Babies who are born too early often get extra care in the hospital at the NICU, or Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. But the NICU didn’t always exist – and it took doctors a long time to figure out how to care for these babies. 

Join Joy, co-host Betty and their pal Ruby Guthrie to hear how one person saved thousands of premature babies by putting them on display at an amusement park in New York City. His boardwalk show, called the Baby Hatchery, helped convince doctors that special incubators can help premature babies survive. All that, plus a new game of First Things First that’s a real bundle of joy!

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BETTY: Joy, what is all this stuff? It looks like a circus in here.

JOY DOLO: Betty. I'm so glad you're here. Welcome to my carnival. We've got a ring toss. My elephant, Hermes, working on juggling.


Watch your head. Ooh. And we've even got maple flavored cotton candy. Here, try some.


BETTY: Whoa, why is it so salty?

JOY DOLO: Salty? Let me try.


Ugh, that's saltier than an angry ocean.

BETTY: Does this empty soy sauce container have anything to do with it?

JOY DOLO: Ooh, I must have put soy sauce in the machine instead of maple syrup. Whoopsie daisy. Step right up. Step right up. Get your savory soy fluff and revel in umami ecstasy.

BETTY: Joy, why are you yelling? It's literally just us here.

JOY DOLO: Because yelling is fun. Plus today, and today only, is the show of a lifetime you won't want to miss. Step right up. Step right up and feast your eyes upon the most curious creature you ever did see. Behold, a bendy being, toothless, with eyes as big as its head.

BETTY: Whoa.

JOY DOLO: It speaks only in grunts and burps. It's full of fluids, and ready to release the stink of 1,000 butts at any moment.

BETTY: Oof, pee-ew.

JOY DOLO: It hypnotizes adults with its cuteness. But don't be fooled, in a flash, it can produce blood curdling screams that will haunt your worst nightmares.

BETTY: [GASPS] Oh, my goodness.

JOY DOLO: What is this incredible critter, you ask? It's a baby.


BETTY: A baby? I was not expecting that. But it does make sense.

JOY DOLO: Marvel at its squish. Its rolls.

BETTY: Joy, one question.


BETTY: Where did you get this baby?


JOY DOLO: Oh, this is my neighbor's. I'm on babysitting duty, I forgot to tell you. Oh, it looks like she's going to--


JOY DOLO: --spit up.


You're listening to Forever Ago from APM Studios. I'm your host, Joy Dolo. And today, I'm joined by Betty from Minneapolis, Minnesota.

BETTY: Hi, Joy.

JOY DOLO: Hello. And how can I forget? We're also joined by my neighbor's baby, Gertrude.


BETTY: She's the cutest.


JOY DOLO: Don't worry, I speak baby. Gertrude says you're totally right, she is the cutest. And it's perfect that I'm babysitting, because today's show is about babies, more specifically, about premature babies, which are babies that are born early.

BETTY: Or preemies for short.

JOY DOLO: Such a good nickname. And there are lots of preemies out there. About 1 in every 10 babies worldwide are born prematurely.

BETTY: Like me.

JOY DOLO: Right. Yes. Betty, you were a preemie. Do you know how early you were born?

BETTY: Three months early, I think.

JOY DOLO: Three months early. Goodness. Do you know how big you were when you were born?

BETTY: I weighed two pounds, but I don't know exactly how big I was.

JOY DOLO: Is this something that you think about? Do you ever think about being a premature baby?


JOY DOLO: Yeah? What do you think about it?

BETTY: I don't know. When I was little, I used to think like, oh, my God, I was born early. It's so cool. I'm going to go and tell everyone I know about it.

JOY DOLO: Yeah. Did you find other people that were also like premature that you know?

BETTY: I know one that was born as early as I was. I knew some people that were at it for like a couple weeks or whatever.

JOY DOLO: OK. All right. And a lot of premature babies go to this special part of the hospital called the NICU.

BETTY: That stands for Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

JOY DOLO: It's a special part of a hospital where babies go when they're born really early or if they have any issues after birth. In the US, about one in eight babies need to go to the NICU. And Betty, you were in the NICU, right?

BETTY: Yeah, I had to stay in the NICU for 100 days.

JOY DOLO: Wow. That's like over three months. What was that like?

BETTY: Well, I don't remember anything because I was just a baby. But I brought someone who does remember, my mom, Jenny.


JOY DOLO: Hi, Jenny. We're so glad you're here. So what do you remember about the day Betty was born?

JENNY: Well, it was a pretty crazy morning.


JENNY: She came very fast and very quickly. And then she was whisked off into a special room right off the room where I delivered. And she went right into an isolette.

JOY DOLO: What's an isolette?

JENNY: An isolette is like a little case that's where the baby stays. And it controls the temperature so they stay nice and warm.

JOY DOLO: Oh, cool.

BETTY: What did I look like when I was born?

JENNY: Well, Betty, you looked like a little alien baby. You were very small. Your skin was thin, almost translucent. And your head was pretty big. And your body, you just looked-- you looked fragile and peaceful, though. And you were in a safe place, that we knew that much.

BETTY: How big was I?

JENNY: You weighed two pounds. And you were 15 inches long. So basically, you could fit into Dad's hand.


JENNY: And when we first got to hold you, we had to be very, very gentle. And we could rest you on our chests. But you were so tiny, it was like holding a small stuffed animal.

BETTY: Yeah, I've seen photos. I was so small.

JOY DOLO: I have a question. So being so small, what-- can you still eat like regular stuff or--

JENNY: Yeah. So for the first several weeks, actually, really until probably about three weeks before Betty came home with us, she had a feeding tube, a really, really tiny feeding tube that actually went up through her nose and right down into her belly.


JENNY: And so that's how she got fed. But she had breast milk that just went right in that feeding tube and went right to her. And then once she was big enough and physically able to start trying to bottle feed, that's what we started to do. And so she learned how to do that while she was still in the hospital.


JENNY: And then once she could do that on her own while also still being able to breathe, that's when she could come home. But it takes a lot of coordination for the babies to learn.

JOY DOLO: Yeah. Yeah.

JENNY: So once she nailed that, then we were allowed to take her home.


BETTY: What did it feel like when I got to come home?

JENNY: It felt amazing. After so many days with you hooked up to monitors and all the alarms and a feeding tube, you could finally breathe on your own and eat on your own. And dad and I brought you home. And we were just thrilled. It was wonderful.

JOY DOLO: Oh, it's like when you showed up at the studio today, it was so wonderful.

BETTY: Thank you.

JOY DOLO: Pretty much the same thing. That is really cool to hear about. Thanks for sharing with us, Jenny.

JENNY: Absolutely. My pleasure.

BETTY: Thanks, Mom.

JENNY: Thank you.

JOY DOLO: And turns out, I actually know another person who was also in the NICU when she was born. My pal, Ruby Guthrie.

RUBY GUTHRIE: It's true. Hey, Joy. Hi, Betty.

BETTY: Hi, Ruby. You were a NICU baby too?

RUBY GUTHRIE: Yeah. I was also premature. I was born around three months early. And I was just over three pounds when I was born. And my parents actually used to put doll clothes on me because they were the only thing that fit me at first. All the newborn clothes were way too big, it looked like I was swimming in them.

And like you, Betty, I had to stay in the NICU for a while before I could come home. Almost two months. And obviously, I don't remember any of this because well, I was just born. But I've seen lots of pictures. And to be honest, they remind me of something out of a science fiction movie.

JOY DOLO: How so?

RUBY GUTHRIE: Well, I totally looked like an alien baby too. My head also seemed really big for my body. In some photos, I have tiny wires hooked up to my chest to monitor my heart rate, blood pressure, and lots of other things. In some, I even have a little tube in my nose to help me breathe. And in most of them, I'm in this see through box called an incubator. It looks like an empty fish tank, but with no water, of course.

BETTY: Oh, yeah. I was in an incubator too. I was in one called an isolette.

JOY DOLO: OK, hold on. I've also heard of incubators used to help baby chicks hatch. Are they the same?

RUBY GUTHRIE: Well, these different kinds of incubators are actually very connected. You see, eggs need warmth to hatch, but premature babies also need extra warmth because they have a harder time controlling their own body temperature.

JOY DOLO: So how are chicken incubators connected to baby incubators?

RUBY GUTHRIE: Well, it all starts in France.


It was the late 1870s. Railroads were expanding. The telephone and the light bulb had only just been invented, although, most households were still using candles and gas lamps to light their homes.

And in France, they had a problem. The country had just come out of a war. And the French government was worried that people weren't having enough babies.

JOY DOLO: Seems like a weird thing to be worried about. How are those two things connected?

RUBY GUTHRIE: Well, one reason the government wanted to increase the population was in case the country had to fight another war in the future.

BETTY: You mean, more babies, more future soldiers?

RUBY GUTHRIE: Yeah, which is not how I would like to think about babies. But as twisted as that was, it really got doctors thinking. One way to get the population up was to focus more on saving newborns, especially preemies.

JOY DOLO: Because back then, newborns who were born too early didn't have a great chance of surviving. So if doctors could save more preemies, it could help the population grow.

RUBY GUTHRIE: Right. And in Paris, one French doctor named Etienne Stephane Tarnier was trying to come up with a solution. And he just happened to be at the zoo, looking at chickens.

The zoo kept the chickens and their eggs in warming boxes. The warmth would help the eggs hatch, which is exactly what a hen does when she sits on her eggs. And that's when Tarnier got an idea.

ETIENNE STEPHANE TARNIER: What if I could save the newborns by keeping them warm in little boxes? If it works for chickens, maybe it'll work for humans.

RUBY GUTHRIE: So Tarnier got to work. He wasn't the first to invent a baby warming box. Others in Russia and Germany created working models earlier. But Tarnier's incubator gained the most attention.

BETTY: A baby warming box? What does it look like?

RUBY GUTHRIE: There were a couple different versions. But the ones that worked the best were wooden boxes with little beds inside them for the babies. Underneath, there was a cupboard where you could put hot water bottle. And on top, a glass lid kept the heat inside.

JOY DOLO: And it was important to keep the babies warm because like we mentioned earlier, preemies have a hard time controlling their body temperature.

RUBY GUTHRIE: Right. Keeping preemies warm helped keep them alive. Tarnier named his invention the couveuse, which translates to brooding hen.

JOY DOLO: Ooh la la.

BETTY: So what did people think of these incubators?

RUBY GUTHRIE: It was a mixed bag. Most hospitals were really skeptical and doubted whether the incubators actually worked. They claim they were too unusual, and even called them unscientific. Plus, the incubators were expensive. And they took a lot more nurses to monitor the babies and replace hot water bottles.

JOY DOLO: But we should also remember that hospitals back then were pretty different than how they are now. For example, most people didn't even deliver their babies at the hospital.

RUBY GUTHRIE: Yeah. In the late 1800s, most people had their babies at home. They wanted to avoid hospitals at all costs because they were often dirty and it was easy to catch an infection.

JOY DOLO: Scientists were just starting to understand that germs can make you sick. Even the importance of washing your hands was still a pretty new idea.

BETTY: Yikes.

RUBY GUTHRIE: And in the grand scheme of things, premature babies were seen as a lost cause to hospitals. They were even called weaklings. That was just the official name for them, which on behalf of all premature babies, rude.

BETTY: So rude. So did anyone believe in the incubators?

RUBY GUTHRIE: Yes. Some doctors thought preemies were worth saving. And they were really impressed by this new invention. But the world still needed convincing. And the world would be convinced by one doctor, a doctor who decided to put preemies in incubators on display for all to see.

BETTY: Babies on display?

JOY DOLO: Who would do such a thing?

BETTY: Joy, you literally had a baby on display earlier.

JOY DOLO: All right. But just so you know, I pay that baby in applesauce. It's her favorite currency.

BETTY: Speaking of babies, aren't you babysitting right now? Where's Gertrude?

JOY DOLO: Gertrude is napping right here under the desk. She fell asleep ages ago. See?


BETTY: Whoa. I didn't know babies could snore like that.

JOY DOLO: It's impressive that's such a tiny human can make such a big sound.


See what I mean? But you know what I don't want to sleep on?


RUBY GUTHRIE: First Things First.

JOY DOLO: That's the game where we try to guess the order things came in history. Today, we've got three different baby items, the pacifier, the stroller, and the baby bottle. OK, Betty, which do you think came first? Which came second? And which came most recently in history?

BETTY: I think that the stroller came first, then the pacifier, and finally, the baby bottle.

JOY DOLO: OK. So baby bottle is the most recent?


JOY DOLO: Great. So why do you think the baby bottle is the most recent?

BETTY: Well, I bet, just according to a lot of what I've seen or read or heard on podcasts. What old timey people were like, I feel like they would be like, plastic in a baby's mouth, what are we trying to do? Give them--

JOY DOLO: Who do you think we are?

BETTY: --lead poisoning?

JOY DOLO: Never these Neanderthals are giving my baby plastic in the mouth. I don't have it.

BETTY: Yeah. So I feel like that's probably why.

JOY DOLO: [LAUGHS] Plastic strollers, I could never.

BETTY: Yeah. So niche.

JOY DOLO: [LAUGHS] All right. So we have stroller, pacifier, baby bottle. Those are great. And we'll hear the answers after the credits.


Here at Forever Ago, we love talking about the surprising history behind some of our favorite inventions. Remember how early ice cream was flavored with whale poop?

BETTY: Or how the first electric car was invented way back in 1890? And for a while, they were even more popular than gas powered cars.

JOY DOLO: Right. Listeners, we want to hear from you. Do you have an invention you want to shout out for being totally awesome? It could be something unusual or something totally common that you think deserves more love. Send out a recording of yourself, sharing your favorite invention and what's great about it at

Betty, what's an invention you feel like you couldn't live without?

BETTY: Oh, god.

JOY DOLO: This is a great one.

BETTY: There are so many things that I would just like-- I would just go insane without. But probably my phone because I need it to FaceTime my friends.


BETTY: And-- yeah. So I'm going to go with my phone.

JOY DOLO: If you didn't have your phone, how would you get a hold of your friends?

BETTY: Yeah. I mean, I would see them in person. But if the whole universe didn't have phones in this age and we had like everything else, I just feel like it would be so weird because my parents couldn't arrange anything with them so I would only see them in school, and our friendship would just drift apart slowly if no one have phones.

JOY DOLO: We wouldn't have very strong friendships if we didn't have phones.


JOY DOLO: That's great.

BETTY: Yeah.

JOY DOLO: We can't wait to hear your invention mentions too. Send them to us at

BETTY: And we'll be right back.


You're listening to Forever Ago. I'm Betty.

JOY DOLO: I'm Joy.


BETTY: And today, we're talking about premature babies, also known as preemies. Those are babies that are born early.

JOY DOLO: Before the break, we learned that historically, preemies weren't given much special attention and care. But in the late 1800s, a French doctor named Tarnier started developing a special incubator that would help keep newborns alive by keeping them warm.

RUBY GUTHRIE: News of the invention spread across the globe. But most doctors were skeptical. And hospitals didn't want to spend money on them. However, there were a few people who believed incubators could change the world.

And there was one new doctor who wanted to put these incubators and babies on display. His name was Dr. Martin Cooney.


Cooney had learned about Tarnier's incubators. And unlike most of the hospitals at the time, he believed that they were an important life-saving technology.

MARTIN COONEY: These incubators are amazing. And they can save little babies. If only there was a way I could convince the world to use them.

RUBY GUTHRIE: Cooney also knew that seeing was believing. He thought, if everyone could see the incubators in action, maybe they'd be convinced they were worthwhile.

JOY DOLO: In action? Like he wanted other people to see babies in the incubators?

RUBY GUTHRIE: Right. He wanted to put these babies on display in the incubators, like a zoo for early babies.

BETTY: Putting babies on display seems kind of creepy, doesn't it? I mean, they're just babies. They have no say in whether they want to be on display or not.

RUBY GUTHRIE: Definitely. They can't even talk. It struck me as weird too. But that's exactly what Cooney did in 1896. He displayed six premature babies in incubators at the World's Fair in Berlin, Germany.


Yeah, these fairs were not like the ones you've probably been to. Almost every year, a different city would host the World's Fair. And these events were a way to introduce new inventions and learn more about technology, things like the telephone, zippers, the Eiffel Tower, pancake mix, giant telescopes, steam engines, you name it. All of these things were displayed at different World's Fairs.

WOMAN 1: An engine powered by steam? Wow, heralds. The future is now.

MAN 1: A steam engine? That'll never catch on. I'll stick with my horses. Thank you very much.

MAN 2: Now, these zippers, on the other hand, really tickle my fancy. Buttons, bygone.

RUBY GUTHRIE: And amongst it all, Cooney set up his baby incubators and called the display--

MARTIN COONEY: The child hatchery. Step right up. Step right up. Come one and all and see these babies in special boxes.

RUBY GUTHRIE: Yeah, you heard right. The child hatchery, which is equal parts ridiculous, whimsical, and slightly terrifying, but intriguing branding, nonetheless. And the hatchery drew big crowds.

WOMAN 2: Look at that tiny little baby.

WOMAN 3: Oh, I bet I could fit my wedding ring around its wrist.

MAN 3: Oh, they're just wee little peanuts.

RUBY GUTHRIE: The babies captivated visitors, so much so that Cooney started showing his incubators at fairs and exhibits across the world, London, Paris, Chicago, Omaha, Nebraska.

JOY DOLO: Omaha? Nebraska?

RUBY GUTHRIE: Yeah. And a couple of years later in 1903, Cooney decided to set up a permanent incubator show at Coney Island in New City.

JOY DOLO: Cooney at Coney Island? Has a ring to it. Hold up. I've heard of Coney Island. It's like a legit amusement park with corn dogs and carnival games and rides. You mean to tell me there were babies right there on the boardwalk?

RUBY GUTHRIE: Yeah. Isn't it wild? Coney Island had a bit of everything.


There were roller coasters, sword swallowers, fire breathers, and hot dogs. And nestled between all of it were Cooney's incubators.

MARTIN COONEY: Don't pass these babies by. All the world loves a baby. Once seen, never forgotten.

WOMAN 4: Did he just say babies? Hold my hot dog.

MAN 4: Wait, I want to see too. I do love a baby.

BETTY: So this was like a sideshow? Who on Earth let this man run a baby sideshow?

RUBY GUTHRIE: Betty, that was totally my first reaction too, like, this is so bizarre, right? I don't know how I would feel about being on display for a bunch of random people to come and stare at me. But Cooney didn't want this to be a spectacle sideshow. He wanted to care for these babies while convincing the world that preemies were worthwhile.

JOY DOLO: OK, I can get behind that message. But how did all this even work?

RUBY GUTHRIE: In some ways, it was set up like a mini hospital. Cooney, along with his wife, Anabelle, and his talented head nurse, worked with a team of doctors and nurses. Together, they took in babies of all different races and backgrounds, mostly from local maternity wards. Even Cooney's own daughter was cared for in the incubators after she was born six weeks early.

BETTY: So it wasn't all about showing off babies. He really cared for them.

JOY DOLO: Yeah, it wasn't just a performance, it was personal.

RUBY GUTHRIE: It's true. And Cooney wanted it to be an ethical operation. Some even claim he said--

MARTIN COONEY: We run this place ethical, not like a sideshow.

RUBY GUTHRIE: That's not to say that Cooney wasn't a showman. He was charming, spoke multiple languages, and liked chatting with everyone. He would invite fellow doctors to come see the incubators for free and join him for fancy lunches, all in hopes of convincing them to invest in incubators and premature babies.

MARTIN COONEY: Guttentag, Dr. Klein. Ca va, Dr. Dubois. Oh, and Dr. Williams, it's a pleasure to see you. Once you've finished your loaded baked potato with extra cheese, please, let me show you these marvelous incubators.

RUBY GUTHRIE: Cooney did a lot to get the public's attention. He went on local radio shows to promote the baby hatchery. He held graduation ceremonies for babies that no longer needed the incubators. And he even hosted reunions for former incubator babies who had grown up, showing that preemies could grow up to lead regular, healthy lives.

Cooney had a name for all of this showmanship. He called it--

MARTIN COONEY: Propaganda for preemies.

BETTY: He really did have a way with branding.

RUBY GUTHRIE: Agreed. The point was to get people to show up and pay to see the babies. Back then, a ticket cost around $0.25.

JOY DOLO: That would have been around $9 today. So if the show was so popular, where did all that money go?

RUBY GUTHRIE: This was an expensive project. That money was paying for the incubators, the team of nurses and doctors, plus everything else.

BETTY: So Cooney wasn't really making money off of it?

RUBY GUTHRIE: Definitely not at first, just enough to cover the costs of the operation itself. And here's one of the coolest parts. The families of those preemies on display, they never had to pay a cent towards any of the care that Cooney and his team provided. And those incubators saved their children.

JOY DOLO: That's pretty remarkable. But speaking of the families, how did parents feel about putting their babies on display?

RUBY GUTHRIE: Some parents were really unsure because they felt embarrassed about bringing their babies to Coney Island to be in the exhibition. They didn't want their baby to be looked at a sideshow attraction. But they figured, Cooney was a doctor. And his radical care was often their only hope. Without it, it's likely their children wouldn't survive at all.

JOY DOLO: Yeah, it's complicated, right? On one hand, it's uncomfortable to think about putting kids on display like they're at a zoo. But on the other hand, it was literally saving their lives.

RUBY GUTHRIE: It's an odd history, right? And as unusual as Cooney's incubator display was, it was wildly successful. The incubators remained at Coney Island for 40 years, officially closing its doors in 1943. And in that time, Cooney claimed he saved over 6,000 babies.

BETTY: Now that's a lot of babies.

JOY DOLO: That's amazing. But I'm still wondering about the hospitals. Where they still skeptical all those years later?

RUBY GUTHRIE: Honestly, yes. It was a slow trudge. But Cooney's displays helped make preemies more visible for doctors and the general public. Visitors could see that preemies weren't weaklings, they just needed some extra care. And with the help of incubators, they could be saved.

BETTY: So how did we go from there to where we are today, where it's super common for hospitals to have incubators for babies?

RUBY GUTHRIE: First of all, hospitals have become much cleaner, and more people were having babies there instead of at home. As the technology got better and doctors started learning more about how to care for preemies, incubators slowly showed up in more and more hospitals. And the incubators themselves got more advanced, adding in ways to control humidity and oxygen, not just heat.

But it wouldn't be until 1960, nearly 20 years after Cooney's incubator show closed, that the first official neonatal intensive care unit, also known as NICU, opened in the United States.

JOY DOLO: Wow, it took so long for hospitals to catch on.

BETTY: Yeah. And Cooney was way ahead of his time. What a great story.

RUBY GUTHRIE: Well, actually, there's a bit of a twist.

JOY DOLO: A twist?

BETTY: A twist?

RUBY GUTHRIE: Get this. So Dr. Cooney, the medical professional helping all these families, well, . He wasn't really a doctor.

JOY DOLO: What the-- what?

BETTY: No way.

RUBY GUTHRIE: I know. Just when you think you haven't figured out. Years after the incubator show closed and Cooney passed away, people discovered there was no proof that he was actually a professional doctor, even though he claimed to be throughout his life.

JOY DOLO: Come on, Cooney. I was rooting for you. We were all rooting for you.

BETTY: I feel like I just can't make up my mind about him.

RUBY GUTHRIE: I know. Like we said earlier, it's complicated. On one hand, he was this flashy showman who lied about being a doctor and put babies on display at the boardwalk.

BETTY: Which raises a lot of questions.

JOY DOLO: And mixed feelings.

RUBY GUTHRIE: Totally. But at the same time, Cooney and his team did save thousands of premature babies that probably wouldn't have made it without his care. And his devotion to displaying the incubator really influenced modern medicine in the long run.

JOY DOLO: History is like my famous taco dip, complex, layered, and sometimes, a bit messy.

RUBY GUTHRIE: Well said, Joy. So that's the story of Martin Cooney, his display of incubators, and the thousands of premature babies he saved.

JOY DOLO: Without Cooney, who knows what NICUs would have been like today?

RUBY GUTHRIE: Yeah, that's interesting to think about. NICUs are still really important. And they're continuing to improve all the time. And it's worth mentioning that some of Cooney's incubator babies are still alive today, which is so cool. It all goes to show that preemies like us can grow up to be healthy humans.

BETTY: Thanks for sharing all of this with us, Ruby.

RUBY GUTHRIE: My pleasure, especially from one preemie to another.

JOY DOLO: Yeah, this was great.


JOY DOLO: Baby Gertrude. She's awake.


JOY DOLO: Oh, did you hear that?

BETTY: Hear what?

JOY DOLO: She totally just said, Joy. Her first word.

BETTY: Well, actually, I heard Betty.

RUBY GUTHRIE: Are you sure it wasn't Ruby?


JOY DOLO: Guys, get real. It's so Joy. Wow. Wait till your mom hears about this, Gertrude. Applesauce for everyone.




BETTY: If you want access to ad free episodes and special bonus content, subscribe to our Smarty Pass.

JOY DOLO: Check it out at OK, Betty, ready to hear the answers for First Things First?


JOY DOLO: OK. So as a reminder, we're putting these baby products in order of when they were invented. And you said stroller, pacifier, and baby bottle.

BETTY: Correct.

JOY DOLO: Great. All right. So first up was baby bottles.


JOY DOLO: So they were putting those plastic bottles in their baby's mouths.


So actually, clay feeding bottles were used all the way back in 2000 BC.

BETTY: I feel like they wouldn't even want to-- oh, so I was thinking too soon. I was thinking like 1800s.

JOY DOLO: Yeah. Yeah. But they were using clay ones. And archaeologists at first didn't realize what these bottles were. They thought they might have been used to fill oil lamps. However, they found protein from animal milk inside them, leading them to believe that they were used to feed babies.

BETTY: Oh, that's cool.

JOY DOLO: Isn't that interesting?

BETTY: But I feel like if it was someone in the 1800s, they would be like, well, butter my biscuits. This is--


I am not going to put this silicone garbage in my beautiful Christopher's mouth.


JOY DOLO: Not in Christopher's mouth. Get the garbage away from my baby.


That's great. OK. So first, we have baby bottles. And then second up was strollers. Strollers were second in history.

BETTY: OK, I was close enough.

JOY DOLO: You were. You were. Yeah. So--

BETTY: And then finally was pacifiers. OK.

JOY DOLO: Yeah. Yeah. William Kent is credited with inventing the baby stroller in 1733 after the Duke of Devonshire asked him to develop a way to transport his children. He invented a basket on wheels that wasn't meant to be pushed by an adult. Instead, the idea was that it could be pulled by a goat or a pony.


JOY DOLO: And by the 1840s, baby carriages were much more popular and pushed by parents.


JOY DOLO: Could you imagine nowadays, walking around the park and seeing a carriage being pulled by a goat?

BETTY: Yeah. That used to be a thing kids could do at playgrounds. There used to be a goat tied to a sled. And it would run the kids around. But I feel like that's a recipe for little Timmy falling off a cliff or something.

JOY DOLO: Oh, yeah, because goats don't know what they're doing. And also like goat poop, that's a whole thing and probably not safe for babies. But you know what is safe for babies? The last thing, pacifiers.

BETTY: It is.

JOY DOLO: Did you hear that transition? That was a nice transition. Somebody write that down.

Pacifiers were patented in 1901 and first sold in the Sears Catalog in 1902. Do you know what the Sears Catalog is? It's like-- did you ever have you ever heard of the store Sears?

BETTY: Once.

JOY DOLO: I think-- I don't think there's a lot of them anymore. But they used to have a catalog that they had all kinds of stuff you can buy in there, like fridges and ovens and pacifiers, like that kind of stuff.

BETTY: Makes sense.

JOY DOLO: Yeah. So in 1902, they were first sold in those Sears Catalogs. And they were advertised as new style rubber teething ring.

BETTY: The new style-- hey, guess what I just bought for my child. The new style rubber teething ring.

JOY DOLO: Christopher is going to love this.



JOY DOLO: Pacifiers are unique because of the rubber nipple babies suck on. But people have always given babies little toys to soothe them while they're teething, from silver to corn cobs.

BETTY: Corn cobs?

JOY DOLO: Corn cobs. Did you ever have a pacifier or anything like that?

BETTY: I had a ton of little pacifiers. And I would sleep with them. And I would put-- as if they were my stuffies. I would put one in my-- one would go in my mouth. And then-- just be clear, I don't put my stuffies in my mouth. But one of them would go in my mouth. And then three of them would be next to me.

JOY DOLO: Oh, wow. Well, that was great, did a great job with that. We'll be back next week with an episode about the hole in the ozone.

BETTY: Thanks for listening.


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