Sunday, August 27, 2006


At a time when in the UK, the dispute between baby care expert Gina Ford and the website is a hot potato (see here), I am able to bring you news of the formation of a new organisation for mothers and their children: “The British Empire Bassinet Society”.

Although it had its beginnings only a few days ago on the internet, the Society’s roots go back more than a hundred years to the birth of New Zealander Frederic Truby King in 1858. Truby King graduated as a Doctor of Medicine at Edinburgh in 1886, and after returning home to New Zealand, went on to become a child care expert of world renown.

His strict regimes for the nurture of healthy infants were intended to address the worrying infant mortality rates among the poorer classes, but his routines were adopted enthusiastically also by middle and upper class women in both the white Dominions and the United Kingdom itself. Our own Queen Elizabeth was a Truby King baby.

The Doctor is probably best known for the emphasis he laid upon feeding strictly by the four-hour clock, but among other things he recommended was a free flow of air around the baby. His book “Feeding and Care of Baby” shows his ideal of a simple wicker bassinet without draperies and frills.

It now appears that this model has continued to be copied throughout the Empire until as late as the 1960’s, for when a blogger published a picture of the Truby King bassinet on her blog the other day (see
here), it was recognised by one of her readers, and they discovered that it was a common element of their past, one in India in 1959 and one in Australia in 1965. And so the idea for the Society was born.

Membership will be on line only, will cost nothing, and will be open to mothers who have used the British Empire Bassinet for their babies, as well as to the children themselves. (It is at present under consideration whether fathers should be offered associate membership.) If your children were British Empire Bassinet babies, and you are interested in joining, please leave a comment to that effect. There will be no benefits, other than the satisfaction of knowing you belong to an elite group.

At the start the Society’s membership is likely to consist largely of older mothers who recall using the cot for their babies. But as time takes its toll of this second generation of enlightened women, who knew what was best for the children of the Empire, it is inevitable, and indeed desirable, that it should eventually pass to the succeeding generation. In this way we may hope to see perpetuated the very best of the British character :: true grit, fair play, reserve, and a stiff upper lip.

The logo of the British Empire Bassinet Society - (representing a baby in a bassinet)


DellaB said...

Judith ... what a good idea, count me in ... I have just been talking to my son who spent his first days in just this bassinet!. And speaking of the British empire, we've just done a trip to visit the birthplace of my partners early settler rellies, found some descendants and lots of info in the historical society. Farleys and Saxbys who arrived here in the 1800s. I've got some pics I hope to get on the blog in the next few days.

I often see new babes wrapped up so tight, too warm... I need to fight the temptation to intrude with 'good advice'.


Judith said...

Oh yes! Close wrapping. My Indian born BEBB (British Empire Bassinet Baby)was sent home from hospital bound up like a mummy in his shawl. He couldn't move a limb! I soon unwrapped him. The hot climate did not agree with either of us, and we both developed boils soon after he was born. I had one in the breast which had to be lanced, and I had to suspend breast feeding on that side for a week or two, using a milk extractor to get the milk for him instead. I was considered odd for breast feeding at all out there, because the climate was so hard on many British people.