Childcare in the Early 20th Century

Image with title, "May Tattoo All Babies!" Caption reads "Mike, a foundling, inset, a footprint of a baby and fingerprint of its mother, which form one of the best present methods of identification."

Prior to discussing best child care practices, it is important that mothers correctly identify their babies before bringing them home from the hospital. Although today, people in hospitals get id bracelets, this wasn’t always the case. This article above, featured in September 15, 1923 Perth Amboy Evening News discusses how a New York Nursery and Child’s Hospital fingerprint the mother and baby immediately after birth. Another method includes tagging babies with name tapes. A pediatric nurse supervisor suggested a more permanent method of tattooing the baby’s name either on the leg or back of the heel. According to the article, mistaken identity is very unusual, nine out of ten mothers correctly identify their babies. Hilariously enough, fathers are more of a lost cause. As mentioned, one could pass off any baby on them, and they would say it was theirs.

Now that that topic has been addressed, it is time to discuss child development.

At the beginning of the 20th century, child psychology emerged with psychologist John B. Watson’s Behavioral School of Psychology. This development prioritized the environment as opposed to relying on maternal instinct when raising a child.

Image of toddler with title "Wa-aa-ah!"

As a result, experts started publishing articles on how mothers can better care for their children. In this article above, featured in June 27, 1919 Perth Amboy Evening News, child care expert of the Children’s Bureau, Mrs. Max West, has written a series of articles on “Hot Weather Health for Baby” and how mothers can learn how to prevent children from crying.

Image with title "First Lesson on Hot Weather Health For Baby-Food."

The first lesson includes ensuring that babies are well fed during the summer months. Mrs. West mentions in the article above, featured in the June 28, 1919 issue of the Perth Amboy Evening News, how milk quickly spoils in warm weather. Also, she discusses the importance of nursing mothers taking care of their health.

Image with second title "Second Lesson on Hot Weather Health for Baby-Soda or Candy for Baby?-Never!"

Mrs. West also mentions the importance of not tempting the baby with sweets, as featured in June 30, 1919 Perth Amboy Evening News.

(Contributed by Kristi Chanda)


Cherry, Kendra. “Pioneering Psychologist John B. Watson And Behavorism.” Verywell Mind,

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