In the 1930s there was a curious invention that sought to help save space in your apartment and help your kids get more fresh air: baby cages. Similar to a window air conditioner, the invention attached a wire cage to your window and suspended the baby outside above the sidewalk below.
“Airing Your Baby” In Outdoor Baby Cages
As a parent myself, the idea of caging my child outside a window and inviting the possibility of an accidental fall is terrifying. But in the late 19th century, “airing” your baby was a popular trend and frequently discussed in parenting books. The concept of baby “airing” was first introduced by Dr. Luther Emmett Holt who wrote about it in his 1894 book The Care and Feeding of Children.
“Fresh air is required to renew and purify the blood, and this is just as necessary for health and growth as proper food,” Dr. Holt wrote. “The appetite is improved, the digestion is better, the cheeks become red, and all signs of health are seen.”
Cold Temperature Exposure
The experts at the time also encouraged parents to toughen up their babies by exposing them to cold temperatures. Outdoor “airing” was part of this practice. The theory was it would make babies better able to withstand common colds and minor illnesses. Parents would routinely expose their infants to cold temperatures outside and through cold-water bathing.
Outdoor Baby Cage Alternatives
Why parents thought it was necessary to hang their babies outside a window in a cage is a mystery to me. There were other ways to “air” your baby back then. For example, going for a walk. And even just opening the window would have accomplished the same thing. The screen window was invented a century before the 1930s. Advertisements for wire window screens appeared in Boyd’s Blue Book as early as 1836.
However, none of those common-sense ideas took hold in the 1930s, and instead parents “aired” their babies in outdoor baby cages. The baby cage: Probably one of the worst inventions of all time.