Newborn nurseries were established in 1946, though some sources state that small nurseries had existed earlier. The purpose of these nurseries is that there would be an area in the hospital where nurses can take care of all of the new babies.
However, these babies had to be kept away from anywhere else in the hospital, since their immune systems were not developed (and this is why you cannot ever let people kiss your new baby), and had to stay somewhere clean and safe. That is why whenever relatives and friends wanted to see the new babies, they would be allowed to do so by looking through the window. Visiting and showing times were also given to those who wanted to see the newborns.
However, in Canada, newborn nurseries started becoming a thing of the past in the early 1990s. I also believe that in some parts of the US, the same is happening. Newborns that are healthy and had no complications at birth can stay with their mothers. When I had my daughter, she stayed with me. So that means that newborn nurseries really may be a thing of the past in the not too distant future.
I still have very faint memories of when I was 4 years old, in the late 1970s, and my little brother was born. My dad took me to the hospital where he was born to visit my mom in one of the hospital rooms. And I remember looking through the glass window, and the other side was a room that had all of these babies in glass bassinets together and my brother was swaddled up in one of those glass bassinets. I also remember my mother telling me at the time that I was in a room just like that, swaddled up the same way also in a glass bassinet right after I was born. And now, here I am writing about the history of these rooms where newborn babies were grouped together.
So let's check out 15 pictures of newborn nurseries throughout history.
15 The NICU In The Early 1950s
Here is a baby nursery at a hospital in the early 1950s, or the NICU, as it was called. You can see right here how the nurses were treating the preemies, and all the preemies had to immediately be kept in incubators, being monitored carefully by nurses, like you see happening right here. This was mostly used to administer large amounts of oxygen to preemies in order to help their lungs develop as well as to keep them warm and clean.
However, by the end of the 1950s, it was discovered that there was a tie to blindness and heavy oxygen therapy. Too much oxygen caused retinopathy which led to blindness. An example of this happening was the fact that Stevie Wonder was born at 34 weeks in 1950, and that is why he is blind. This treatment ended up stopping by then and they had found that premature babies were doing well on smaller amounts of oxygen without it leading to blindness. Thankfully, technology has come a long way because this kind of issue rarely happens nowadays with other amazing types of therapy around to treat preemies.
14 Another Nursery In The 1950s
This baby nursery was at the Saint Joseph Hospital in Burbank, California in the 1950s. It is not known when in the 1950s this picture was taken, but you can see how much things have changed. The style of the bassinets was most definitely different, and very likely unsafe by today's standards. These babies were receiving plenty of great care from these nurses who made sure that they wore masks at all times.
It is hard to know how large this nursery really is since this picture was taken in one section, however, my impression is that this nursery was small and was probably meant for babies that were born without complications or who have improved if they were born with complications or if they were premature. There are no incubators seen in this area. It is a strange thought to think that one of your parents (or even grandparents) was in a setting just like this!
13 Two Nurses With A Newborn In 1955
Right over here you can see that there are 2 nurses with a baby at the Toronto East General and Orthopaedic Hospital. This picture was taken in 1955. They were weighing the newborn. If you take a look towards the right, you can see through the window that there is another nurse feeding a baby, along with another nurse by her side.
I don't live very far from this area, and this particular hospital is quite large. Especially now with the fact that there have been so many renovations that have taken place over the last several decades. But you can see here that this hospital was even quite large in the 1950s. This particular nursery looks quite big and I have heard that it is one of the best hospitals in the Toronto area. It still has an excellent reputation. There is absolutely no doubt that these newborns received great care at this hospital.
12 The Baby Boom That Happened In The Late 1940s
This was the time not long after WWII had ended, and all of the soldiers who were fortunate to make it out alive returned home and started have many intimate moments with their wives. This took place right before baby nurseries were established and became a real thing because a baby boom was starting to happen as a result of very happy couples being reunited again after those dark years of those brave men fighting the enemies.
This baby nursey here is at an American hospital in the late 1940s, and you can see how crowded it is there with these booming babies. You see a nurse looking after these babies, that were a result of ecstatic couples being incredibly grateful to see one another again after being away from each other for a long time. It is strange to know that these babies that you are seeing in this picture right here and now are their senior years. Time flies so fast.
11 A Nurse Lifting The Lid Off An Incubator In 1948
This baby nursery is for premature babies, and this picture was taken back in 1948 - 70 years ago! - during the time of the baby boom at a hospital in Michigan. You can see in the background that a nurse is lifting the lid of the incubator to feed one of the babies, and you can see how far incubators today have come, compared to those that were used decades ago.
Preemies that were born in the 1940s and 1950s rarely survived if they were under 3 lbs, and premature babies that were born under 2 lbs and 3 oz were not saved because, at that time, they simply couldn't be saved at all. However, there was one incredible story of a man who was born sometime in the 1940s. His name was Jeff Tanksley. He was very premature and weighed only twenty-six and a half ounces! He not only survived, but he became a firefighter in California!
10 Dad Proudly Looking At His Baby Through The Window In 1960
Now that we have looked at the baby nurseries from the 1940s and 1950s, here is a picture of one in the 1960s. In fact, the year that this was shot was in 1960. This particular nursery was at a hospital in Houston, Texas. This picture was taken at a showing time when anyone could take a look at those babies inside of the nursery.
This particular picture is heartwarming on so many levels. This was a dad who was looking so proudly at his baby through the window of the nursery. The nurse there was holding up his son or daughter for him to look at. It looks like he is crying in this picture because that creation of his was such a miracle, as it always is. The nurse on his right is smiling, and you can see that the nursery was starting to appear a little more modern than the ones from years before. What a proud papa he appears to be!
9 'Babies Are Shown At This Window' In 1960
That proud papa that was looking at his baby through the window of the baby nursery in 1960 was an example of how these showing times worked back in those days. This picture is of the same one at that Houston hospital, in the same year - 1960. People were not allowed to just walk into the nursery - even if they were the parents! The nurse would always bring the babies out to the parents. They certainly had to do that for moms who were breastfeeding, and back in those days, babies without birth complications were not sent home as quickly as they are today after they are born. Moms stayed at the hospital for longer periods.
However, you can see right here that in order for anyone to see any individual baby in the nursery, they had to be present during one of the showing times listed! Now that is not something you hear of today!
8 An NICU In 1967
Here is a NICU at a hospital in America in 1967. You cannot compare the appearance of the incubators here to those that you saw in the pictures from over 15 years earlier. In fact, why not take a look at these incubators here, and compare them to the ones you can see from 1948.
Neonatal care started to advance quite a bit from the early 60's, where it was more common for babies born at 24 weeks to later to survive. However, babies born that early usually ended up with problems later on in life. I have a friend who was born at 7 months in the 1960s and she has mild cerebral palsy but is fine otherwise. Her eyesight was not affected, other than her now dealing with the common effects of deterioration due to age. That said, preemies were treated successfully with less oxygen back then. If Stevie Wonder had been born a decade later, his eyesight would have likely been intact.
7 A Baby Nursery In 1969
This particular baby nursery was at the hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in 1969. This picture was taken through the glass window of the nursery. The style of the bassinets is quite different here as this hospital did not use those typical glass bassinets that were around since the 1940s. At this point, maternal care and infant care were becoming more advanced. Mothers were still staying for a good week at the maternity ward even after having a delivery without any complications. Nurses still brought babies out from the nurseries to breastfeeding moms, as well as to parents who wanted to bond with their babies.
You can see at the very far left that there is a picture of an incubator as well in this particular nursery. Babies were still kept very close to one another and were constantly monitored by the nurses. Nurseries still looked very similar in the 70's and 80's as well, and we will be taking a look at some of those too!
6 Taking Care Of Newborns In The Early 1970's
When you take a look at this picture of this particular newborn nursery, you see that it is starting to appear a little more modern than the ones in the previous pictures. This particular picture was taken sometime in the early 1970s. The nurse is taking care of one of those babies in there.
However, it is interesting to see the style of the area as it really does have that classic 1970's look. Still, the style of the bassinets has pretty much stayed the same. Also, many medical practices were starting to improve when it came to obstetrics. I know of someone who was born in 1973 at 34 weeks. She told me that she stayed in an incubator for several weeks and went back home in less than a month with no problems. I would imagine that babies that were born prematurely in the 1960s needed more care than that.
5 Babies Live In Color In 1978
This picture is starting to look even more modern than the others listed previously, and this was taken at a newborn nursery at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta in 1978 - exactly 40 years ago. Not only is this particular picture in color (though color pictures were around long before the 1970s), but the style of the blankets is beginning to look more modern.
In the past, it seemed that the only style of blankets used was a single color one, usually a stark white or a light color, and some rare ones may have had stripes or patterns. However, over here, these blankets have designs of animals which you most definitely see a lot of today.
However, aside from that, this was the year that the first IVF baby was born. So that being said, advancements in infertility and obstetrics were really starting to peak in the late 1970s. It is also very hard to believe that the first individual conceived by IVF will be turning 40 this year.
4 Another Look At Nurseries In The Mid-To-Late 1970s
Here is another colored picture of a newborn nursery in the mid to late 1970s. And it is actually pretty funny to look at this because I was born in the mid-1970s (yes I am old, I know), and I cannot for the life of me remember where my baby book is as it was probably misplaced somewhere while moving several years ago, however, my mother attached a picture of the nursery where I was at right after I was born. It looked almost exactly like this.
When you take a look at this picture, you can now really see how the styles of the newborn nurseries have changed since they were first established. But some aspects of the bassinet styles, for the most part, have stayed constant, with the exception of the hospitals that used bassinets made out of a different material obviously. We are about to take a peek at the nurseries in the 1980s.
3 Sleeping Newborns In June 1980
This picture is a little strange, as it is not in color like some of the pictures were in the 1970s. However, this is a picture of a newborn nursery in 1980. In fact, this particular picture was taken at a nursery at the Natrona County Memorial Hospital, which is now the Wyoming Medical Center in June of 1980.
Apparently, it was noted that 154 babies were born in that month alone in that hospital as there was another baby boom in the early 1980s. I have to say I was not aware of there being such a baby boom. But the 80's were certainly a memorable time for so many other reasons, which include it being the era of the best music around as well as the decade that plenty of good movies came out.
2 Nurse Changing A Newborn In 1985
Again, it is strange to see that this picture was taken in black and white given the fact that this took place in 1985 when colored pictures were the norm. However, this picture right here is of a nurse changing a newborn at the nursery at Montfort Hospital in Ottawa in 1985. This is also a really good hospital from what I have heard, as it is a teaching hospital affiliated with the University of Ottawa.
However, if you look at the style of this nursery, this one is pictured in 1985, you can really start to notice the differences, even when compared to the picture of the nursery taken in the early 1970s, and especially when compared to the nurseries from the 1940s and 1950s. The blankets used to swaddle the babies appear to look more like the blankets that are used today, instead of the plain white blankets or those with patterns that were used decades before. I could not find a nursery picture from the 1990s, but the next one is a lot more recent.
1 A Baby Nursery In 2006
This particular picture of this nursery was taken only 12 years ago, and nurseries that are still around today really don't look a heck of a lot different than they did back in the early and mid-2000s (and probably in the 1990s as well). Therefore, this picture is probably not nearly as fascinating as the ones listed above because it was not all that long ago.
However, I decided to add this picture to this article for several reasons. One reason is that even though 2006 was only 12 years ago, it is still a year of the past; that counts as history. More importantly, I added this picture because I want you to compare this one to the pictures from the 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's and 80's. You will most definitely be amazed at how different pretty much everything looks. The style of the bassinets is dramatically different.
Since nurseries may be a thing of the past very soon, this picture will most definitely be quite fascinating to look at in a few decades.
Sources: Rd.com, Dailytelegraph.com, Wyomingmedicalcenter.org, Smithsonianmag.com