Historian and author Janet Golden talks about her book, Babies Made Us Modern, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Golden chronicles the transformation of parenting in first half of the 20th century. It's a fascinating story of how our knowledge of infant health and behavior grew dramatically but remains imperfect. At the same time, government, business, and private organizations responded to that imperfect knowledge.
United States


00:00:04welcome to Aecon talk part of a library of economics and liberty I'm your host Russ Roberts at Stanford university's Hoover Institution our website is econ talk dot org for you can subscribe comment on this podcast and find links and other information related to today's conversation also find our
00:00:21archives we listen to every episode we've ever done going back to two thousand and seven our email addresses male econ talk dot org we'd love to hear from today is may seventeenth twenty eighteen and my guest is historian and author Janet golden she is a professor of history
00:00:40at Rutgers University where she specializes in history of medicine history childhood women's history and American social history her latest book which is the topic of today's conversation as babies made us modern how infants brought Americans into the twentieth century welcome to come talk thank you this box of
00:01:02really %HESITATION fasting portrait of of a piece of American social history which of course many of us are aware of in general outline we know that the way we treat babies and the way they treat us has changed over the last hundred years but your book really brings
00:01:19home hub credibly dramatic that that change has been in a relatively short period of time and creating a portrait %HESITATION talk about your goals were and how you went about finding the information that you share in the book we your methodology he looked at some sources that %HESITATION
00:01:38Kahneman certainly don't usually look at and %HESITATION even some historians don't get to thanks %HESITATION I started this book originally with a friend of mine and we thought we'd read a kind of a fun happy commercial book and then she had to drop the project because she was
00:01:56busy being a dean at the university and the more I kept digging into readings about children into finding fun stuff about babies the more I realized infants are truly economic actors they really bring Americans into the world of commercial culture in to %HESITATION that site modern psychology into
00:02:20familiarity with advertising and the way I discovered that was truly serendipitous I was talking with a colleague at the history of medicine meetings and he said you know here you see LA we have a collection of baby books books that mothers filled and day after day year after
00:02:39year sometimes they made a few entries sometimes they made a lot and he gets online every day and he buys baby books on eBay and so they've amassed a several thousand in their collection and they're truly a wonderful source about everything I could have I could have written
00:02:57another three books about what they had to say now but I had to stop myself and I do I will say that I did put my children's baby books in that are kind of as well as I thought it was such a terrific collection %HESITATION but for economists
00:03:13I think this story babies is just wonderful I didn't realize it when I started but %HESITATION babies are really all about connecting their families to the modern economy in the twentieth century and %HESITATION I didn't expect to find so much about banking insurance finance purchasing but that's what
00:03:32they're all about yeah and the vast amount of advice given by a vast array of interested and sometimes disinterested observers is is pretty daunting I assume you mean you accumulated a huge amount of information I did I tried to stay away from saying too much about the advice
00:03:56to parents of which there is a vast literature in instead record what the parents had to say about their infants and of course at %HESITATION didn't always obey the advice let's put it that way they had their babies things like that baby advisors would say is not a
00:04:17good idea my favorite anecdote in there is of course the one about the baby who's a baby but that said today I smoked my first cigarette and then he added twenty one years later I'm still smoking we'll so you you find a lot of fascinating material in there
00:04:40or that the seven month old baby who had the full thanksgiving meal the Turkey this stopping there bear a son lots and lots of really fascinating material about how babies really live not about how they were supposed to live in the cigarette starter reminds me of when my
00:04:59wife was %HESITATION shopping with our our daughter who is maybe I don't know six months all the time and she ran into a friend and then she went to grab something from a shelf she came back to see our daughter %HESITATION smiling and the the most ecstatic smile
00:05:17that's because this other woman that my wife ran into it give her her first piece of chocolate which was not happy about but my daughter sure was I don't know about that first cigarette but %HESITATION that there is a lot of %HESITATION serendipitous stuff going on in life
00:05:33like that inevitably right this and the other fun thing about it is that you get to see how immigrant folk ways and food ways really come to America %HESITATION so well historians find that medical advisers used to complain a lot about Italian immigrants here they are they are
00:05:58feeding their children fresh fruits and vegetables isn't that terrible %HESITATION and of course nowadays that's what we're supposed to be eating so it's kind of fun to see how the babies and their immigrant parents are really change America that way as well I was struck a number think
00:06:18strong start we are reading the book that I hope we'll get we'll get to talk about one of them was just how dramatically a life is changed in for my from others in particular and for babies in particular course by along the way for fathers and siblings and
00:06:36and society at large but it is one sense just struck me as a dramatic examples as as a scholarly study of buffalo new York's Italian community at the turn of the century explained sixty to eighty nine percent of women over thirty have lost at least one child and
00:06:54I'm Polish from the city the rate was nearly as high the rate of infant mortality was was it's just hard for us to relate to how perilous life was will get into the particulars of why it was particularly perilous but it's it's just hard to remember obviously women
00:07:14died at a bunch for %HESITATION some rate in childbirth but the inter mortality rate it is just %HESITATION it's just shocking how how I was in and you it makes it makes you reflect on what that must've done took to life and how people dealt with it and
00:07:31thought about it and and it's just %HESITATION the powerful it is it is a truly at a triumph of the twentieth century that %HESITATION in the developed world we've been able to so dramatic dramatically lower our instant mortality rate and a lot of that really began in the
00:07:50late nineteenth century of course with things like clean water supplies later on with a milk pasteurization laws %HESITATION with a sewage and sanitation you sort of the big infrastructure projects that we that we mostly forgotten about %HESITATION but really had a dramatic effect on infinite lives children's lives
00:08:15life expectancy and then the second phase of that really comes in the twentieth century when we began giving people pretty sound advice about infant care around the idea of let's let's get rid of germs let's avoid germs let's keep %HESITATION milk clean or refrigerated pretty basic ideas that
00:08:39are second nature to us now but it really had to be taught to people yeah we're going we'll we'll talk about that as it I thought that extra extremely interesting I just wanna mention in passing that manage this problem once before now I did that it was a
00:08:52different probe different activity in my book let's call the first snow fall by James Russell Lowell and will put a link up to it and it's one of my favorite sentimental palms is really an extraordinary %HESITATION piece of %HESITATION sentimentality very powerful and it makes you wonder as
00:09:10with does your date also makes me wonder just how people felt about the loss of an input it was common also wasn't %HESITATION it it in in some dimension it was it's it's it's tempting to think it was not as big a tragedy as it is now because
00:09:26it was common and yet it obviously was incredibly painful and heart rending and at the same time as are the other part of your book I want you to talk about on my return discussing this is the the ability and necessity sometimes for women to sell their children
00:09:43for financial reasons or to abandon them the whole phenomenon of a foundling which is a common motif in your movies of sat around the late nineteenth century %HESITATION it is just so alien to us they didn't discover it you still read about it once in awhile of an
00:10:03abandoned baby is found in a train station somewhere and it makes him it's a big news story but in in the nineteen late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries it was one call a common place but it was not a rarity went talk about that %HESITATION the abandonment has
00:10:17had a long history of course and and in Europe all of our hospitals and began for children were really began as foundling asylum run by religious orders were people would drop off unwanted infants in the United States we also had foundling hospitals and today we even I know
00:10:37a number of fire stations say have a sign saying you can drop off an unwanted instant here no questions asked %HESITATION but it was much more common in the nineteen late nineteenth early twentieth century for women to abandon their infants on the steps of police stations %HESITATION in
00:10:56front of churches it was it wasn't an everyday occurrence but it it happened quite a bit and the young infants would be sent to institutions where the mortality rate as I talk about was close to one hundred percent they just didn't have the means to care for them
00:11:15they didn't have the means to feed them and then of course once the baby had inspection it would spread from crib to crib and they might all die very quickly so that was a problem later on in the twentieth century infants go from being unwanted to being highly
00:11:33desirable desperately wanted really want it especially of course if they're not disabled and they are white us so we get into a different kind of market place one that economists don't probably don't talk enough about and that is what will you pay for a baby how do you
00:11:52go about buying one and what will you pay for one and that's something to keep forever hearings in the fifties really brought to light it was quite a booming industry %HESITATION a sub Rosa us black market illegal cries on legal and the thing that impressed me most that
00:12:10really brought that home to me was a story in The New York Times about a a mob organization that engaged in baby buying and selling and and the the the traditional racketeering was kind of a secondary enterprise for them so that tells you about how much money you
00:12:27got in involved in that I think today there's probably some of that going on I don't really study the the world after the baby boomers but dumb babies are highly prized now that's not to say they're not still abandoned on and it's not to say that all babies
00:12:45are highly prized but they really are again a part of the market place that we don't like to talk about people used to pay to give them up to baby farmers we kind of quickly dispatch them and now we pay to buy them in a sense %HESITATION from
00:13:01adoption brokers talk about what a baby farmer is and it's a terrible phrase %HESITATION it's a it's a really ugly phrase but it's %HESITATION it was a it was a thing and you said dispatch %HESITATION clarify that Intel's tells about baby farmers baby farmers and that was a
00:13:19well known phrase at one point where women often older women with no other means of earning an income who took in babies to care for them full time us some of them were well meaning women who helped out other women who had to go to work in domestic
00:13:38service others engaged in a kind of understanding that the babies might not live and when municipal authorities or newspaper reporters would do investigations of these baby farmers %HESITATION they would find that they either taken in the babies and then sent them to the the poor house so the
00:14:01baby to the infinite silent to die or that their backyards were were filled with them where they dug up the backyard and put the bodies in there %HESITATION so these babies would be we're not likely to live %HESITATION but you could kind of I guess suit your conscience
00:14:19by saying I didn't abandon My Baby on the courthouse steps I paid somebody to take it in but you you must have known that whether it was a baby farmer is going to take good care of the baby or was a baby farmer who would oversee the child's
00:14:35burial no there were a lot of lot of investigations attempts to outlaw this %HESITATION but ironically when you took babies away from baby farmers and send them directly to institutions %HESITATION they didn't fare any better yeah I really needed a better system of of what we'll call foster
00:14:55care to make sure that those unwanted infants lived yeah I couldn't help but think about because said and the thinner deers and we miss but %HESITATION you always think well but that's kind of a harsh portrait but yeah maybe not so inaccurate %HESITATION it was just her to
00:15:13keep babies alive or I want to talk more about that but one piece of that which you talk about the book which I knew nothing about which is utterly fascinating is infant incubator displays %HESITATION so talk about what those were and %HESITATION how they evolved really crazy well
00:15:32it's crazy but it's fascinating isn't it yeah spent incubators rethink of incubators for hatching eggs and I'm not for already hatched babies but there they weren't there basically %HESITATION glass and metal boxes that kept babies warm and isolated so they weren't exposed to germs are they took they
00:15:54were for premature infants some of them would be fed by an amount could drop a drop or filled with now okay or some other kind of tube feeding cared for by nurses but how do you pay for that expensive care well you put the babies on display at
00:16:11the state fair or at a world's fair where they begin and in the United States in eighteen ninety eight in the trans Mississippi exhibition but they appeared every other worlds fair %HESITATION people pay a quarter to go in and look at the babies and that money helps pay
00:16:29for their care and the last of them survived and chill World War two on Coney Island New York where it was said that some women sort of had a favorite baby and they pay every day to go in and look at it and see how it was doing
00:16:44%HESITATION but eventually as we know big incubators become hospital technologies in those neonatal intensive care unit so it's you don't have to pay to see them anymore and %HESITATION we we think of those medical technology is not as display items are the best place to get a sense
00:17:01of that is when we had the TV show boardwalk empire if you remember that the mayor of Atlantic city Nike Thompson would go down to the boardwalk and look at the the babies in the incubators there was kind of a a wonderful TV moments %HESITATION teaching us a
00:17:17little bit of history because Martin Scorsese does a lot of research for all of his historic work so yes we had baby incubators and %HESITATION they were they were display items I I don't know if you know any have any relatives you grew up in New York or
00:17:35on the New Jersey boardwalk in Atlantic city but at your older relatives might remember seeing the babies it's just the weirdest thing I mean that there is a U. quota a young boy who goes through the exhibit and is just a little bit disappointed that they don't do
00:17:50anything %HESITATION you know it reminds you when you go to the zoo and all the lines are asleep now at least you saw one but it's not doing anything and you do want some action the amount of actually get for a baby in an incubator is highly limited
00:18:03is there's not much to hope for their but as you point out I I'm one number wanted to read you said that the nineteen fifteen Panama Pacific international exposition San Francisco California the incubator display took in seventy two thousand dollars which is nearly one point seven million in
00:18:19today's dollars of it is just it's extraordinary that I don't think you know it's not like %HESITATION it's not a Barnum thing spreads but people paid to say a well let's go back and think about what you asked me about earlier we had an incredibly high infant mortality
00:18:35rate and the greatest driver of infant mortality then and now is pre maturity so if you can find a way to keep premature infants alive you're you're striking it's something that every family every person has probably experienced or heard about so to just go in see the simple
00:18:56boxes that probably look like the incubator for the checks on the farm where you grew up and say but yes it's keeping the babies alive that would seem marvelous to you even though those babies are weren't doing anything too interesting they weren't performers alike that point out of
00:19:14course as you point out most and instill over very long so it was a it was not we weren't really very good at figure out how to keep on those premature infants alive well the ones in incubators ahead of we think they fudge the date on how many
00:19:29survive but they did pretty well in part because of their own little boardwalk trick and that is by the time the instance got there the weakest ones probably died and then they might not put them on display if they were looked like they were likely to die so
00:19:46you kind of spiders in there they did survive %HESITATION and %HESITATION you could go back day after day and see them growing a little bit until they finally get discharged so was a little yes it was a little bit of a boardwalk trickery but you got to see
00:20:04something that mattered to to just about every American they knew they'd lost siblings their parents told them about lost siblings %HESITATION they knew people lost baby so what a wonderful piece of technology to gaze at yeah that's right that's cool even though there wasn't like we said now
00:20:22it's not that much going on the other piece of the of the %HESITATION infant mortality up puzzle which I again never thought I knew I know how horrific to the data the numbers were for say nineteen hundred I thought much about why they fell so dramatically and part
00:20:39of the reason is that in nineteen hundred we were really bad at keeping milk cold %HESITATION and so the summer was a particularly in a hot climate us the summers a prickly dangerous time to be an infant this summer was deadly %HESITATION they were just babies dying all
00:20:59the time in the heat they'd get an inspection %HESITATION they spread it to others in the household and they would die but the milk was a real problem went to use and that's why they told women not to wean their babies in the summer your breast feeding keep
00:21:16it on to keep doing it until the cool weather com because if you think about it it's a long way from the cow to the urban instant you gotta collect the milk maybe the cans you collected and have some germs they're not cleaned out well you put them
00:21:33on the wagon to take them to the milk depot at the train %HESITATION they sit in the hot sun waiting for the train they said on the train they get to town to the milk sailor and the mount sellers set by then says Gee that smells pretty bad
00:21:48let me add some water some adulterants to cover up the smell by the time you go and buy that loose now it's not too good and even if you buy pretty good loose now give you don't have a way to keep it cold if you can't afford the
00:22:02ice for the ice box it's not gonna do too well if you don't have any running water in your tenement to clean those bottles you're gonna grow bacteria in them US so it's a it's a challenge feeding baby so when the summer babies died of what we called
00:22:20summer complaint which were these Milborne bacterial illnesses in the winter we have different problems and that's the respire Tory illnesses that spread as as they still do in the winter and this is interesting that maybe I missed this I know there's different up moments we're in the book
00:22:39where you talk about say solid foods when the advice to parents are given about when to adopt solid foods and what kind Sweetback which one of my favorite words you'll see that very often place gets mentioned at least twice your book maybe more %HESITATION and and when I
00:22:55hear that word I I I think you have to be old enough to to appreciate if you can stop anybody still buys we backwards I'm sure they still make it somewhere to look that one up yeah but it's a certain kind of fit cracker that is just the
00:23:09%HESITATION I can smell right now %HESITATION but you think that this challenge with milk would have not just encouraged I %HESITATION breast feeding through the summer months but but breast feeding for a long time and I find it interesting that obviously the commercial interests of formula makers and
00:23:29the milk industry %HESITATION it encourage the adaptation of %HESITATION Milken formula it just I found it interesting to think about why women didn't breast feed a lot longer %HESITATION then I think that I think they did I think if I might be wrong made maybe they did it
00:23:47and again I don't member anywhere in the book we talked about it but I think the impression I get is that women are eager to get their babies on to Milken formula relative to it in nineteen early nineteen hundreds relative to today and I wondered what given that
00:24:02%HESITATION the dangers of milk why that didn't %HESITATION why they didn't delay that a little bit longer those days or do I have the facts wrong it's it's really a social class phenomenon %HESITATION wealthier women middle class women would wean their babies or even start their babies initially
00:24:20on bottle feeding with maybe with the day nurse %HESITATION poor families immigrant families of breast fed for a lot longer in part because it did function %HESITATION for a while as birth control yep also what happens in poor families if if you do have a large family if
00:24:39you've just given birth to a baby number five or six and you have three or four living children to take care of and you're watching those diapers by hand and you're keeping the farm going you're going out to to work or your your husband's getting laid off from
00:24:55work and you've got to go out do domestic service you really don't have the luxury to keep on breast feeding so they're different issues for different classes of women but up the medical community was very incensed about upper class middle class women who did not breastfeed they knew
00:25:15it was fast and yet they were also the ones prescribing the formulas so it's kind of a conundrum there they knew what was best but their their clients their patients didn't want it so they help them get the formulas preparing baby food is a check out was a
00:25:32challenge you had to take those vegetables and %HESITATION mash number puree them themselves and that's why apart grossly %HESITATION Mrs Gerber said to her husband you know putting these peas through the strainer is too hard nine so for being a food company to be a baby food company
00:25:54%HESITATION as they discover that there's a real market for already made baby food I like that argument that there was a prestige Augusta %HESITATION not breast feeding to show you're wealthy enough that you could afford to buy the milk or hire a someone to to feed the baby
00:26:12%HESITATION and that now I'm getting really we should mention the Gerber appeasing who gets worse persons we back I I remember I love David memory of of my little my little brother %HESITATION going to those soldiers but %HESITATION their colors are they should have picked a different color
00:26:29you know that that that that contain yellow there was like squashing bees I would I would have picked it up front anyway let's move on to something %HESITATION let's let's actually say related to this which is one of the things that they screams out your book although I
00:26:45don't think it about explicitly but it's it's so out in the open is that we just know so little about how to raise a child eat the first part of the work just about the physical side of that and then it'll not toward the end the book there's
00:27:00a chapter but psychological development in of course modern parents are obsessed with both of those things we worry about whether the child's meeting the right milestones at the right places of them because they're getting the right psychological preparation for adulthood and it starts very young that worry %HESITATION
00:27:16for infants and %HESITATION what I'm struck by is how little we know %HESITATION and it it's %HESITATION it's fascinating to me we just it's just really hard where we see that you know I guess you could have some psychologists on there who shall we know so much and
00:27:32we don't send so many experiments %HESITATION but I think that because babies are not verbal and their range of motion is limited bad that we don't quite know what they're thinking and doing and how they're developing or we think we do we've got to mass data but we
00:27:49don't really know about our own instance and so what happens over the twentieth century is there sort of more and more surveillance of infants psychological development as we get more and more certain that they're gonna live and that is a big transformation then it's the question of how
00:28:09are they gonna live what is their future going to be about and so it leads down all sorts of interesting paths I talk a little bit about us you know the popularity of astrology you know where with the stars aligned when you're in fat was born out for
00:28:25a while we went through phrenology where we tried to measure the bumps and shape of your head to say what will that tell us about your personality and your intellect and there's still a lot a tradition in some ethnic communities as there was store Eckley up putting different
00:28:42items on the flooring and see which one the baby crawls to do they go to the god of the Bible or the whiskey or they get it yeah you sure or a drunkard you know you just want to know what the future holds for your infant %HESITATION but
00:28:57we begin to be taught by psychologist that we have to you know surveil our babies when did they turn their heads to follow us when do they responded No Way how often do they cry can they sell zoos and go to sleep at what age did they start
00:29:15walking what age did they start babbling they're very very scrutinized and they probably don't give up as much information as we like and of course there's some funny X. it not funny really but some experiments I talk about %HESITATION that psychologist conducted early on like sticking a baby
00:29:34with a pen and seeing if it reacts and did you now this in an era when when diapers head were kept together with tends not little straps of course mothers with but have been able to tell them yes when you accidentally stab your baby with the pen they
00:29:50do react honored so stunning as stunning discovery of modern society yes you probably know you but have been stabbed is in and I was children were not you know correct and I %HESITATION the invention of velcro in pampers one of the great inventions of the twentieth century and
00:30:11other people who think they're environmentally unfriendly and those are people I think women thought quite enough about what cleaning a diaper does in re using it to the environment which is dot zero %HESITATION I like the line you said nineteen oh seven baby book include aligned for recording
00:30:27the person recording in the in this baby book the person who first carried an infant upstairs the date and the baby's age at the time with the explanation quote it is an old superstition that a baby should be carried up stairs that may arise in the world before
00:30:42it is taken downstairs so yeah we had a lot of those kind of strange ideas other prior the quarter when read is about the psychologist John Watson it says you're right that same year he published behaviorism and four years later the psychological care of infant child in which
00:31:02this is around %HESITATION what year is this Janice run nineteen ten I think a little later than that okay yeah I can't remember mice early early part of the twentieth century says he advised bothers to never hug and kiss their children or let them sit on their laps
00:31:20the problems on his other experts argue that kissing convey germs or rather it led to the creation of unhappy children having little faith in the abilities of mothers to rear children or to manage our own lives Watson believe they needed scientific instruction in the psychological care of children
00:31:37he viewed his book is the equivalent it holds eighteen ninety four manual the care and feeding your children but it had far was influence an actual nursery practices any personal scandal an affair with a graduate student later married forced him out of academic his status eclipsed he moved
00:31:54on to a career in advertising close quote I just I just love that %HESITATION your %HESITATION around a cat ending of that that he went from academics advertising at some would say it's the same field %HESITATION just different application but it is interesting again to make the point
00:32:11I made earlier that there are so many fads it seems to me in the psychology of how to raise our children and you you go through a bunch of them with terms of physical in ways should spank them or not spank them adults of not indulging give them
00:32:24what they want to eat or force and eat this other stuff %HESITATION keep them happy %HESITATION make sure they're you know keep their self esteem hi can you keep a low is a little over come it all these different fads in it I'm calling about because I don't
00:32:38think they're much there's much science to it yet today we feel like %HESITATION now we now and it just makes you realize that we don't know so well yes there is a kind of back and forth in the world of you know are we going to be strict
00:32:51are we gonna be loving can you hold your baby too much can you not hold your baby and not %HESITATION we we really and we really so it's very hard of course just object that to any %HESITATION data driven analysis but it's it's it's quite wonderful that is
00:33:09seen as a historian to see the back and forth and my favorite story about that of course is is Dr Spock who is %HESITATION Benjamin Spock raised in a very strict household that followed that the the late nineteenth century expert looser and that holds you now you rise
00:33:26at a certain time to go to bed at a certain time you eat at a certain time %HESITATION you keep your distance from from the child you don't you know you don't over indulgent and then of course turned around and preach something very very different after undergoing a
00:33:41lot of psychoanalysis having to that %HESITATION and %HESITATION you know there are yeah of course there people advocate things on all sides let your baby cry to sleep let you know don't let your baby cry to sleep lots of bring your baby into the bad bring to your
00:33:58bad to leave it its own bad sleep put on stomach put on its back music ma'am if the one thing I found most interesting and that was when I discovered much to my surprise that babies don't really need to be worked somebody in twenty sixteen I think it
00:34:17was finally did the study is burping good for babies I burnt my children off I'll come right out and say yeah we do too we were horrible that's not horrible but it turns out in most cultures around the world they don't there babies and when you do you
00:34:35know Pat them on the back and help them to they don't need help burping and and they tend to throw up a little bit more when you do that %HESITATION but it really took to all but twenty sixteen before we finally asked the question in the in the
00:34:48United States and in the west to babies need to be Burke and I'm I would bet dollars to donuts that that study published in a peer reviewed medical journal has had no effect because we've all been taught by everyone around us to Berg babies and people are probably
00:35:05going to continue to do that no harm will come to the baby %HESITATION we may get a little more spit up on our shoulders but you know it's interesting to think about the things we do question and the things we don't you know my grip my mother a
00:35:19mother to our children %HESITATION is now eighty five I can still see her the pleasure she got from walk just walking around the room %HESITATION and burping are our kids just the just just the comfort she got from patting them and the art of it which she you
00:35:38know the satisfaction she got what was successful did it just to get %HESITATION human human thing that that's related course to colic and I which reminds me of %HESITATION constipation which which take up some odd not non trivial part of the book not a large part but but
00:35:59a part of it because it was an obsession and still is to some extent both of those issues %HESITATION I like %HESITATION your line you say what went into infants came out of an fence making toilet training and other shared concerns and experts baby book pages prompt of
00:36:17others to make detailed notes as they practiced what a writer called hygienic surveillance and we certainly have your first child the obsession that you have with its %HESITATION what what goes into what comes out and the in between part the colic or the burping and all that it
00:36:33it what what it made me realize which %HESITATION again I knew but it made me realize that a more visceral way is how unprepared human beings are to through to survive in the world it's obvious humans are born way too early compared to other animals and that's because
00:36:51if the just Asian Kerr it was so long as it should be which probably something like two years the baby could not be born the size of the human crowned the head is too large for the tips of %HESITATION delivering mother and so babies are born even at
00:37:04nine months prematurely in some sense and we're completely helpless were at that's obvious compared to say a cold or a kitten in all the other animals in a very short period of time can fend for themselves we certainly can fend for ourselves for one time and we seem
00:37:20remarkably fragile the same time so I guess I do get to talk about what comes in and out of babies up you know Americans in in because I'll say this because I study US history I have always been obsessed with %HESITATION yeah their digestive tracts will put it
00:37:45that way and %HESITATION you can turn on nightly television and see a lot of ads you're at a four four products for adults will will just be discreet about that separate the janitor much I didn't eat often I tell gas before an episode that that we have young
00:38:03listeners and and language shin and topic certain language topics are best kept off the program unless I won the stress of answer try do it once in awhile %HESITATION I did not want Janet think anything was happening but who knows here we are in an area that could
00:38:18offend some and you you're handling it very well trained I appreciate that I went through as I as I point out my book %HESITATION the chill do United States children's bureau received up to a quarter million letters a year from mostly from women sometimes from grandparents sometimes from
00:38:35fathers asking for advice about infant and child care and they were our trusted advisors and many many many of the letters were about %HESITATION died yet infant digestion and %HESITATION I love I love the letters because it listed all the different products that families would try to help
00:38:59their babies the with their digestion at but it also shows kind of an obsession with it out in that that I just found fascinating and it appears later on I read the letter sent to Benjamin Spock I sent read the letter that material sent to Arnold again cell
00:39:18who is an infant psychologist %HESITATION it it's just a matter of great concern and %HESITATION I have to say that the women physicians at the children's bureau handled it very well I tried to get the babies off the opiate laced products %HESITATION it is it which help the
00:39:39infants to become a bit constipated they tried to get them off other products that meant to loosen them up %HESITATION they really just kind of believe that in at least in regards to evacuation infants pretty much would know what they were doing I hope that was just created
00:39:57I love it it's awesome %HESITATION it is remarkable how many things people use that were either ineffective or %HESITATION counterproductive in terms of general help %HESITATION but there's a special category which we haven't talked about yet which is %HESITATION how did cod liver oil ever become a thing
00:40:17and why did it die out %HESITATION most of us have no experience of that it's %HESITATION load some didn't have any positive effects in so talk about talk about what those were in and why it died out let's let's let's work backwards if you have some milk in
00:40:37your refrigerator it you'll see that has vitamin D. and it's been given a flasher radiation process that puts the vitamin D. in the mail okay %HESITATION there's a patent for that that's owned by the %HESITATION what about for the university of Wisconsin Wisconsin every research fund %HESITATION but
00:40:55before that people grew up without much exposure to sunlight without making vitamin D. from that some light and %HESITATION we had a terrible amount of rickets the softening of the bones %HESITATION people in didn't get outside they didn't get the sunlight so cod liver oil was a way
00:41:16to deliver that to infants to children and then in the popular mind it sort of took on that like a magic a look a look Sir you know like a lecturer of love and it was so given out all the time to kind of boost children's health and
00:41:36to make sure you know I did help babies get stronger and healthier ended did does treat the but the rickets but it was it was kind of seen as a a wonderful cure along with the idea that your baby needed a healthy tan you also need in the
00:41:51natural sunlight so I will say I do have a cousin who was the %HESITATION you know by his mother my aunt told me you know he she took him out in the sun every day from twelve to to to work on is tan so that he wouldn't get
00:42:06rickets up it and it was a relatively cheap product and it was seen as some essential that it was stockpile before the United States got into World War two and then we turn to other forms of fish oil attitude to deliver to babysit was given out to poor
00:42:26children in communities all over the United States the Indian health service gave it out on reservations and people very much learn that lesson and tried to buy it for their baby so was a place where medicine and commercial marketing really linked arms on behalf of infant hell I
00:42:45will I I will throw in I've I've given a talk about cod liver oil over in %HESITATION over at the Oxford and %HESITATION I learned from my British colleagues that cases of records have come back in the UK they don't do the Malcolm radiation and children %HESITATION indoors
00:43:04all day at school or I guess on those electronic devices so way up north where they're very few hours of sunlight during the winter and they're beginning to see cases of wreckage again I don't know if they're going for the cod liver oil your or recess but I
00:43:20I'm sure it will be addressed make it over the recess I'm I don't think I've ever smelled called liberal but based on your book it's not a good smell I and I decided not to try it out I just believe what people said about it I love the
00:43:34line where you said that the mothers were advised not to make a face when they opened at our show to the kid because it might discourage the kid as if the kid couldn't figure out what it tasted like on its own I don't know %HESITATION that that seems
00:43:46strange I I I just curious about this so %HESITATION I'm vitamin D. deficient by the way as I think most many Americans over the age of twelve are %HESITATION and I was advised to take supplements which I decided not to for two reasons I did like the side
00:44:02effects and I was an obvious to me that taking vitamin D. orally would have the same effect as say some light or whatever but and maybe this overly skeptical I could not thinking and why you're talking that if you don't have vitamin D. in your mail oak tree
00:44:20don't drink milk isn't as a child which some kids don't like it or they are lactose intolerant is %HESITATION vitamin D. in mother's milk so if if I'm living now obviously if I'm a kid in in rural America I'm outside all the time but his organization grows which
00:44:35is late late nineteenth century through the first half of the twentieth his words dramatic we stop spending as much time outside is at the vitamin D. in them in store bought milk that a radic hated rickets in America more last it it really had a big effect on
00:44:51that yes %HESITATION your mother's mother's about doesn't have much vitamin D. %HESITATION and so that you actually at a human's kind of involved outdoors and so we evolved so that I book and I believe I've got this right and you're you're probably are from listers suit work coming
00:45:09I've got this wrong but you do absorb vitamin D. I think through your rat not you know that sunlight exposure to the eyes and on your skin and so we're kinda designed to make our own vitamin D. %HESITATION you know it in those are sure from sunlight absolutely
00:45:24so %HESITATION now we become very son of verse worried about any cancer no free lunch right right as so %HESITATION there's a there's a back and forth about that now but %HESITATION people did take their babies outside if you think about it living in cities they %HESITATION it
00:45:43we're living in tenements whatever they did try and take them outside I don't know if you read the part about the baby cages yup love hang out age outside your window kind of stuck on the windows %HESITATION wouldn't fall over and you can put your baby out in
00:46:01the sunlight that way so eager to do that I mean that's those are fine it's like saying it's like having your take your child to work day in your your your dad's a window washer you take your infinitum ad is a star I didn't like that image at
00:46:17all and bring it up then like it okay %HESITATION we talk about how things come and go in the world of instant care and I guess that one's out off your list guy we're going up to the roof so that my child would rise in the world and
00:46:32get the %HESITATION sign up there %HESITATION I think that would work fine sorry about that well your kids are all grown up so you don't have to worry about age now yeah %HESITATION %HESITATION anyway there's instruct me philosophically about reading a book %HESITATION which again is kind of
00:46:51obvious is how much we care about our children %HESITATION the %HESITATION your your examples of the Bible verses the bottle or they often used to describe how they just money to see if your kid was gonna be wealthier greedy or a business person rather than a preacher and
00:47:05how much we care about what we hope they turn out to be and how much we care about how they come out yes as adults and what their %HESITATION success happiness meaning whatever word you want to put in there it's some it's a it's a crazy part of
00:47:21being human it's that we it's so deep within us and I know it's easy to explain it's gonna devolution %HESITATION you know you can certainly %HESITATION believe it's it's divine as well but it's it's a it's kind of mysterious how much we care such as what things that
00:47:39we really want to do well we well among them to survive rule we really want grandchildren because we're evolution made us that way but the amount we care is %HESITATION extraordinaire it is and that is one reason why in the book I tried to balance what I what
00:47:59I don't how we care about our babies by taking out an inch you know life insurance policies by opening up bank accounts for them and I every time I did read the baby books from the late nineteen twenties where they're putting all these money in the local banks
00:48:16for the baby at like %HESITATION don't do it we can start a cult lap don't you know I don't know they haven't seen the other would see in the end of the movie we had over it's terrible yeah yeah so you know I see that kind of investment
00:48:31but I also saw and I try to make a point of this what I would call the religious investment praying for our children in rolling them in cradle roll societies taking them to a synagogue you know there was that we wanted spiritually and fiscally and in all sorts
00:48:49of ways to protect and learn about our children and make sure they had better lives are that we can see a good life for them and that's why I was so surprised honestly when I start reading in the midst of the depression about save for your save for
00:49:07college you know in your baby book it's telling you to save for college what kind of wonderful optimism and hope to set him expressed to us so I fully I fully agree with that and the letters to the children's bureau again a wonderful statement about how much we
00:49:26cared and how much we wanted the best advice us so we can do things just right and yes of course infants were abandoned they were mistreated %HESITATION there is a a full spectrum of developments there but but yes the investment in infants was just wonderful an enormous I
00:49:46remember our first child came home %HESITATION there was an incredible make sure all the experience and the incredible fear that that that this creature was alive %HESITATION I still remember that first night were she cried most of the night and every whale was an arrow into the heart
00:50:10it was like they're not gonna eat should not gonna make it it's it's horrible she's suffering at all every emotion that they could go three in and of course is some people like to point out they don't come with a manual %HESITATION despite all the advice books you
00:50:24can and it's a big section of the bookstore library %HESITATION every child is different it's really hard to know what the right thing to do is and it's it's such an incredible %HESITATION emotional adventure right although I guess life would have been easier for you get out seventy
00:50:41five years ago when you would have said %HESITATION she has great long she'll never get to Burkett most of us good point even cross your mind because we live in a very different era and that's what I that's what I wanted to tell my readers Shia I don't
00:50:56know if you know the worker brain Kaplan he's been a is a condom is been a guest in our program and he has a book on on parenting where he basically argues that parenting doesn't matter very much just the flip side of what I've just tried to articulate
00:51:11parenting doesn't matter very much %HESITATION they're gonna turn out pretty much the way they're going to turn out overwhelmingly by their genetics and you shouldn't worry about with the a lot of cry don't cry changing don't change them feed them don't feed on we had a feed him
00:51:26but you don't have to micromanage there %HESITATION psychological development or their %HESITATION much about and they're gonna be fine and but if you seen that literature at all what is also now I haven't looked too much I deliberately did look too much of the contemporary literature and advice
00:51:44on that but I did I I understand what he's trying to say because when I read the baby books and see how babies were treated historically and and they all seem to be just fine despite %HESITATION imbibing all sorts of things being bad all sorts of things being
00:52:03more nine sorts of things morphine and they're teething syrup well you know I also speak a little about the opiates in a minute but yes %HESITATION so %HESITATION once we got over the the big killers of infants once we built and what I'll call public health infrastructure we
00:52:23are water's clean your mouth is clean you don't throw hopefully don't throw garbage in the street and hopefully it's picked up you have a sewer system once you get past that you really do get to the parental advice and once you do the work of I'm sure you
00:52:38wash those baby bottles I'm sure you get the germs out of them so there's there's a you know there's parenting that does matter %HESITATION it's probably you know the psychologist might say it's good to read to your baby %HESITATION at it you know how many minutes a day
00:52:57how many times a week that's a that's a different dimension but yeah so %HESITATION the parents of course have to think that parenting matters otherwise we're not going to do any of our job right yeah so while we're going to take him you know if it's nineteen twenty
00:53:14we're going to be out there two hours a day if we can getting them the nice healthy tan or today we're gonna be slandering them with sunscreen so they don't have a chance %HESITATION and that's that's how we react to our babies and that's an important cultural moment
00:53:30%HESITATION measuring as does the sun exposure and it's affecting infants well I'll leave that to the scientists and the physician by like your point that those public health changes hi and washing the bottles say it is the home contribution and and be able to economic growth obviously helped
00:53:51a lot we could afford refrigerators %HESITATION it it was a huge change you can keep them %HESITATION called and everything else of the development antibiotics we had some you know glorious low lying fruit all them back that's all been picked up which is fantastic top impact is fantastic
00:54:09it's great %HESITATION you could argue that what's left is relatively small I would which brands claim might I don't agree with him but %HESITATION it's a provocative idea and I do just as an example I love your your point that I do think you should read your kids
00:54:24if not just for your own sanity enjoyment but I think it probably is it a good thing for them as well but my job is to be before I get to read a book a week after I get to read a book tonight but there's a lot more
00:54:37pictures %HESITATION and it there is a part of your life for that just there a huge amount of time and they should be I think god conquered what Brian argues but I think I think that's mainly good thing so I you know I think that economists need to
00:54:53turn away from parenting and look at the the links between babies and the economy you know how much do we buy for our babies how many working class Americans maybe the first thing they ever went out and purchased was %HESITATION condensed milk for their babies you know maybe
00:55:11that was some of their first cash exchanges or maybe the first bank investments they made were not for themselves but for an infant born does someone else in the family you know they they are we do things for our babies we probably should be doing for ourselves but
00:55:29don't do and so what I want to bring that up and then you raise the opiate question and %HESITATION I what I mean to say is it is not by any means a defense of opiates for infants or I'm gonna say that again just in case you missed
00:55:47it the idea that it's my personal opinion but I believe it is backed by a lot of medical knowledge however why were infants given shootings syrups well let's think about the fact that if you had a colicky or teething baby who's crying a lot you've got other children
00:56:10to take care of %HESITATION you've got diapers to wash on the scrub board you've got laundry describe on the scrub board and hang up you've got to keep the fire going you've got a lot to do quieting a baby at that moment might seem like a very good
00:56:28idea and you can tell yourself what the baby sleeping she's not in pain anymore so the logic of doing it up at times is gonna out weigh the consequences of feeding your baby opiates but I'll say it again not a good idea you make the right pointed %HESITATION
00:56:50hard from modern woman or man to appreciate the challenge of running a household in say nineteen Tanner eighteen ninety with five kids where should you know my knowledge of the data is about was about a twelve hour day %HESITATION to feed and and take care of the family
00:57:10between the laundry laundry often had to go fetch the water %HESITATION you never any waters you'd have to go down to the river bring back couple buckets heat on the stove in a big pot you'd have to chop that somebody had to chop the wood to hit the
00:57:23stove usually and yeah it's not like you're alone you get five other colleges idea for five other kids Screamin are trying to get your attention or whatever they were falling down to get hurt %HESITATION and so it was a it's a very different life the way compared to
00:57:40what the way a twenty eighteen parent %HESITATION we spoke with office just one kid has an incredible technology to make that relatively painless the pampers your die mentor just one example everything else just start imagine what it was like and the other thing was about the pampers or
00:58:00the diapers that that we don't think about enough is they got a landfill they're not polluting our water we hope %HESITATION they're not they're not piles of that rubbish out on our street %HESITATION so that infrastructure that kind of invisible infrastructure is very very important for instance yeah
00:58:22now there's some I think some people come closer diapers also I think that's a that's a high level their pampers it's a very I die net that never even occurred to me you know people do it %HESITATION when it when we were raising our kids it was a
00:58:36big issue and I the the dark side of ma'am I'm a little more mature now but the dark side to be used to say with a straight face and we we use disposable diapers because we care about the environment and we don't want to truck driving around town
00:58:49putt putt putt polluting all the time in picking up the diapers or the the all the detergent that has to be used to keep the diapers clean and and %HESITATION going through into our water etcetera etcetera say would straight face and and sometimes you know people would yell
00:59:03at me but %HESITATION it's it's it's a it's a little more complicated than just one gets thrown away and one is for use but that that was my main point %HESITATION we're almost out of time anything %HESITATION I want to add about does the title of the book
00:59:18is that babies made us modern and I think there's I think they are a fabulous example of how maternity has I can be seen I don't I don't know if I agree that they quote made as modern I know you wouldn't say that they're the only thing that
00:59:36made this modern but I do think what distinguishes size of the technology and the small accumulation of wisdom that we've we've gotten certainly not small in terms of medical knowledge but we got better at a lot of things with with respect to to bring a baby's **** what
00:59:54what strikes me is the one of the biggest changes and I'll let you talk about it is that is the focus on our children so that the part where I agree with Brian is Bryan Caplan's work is that we're a little too obsessed I think with making sure
01:00:10kids turn out okay and that often has unintended consequences as do many well intentioned urges of the we have you don't talk about that because your book mainly deals with ends around nineteen fifty five nineteen sixty but what are your thoughts on that in terms of the modern
01:00:27focus the helicopter parenting issue and and the extraordinary amount of time we spend now we don't just write letters to the U. S. children's bureau we buy books and read online and magazines to try to figure out the best thing to do and what if we just don't
01:00:42know we should just let him come out the way they're going to come out well I think the impetus to do the best we can for our in fence and make sure that they have healthy happy productive lives is the same %HESITATION we've I think maybe we spend
01:01:01our time worrying more perhaps because we're away from our children more work at work so we have to worry about %HESITATION what goes on when we're not there asset rather than being there with our children and that was kind of invisible work and worrying that we that we
01:01:21didn't see %HESITATION but I'm always impressed really at how much worrying did when I read the baby books how much worrying and surveillance did go on people weighing their babies several times a day is that any different than listening to the baby monitor or get now the devices
01:01:39that we now used to track when infants in their cribs rollover I think it comes from the same place in terms of midair entity I what I really want to say in the book is no we're not babies are not railroads they're not modern factories they don't create
01:01:57Madera today in the same way but they certainly create what I would call ordinary they allow ordinary families to connect to that modern world more concretely to open a bank account to buy things to pay attention to new medicine and science and psychology so I like to see
01:02:14them is kind of the the connecting link if it's not the drivers of maternity my guest today has been Janna golden her book is babies made us modern chat thanks for being part of a conta thank you this is econ talk to the library economics and liberty for
01:02:39Mari contacted econ talk dot org or you can also comment on today's podcast can find links in readings related to today's conversation sound engineer free Cantacuzino yet I'm your host Russ Roberts thanks for listening talk to you on Monday

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