Bewildering and Intriguing: 25 Vintage Ads Featuring Babies

Because, as we all know, the earlier you get your kid hooked on soda, the better.

When I get to feeling overwhelmed with motherhood, when I find myself bitching about how hard it is to be a parent, I think about those that came before me.  The mothers.  I think about how much harder they had it and then I pick myself up by my bra straps and get on with the business of getting on.

If you presented one of those moms with a baby wipe warmer they would laugh your pansy ass all the way back to the giant big box retailer you probably bought it from.

Fuggeddabout warm wipes…  Have you ever asked your grandma how she made a bottle or took a walk with her babies?  Baby carrier?  What’s that?  I use my arms, she’d say.  I mean, look at the evolution of the stroller, for example.  At some points in history it was so bulky it was pulled by a small horse, for crying out loud.

The semantics of parenting (diaper changing, bottle feeding, milk pumping, transporting baby)  have been made so much easier, because of the invention of various baby gear items and the betterment of stock items like diapers, bottles and food.  Fortunately, with the advent of the internet (arguably a parent’s best friend and most valuable tool) we can go back and look at old ads featuring baby gear and other parenting-related items and, with the crystal clear vantage point that time automatically affords us, see how far we’ve actually come and realize how lucky we really are to be able to parent in this day and age.

When my mother-in-law described to me the twenty-minute process she used to sterilize a bottle and mix formula I was blown away.  Twenty minutes.  To make a bottle.  Or the way they strapped babies into plastic car seats which were then placed loosely on the car seat.  My mom remembers how every time she took a corner a bit fast she’d have to reach over to steady the baby seat containing my brother she’d jammed into the floor area of the passenger seat.

It was after a conversation with my mother-in-law that I started perusing old advertisements featuring babies and baby products.  Some of the ads will make your jaw drop, maybe because of the belief about parenting implied in the ad, maybe the product itself will send an eyebrow skyward.  Whatever it is, each of the 25 ads you’re about to see are fascinating.

So check it out.  Glimpse what parenting a baby would’ve been like forty, fifty, sixty and even seventy years ago.  Next time you get to feeling overwhelmed by parenting in this decade, remember what it was like for your mom or your grandma and you’ll feel grateful for the knowledge and the tools we, as parents, have at our fingertips.

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  • So Wholesome! 1 of 25
    So Wholesome!
    The 50s was a decade filled with astounding ads featuring babies. This 7up ad is from 1956 and speaks for itself.
    Photo: VintageAdBrowser.com
  • Children Coop 2 of 25
    Children Coop
    This ad for a very early style play pen is from the forties. Luxurious, right? NOT. Your kid just might hatch an egg after a couple weeks in this contraption.
    Photo: VintageAdBrowser.com
  • Sleep Under It 3 of 25
    Sleep Under It
    It's absolutely safe yet gives you a "Luxurious Golden Health Tan". The capitalized letters are theirs. Because every baby needs a golden heath tan, right?
    Photo: VintageAdBrowser.com
  • Smoke ‘Em if you Got ‘Em 4 of 25
    Smoke 'Em if you Got 'Em
    Another jaw-dropping ad from the fifties urging mom to "light up" before scolding baby.
    Photo: VintageAdBrowser.com
  • That’s a Lotta Baby Powder 5 of 25
    That's a Lotta Baby Powder
    This ad is from the earlier part of the 20th century and, in light of this news, made me laugh.
    Photo: VintageAdBrowser.com
  • Cream of Wheat is so Good to Eat 6 of 25
    Cream of Wheat is so Good to Eat
    I grew up on Cream of Wheat. Not sure if it was my first solid food, as they advertise here, but I still love the stuff.
    Photo: VintageAdBrowser.com
  • Buy Encyclopedias if You Want a Normal Child 7 of 25
    Buy Encyclopedias if You Want a Normal Child
    This one cracks me up. "If you want your child to grow up happy, normal and well-adjusted" then these books will "solve your problems".
    Photo: VintageAdBrowser.com
  • I Poured a Death Potion for my Sick Baby! 8 of 25
    I Poured a Death Potion for my Sick Baby!
    This ad from 1938 is, hands down, my favorite one. It's hard to make out what it's for at first. It's the first-hand account of a Long Island woman who got up in the middle of the night to get medicine for her coughing baby but blew a fuse. She couldn't fix the lights and didn't want to wake her husband so she just grabbed baby's medicine. But her hands were shaking so badly she couldn't find the teaspoon and finally, THANK GOD, she found her husband's flashlight containing Eveready batteries. When she flipped on the flashlight she realized she wasn't holding medicine but A BOTTLE OF POISON she apparently kept next to baby's medicine. Thank goodness for Eveready batteries, y'all!
    Photo: VintageAdBrowser.com
  • Oil So Good Your Baby Could Drink It! 9 of 25
    Oil So Good Your Baby Could Drink It!
    Bizarrely, a lot of oil companies featured babies in their ads. It was kind of a trend. This one is one of the weirdest.
    Photo: VintageAdBrowser.com
  • Start Early! 10 of 25
    Start Early!
    This razor-wielding baby terrifies me. That is all.
    Photo: VintageAdBrowser.com
  • Another Freaky Baby 11 of 25
    Another Freaky Baby
    This root-beer guzzling, demanding little fella terrifies me almost as much as the shaving baby. All I'm saying is I wouldn't want to meet either baby in a dark alley.
    Photo: VintageAdBrowser.com
  • When Airlines Actually Wanted You to Bring Your Baby On Board 12 of 25
    When Airlines Actually Wanted You to Bring Your Baby On Board
    The convenience of feeding baby in the skies!
    Photo: VintageAdBrowser.com
  • Nothing Like It on Earth for Traveling with a Baby! 13 of 25
    Nothing Like It on Earth for Traveling with a Baby!
    This American Airlines ad from 1949 got me to giggling. I mean, back then they were urging moms to fly the friendly skies, now they're quarantining parents and babies at the back of the plane, or banning them altogether. Quite frankly, there is nothing on earth I want to do less than traveling on an airline with a baby.
    Photo: VintageAdBrowser.com
  • Hygienic Clothing is a Must 14 of 25
    Hygienic Clothing is a Must
    This ad from 1916 says "your baby should be a healthy, happy growing baby if it has loving care, proper food and comfortable hygienic clothing". Wow. Those ad guys sure had a way with words, no? Buy hygienic, non-nettle white flannels! They are the "least irritating flannels made".
    Photo: VintageAdBrowser.com
  • Photographic Evidence of Success! 15 of 25
    Photographic Evidence of Success!
    This Clapp's baby food company was really big on showcasing, via photos, how their food actually made kids grow! Because look! Johnny is growing! Only because he eats Clapp's! Ad circa late 40s.
    Photo: VintageAdBrowser.com
  • With Vitamins and Minerals! 16 of 25
    With Vitamins and Minerals!
    Another Clapp's ad featuring photographic proof that their food will make your baby grow!
    Photo: VintageAdBrowser.com
  • I Don’t Get It 17 of 25
    I Don't Get It
    This ad is from 1944 and I have looked at it closely and read the text and I still don't get it. I'm not the only one. All I can figure is it's some kind of scientific proof that Mennen Baby Powder is more powerful than other brands.
    Photo: VintageAdBrowser.com
  • Smoking is So Cute! 18 of 25
    Smoking is So Cute!
    Another Marlboro ad from the 50s with baby commenting on how much mom enjoys her cancer sticks.
    Photo: VintageAdBrowser.com
  • Burn Baby, Burn 19 of 25
    Burn Baby, Burn
    Kind of funny to those of us in this day and age who are all flipped out about the dangers of chemicals in sunscreen. Looks like a few of these kids from 1956 could use a really strong SPF, chemicals or no, and not baby oil, which only enhances your burn.
    Photo: VintageAdBrowser.com
  • Alka-Seltzer for Tired Moms? 20 of 25
    Alka-Seltzer for Tired Moms?
    For when you're tired? Feeling sleepy, mom? Pop an alka-seltzer, I guess, according to this ad from the 60s.
    Photo: VintageAdBrowser.com
  • More Shaving Babies 21 of 25
    More Shaving Babies
    What's with all the shaving babies? Don't these people know razors are dangerous?
    Photo: VintageAdBrowser.com
  • Sun Starving: Yet Another Thing for Mom To Worry About 22 of 25
    Sun Starving:  Yet Another Thing for Mom To Worry About
    I love the fear tactics of this one. OMG, mom! If you aren't busy creating early onset skin cancer, you're probably sun-starving your baby!
    Photo: VintageAdBrowser.com
  • How Soon is too Soon? 23 of 25
    How Soon is too Soon?
    It's never too soon to hook your kid on aspartame!
    Photo: VintageAdBrowser.com
  • Beer for Baby 24 of 25
    Beer for Baby
    Could you imagine a beer ad like this running nowadays?
    Photo: VintageAdBrowser.com
  • Stop Thumb Sucking! 25 of 25
    Stop Thumb Sucking!
    Why not just duct tape your kid to his crib? That'll learn him.
    Photo: VintageAdBrowser.com

You can also find Monica Bielanko on her personal blog, The Girl Who.

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