Oh, wow! 10 must-see photos that show what giving birth used to look like

State Library of Victoria Vintage Midwife image

These time capsule photos confirm birth has come a long way over the last few decades. What’s remained steady, however, is the commitment, love and care midwives give mothers and babies.

Step back

These delightful photos are from the State Library of Victoria’s Collection, and they depict nurses, doctors, midwives, mums and babies from the early 1900s through to the 1970s.

Back in the day, birth was often highly medicalised, with women usually separated from their families at this hugely transformative time.

Babies were often whisked away to nurseries as their mums recovered from birth, and breastfeeding was not as robustly encouraged as it is now.

(Heck, they used to rub whisky on babies’ gums at teething time and put babies in window cages, so progress is a very good thing!)

Things have moved on. Phew.

Time capsule

Generations later, we’ve had all kinds of advances that give mums and babies a much better chance at health and happiness, and there’s very little whisky in the nursery.

It’s so interesting to reflect on this evolution and the valuable professionals who help women birth their babies safely and raise them well.

It’s also really amazing to see the shifts in approaches to care, hospital decor, uniforms and excellent hair-dos!

Hold onto your beehive, grab a whisky (or not!) and take a little trip down memory lane (with some help from some excellent mums and midwives!)

 

1. A Morning’s Catch

Shows eight newborn babies on cart, doctor nearby and nurse with another baby.
Probably at Melbourne Hospital. (below)
Circa 1900

Womens Hospital, A Mornings Catch

2. St Andrews Hospital, East Melbourne

Nursery in hospital, with four nurses (below) and giant, scary stork!
Circa 1936

Views of St. Andrews Hospital, East Melbourne

3. St Andrews Hospital, East Melbourne

Nursery, 1970 (below)
Source: Dennis Mayor

St. Andrew's Hospital, East Melbourne. Nursery

4. St Andrews Hospital, East Melbourne

30 000th baby born in the hospital (below)
November, 1974
Source: Dennis Mayor 

St. Andrew's Hospital. 30,000th baby born in the hospitalAndrews Hospital. 30,000th baby born in the .

5. Newborn baby in hospital

(below) 1969
Source: Mark Strizic

Newborn baby in hospital, with parents and hospital staff

6. Nurse with new mother and baby

(below) 1969
Source: Mark Strizic

Nurses in hospitals with patients

7. Nurses weighing newborn baby

(below) 1969
Source: Mark Strizic

Nurses in hospitals with patients

8. Nurse feeding newborn

(below) 1969
Source: Mark Strizic

Hospital activities, including nurses caring for patients, baby care

9. St Andrews Hospital

Nurse with baby in humidicrib (below)
Aug. 30, 1976
Source: Dennis Mayor

St. Andrew's Hospital. Nurse with baby in humidicrib

10. Nurse with baby

(below) 1969
Source: Mark Strizic

Hospital activities, including nurses caring for patients, baby care

 

A big thanks to the State Library of Victoria for making these archives accessible to the public.

 

Subscribe to Babyology

Our email newsletters keep you up to date with what’s happening on Babyology.

We also have special newsletter-only offers and competitions that are exclusive to Babyology subscribers.

Sign up below:

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Send this to a friend