or sat in a baby chair with toys.It was safe to leave a pram outside the house then and they would sleep in the garden in fine weather.
One of my great grandmothers had seven children born between 1890 and 1902.They were all born and brought up in a tiny three bedroomed terrace house.My grandfather told me she would put the baby in a large wooden cradle with rockers in the bedroom.She had a hole drilled in the floor beneath the cradle and would attach a thick string on the bar between the rockers head it through the hole in the floor which was directly above the living room ceiling where it could be seen hanging. If the baby was heard crying and she was busy with something she would pull on the string to set the cradle rocking until she could go and tend to the baby.
I am now a great grandmother myself and have seen many changes across the generations in baby care. My two great grandsons have been in a nursery since they were small babies as my granddaughter went back to work as soon as possible, something I did not do until my younger son was two years old.

Beau Thu 27-Sep-18 06:55:38

pinkprincess you have reminded me with your mention of prices - my basic Maclaren baby buggy was £9.50 and a godsend for going on the bus - inflation was so bad in the 70's though, my daughter's toy Maclaren buggy was £9.50 just a couple of years later 😕

Situpstraight1 Thu 27-Sep-18 08:14:43

Well I was born in the fifties and my Mum told me all about it and how she was raised in the 1920s, why not ask your Mum?

Humbertbear Thu 27-Sep-18 08:22:15

I had my children in the early 70s when I was in my 20s. The biggest difference I have noticed is that mums today have money to go out and meet whether for coffee or lunch. Back in the 70s we used to meet in each other’s houses - cottage pie was often the menu - or it would be a coffee morning. There were no decent disposal nappies and when we went to stay with my husbands family I would bring home a bucket with a sealed lid full of dirty nappies! I think we were all a bit more relaxed. I would hand my babies over to my mother and leave her to do what ever she wanted. As a Gran I have always been given lists of times instructions and dos and donts.
I went back to work when my first child was 18 months old and People were quite shocked. I had to find a new post as maternity leave was unheard of in those days.

jeanie99 Thu 27-Sep-18 09:21:18

When I look back to when my first son was born in 1962 it brings back memories of a very hard time in my life.
We rented a room in a large house, it was where we slept did the washing and lived life. The women of the house restricted my use of water.This resulted in me washing my son first and then having to wash his cloths and nappies in the same bath water. We shared the kitchen with the owner and quite often she would stand over me checking what I was doing it was terrible. They didn't allow us keys to the room either and when we were out we knew they came in because things were moved. I also worked part time because although my husband worked we had little money. We had this for a couple of years before a council flat became available. Oh the pure luxury of having my own kitchen with hot and cold water and a bath room. You have no idea what joy this brought us.
It was a very different world in the 1960s I had to lie at interview saying I didn't have a child otherwise I wouldn't have got the job.

NannyG123 Thu 27-Sep-18 10:42:38

My children were born in the 70s, and disposable nappies were just coming out. But I remember some towelling nappies were in a triangle shape,I tried them but they were harder to put on than the normal towelling nappies. Also remember being able to leave baby outside local shop whilst I went in and did some shopping. You wouldn't dream of doing that now.