Baby Cages: The Chicken Coop-Like Toddler Bins of the 1930s

Mother dangling a "baby cage" out of her apartment window
Mother dangling a "baby cage" out of her apartment window
Mothers dangling “baby cages” out of their apartment windows was a fad that emerged in many popular parenting books in the 1930s.

In the 1930s, London city apartments were decorated with protruding cages that stuck out like air conditioning units. Babies were placed in these baskets as parents enjoyed the idea of actively “airing” their toddlers out to promote health, a fad that emerged in many popular parenting books at the time.

How Did This Trend Pick Up?

In 1894, American pediatrician Luther Emmett Holt published a book that helped new mothers learn how to care for their babies. At the time, with rapid industrialization and urbanization, many illnesses were propping up in infants, and this book titled “The Care and Feeding of Children: A Catechism for the Use of Mothers and Children’s Nurses” became increasingly popular as a parent’s go-to solution guide.

The book provided a myriad of remedies, from only feeding children certified milk, avoiding playing with children until they were six months old, subjecting them to harsh cold temperatures as a way to help build their immunity against the common cold, and “airing” out toddlers in cages to help “renew and purify their blood.”

Hanging infant-sized cage out of a London apartment window
The technique of hanging infant-sized cages out of London apartment windows was adopted by parents to help children fight the chances of getting the common cold.

Babies were usually dressed in a bonnet and light coat and placed in these cages. According to the daring London moms, the cold temperature and drafts of wind could help purify the infants’ blood and build up their immunity.

Towards the second half of the twentieth century, the popularity of baby cages began to subdue. Most likely due to the growing safety concern it poised and lack of scientific validity.

These days, you may not find chicken-wire infant cages, but a similar concept has arisen for little ones in Scandinavia. Babies in strollers are often parked outside cafés and restaurants while their parents hang out inside.

Below you can watch the two promotional videos British Pathé created in 1949 and 1953 espousing the benefits of baby cages: