Premature Infant Care in the Early 20th Century

J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 2017 Jul-Aug;46(4):637-646. doi: 10.1016/j.jogn.2016.09.008. Epub 2017 Apr 27.


The complex early history of infant incubators provides insight into challenges faced by medical professionals as they promoted care for premature infants in the early 20th century. Despite their absence from the narrative to date, nurses played vital roles in the development of neonatal care. Working in many different settings, from incubator-baby shows to the first hospital unit designed specifically for premature infants, nurses administered quality care and promoted advanced treatment for these newborns.

Keywords: eugenics; incubator-baby shows; incubators; neonatal nursing; prematurity; social Darwinism; technology.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • History, 20th Century
  • Hospitals, Maternity / history
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal / history*
  • Neonatal Nursing / history*
  • Neonatology / history*