MadeForMums is turning 10 this year, and we’re feeling a bit retrospective, reflective – and celebratory! And it’s made us want to highlight – and pay homage – to 10 people whose innovations, behaviour and pioneering ideas have affected the way we get pregnant, give birth and parent in amazing, irreversible ways.
Some of them are famous; some really aren’t so much. Some of them are long dead; some are still very much alive. But they’ve all had an incredible impact on our parenting lives – even if we didn’t really know it till now…
Here’s our pick of the 10 people we think have changed parenting for ever…
1. Gina Ford
When maternity nurse Gina Ford published The Contented Little Baby Book in 1999, her routine-led approach to looking about little babies became a best-selling phenomenon.
Advocating strict timetables for feeds and naptimes, the ‘Queen of Routine’ quickly picked up hundreds of thousands of devotees, who swore by Gina’s methods to help their babies (and them!) get a restful night.
But Gina’s regimented approach also sparked a backlash – with critics including singer Myleene Klass, politician Nick Clegg and TV doctor Miriam Stoppard.
That hasn’t stopped the juggernaut though, and Gina has now written more than 20 books, covering everything from weaning and potty-training, to pregnancy and twins.
Love her approach or loathe it, it’s certainly caused a huge stir in the world of parenting.
2. Gill Rapley
Anyone who has handed their weaning baby a chunky piece of broccoli, handful of spaghetti, or juicy slice of peach rather than reaching for the puree has Gill Rapley to thank for the widespread popularity of baby-led weaning.
Along with Tracey Murkett, the pair championed the approach in their first book Baby-led Weaning in 2008.
The idea that babies of 6 months could sit down with the rest of the family and eat, pretty much, what everyone else had – as long as they were feeding themselves – was a pioneering theory that dispelled the myth that little ones had to be spoon-fed purees.
It’s not for everyone though, and some of us will always love offering tiny spoonfuls of puree and knowing exactly how much our little ones have eaten…
3. Valerie Hunter Gordon
All hail Valerie Hunter Gordon, who died in 2016: she invented the first disposable nappy – AKA the Paddi – in 1947.
She was pregnant with the 3rd of her 6 children and dreading washing, drying and ironing cloth nappies.
By 1950, Valerie’s invention was in all Boots stores, and she had a patent granted a year later to produce it in the US and worldwide.
Her invention was actually very similar to today’s modern reusables with an adjustable waterproof outer layer – except that, inside, was a throwaway biodegradable pad.
Valerie was selling 6 million Paddis a year by 1960, but the last was produced in 1990, after Pampers overtook the market with its cheaper (but not biodegradable) nappies.
Although a focus on sustainability has triggered a renewed interest in reusable nappies in recent years, there is no denying the invention of the disposable nappy helped liberate many 1950s mums from (some of) the endless pre-washing machine household drudge.
4. Steve Jobs
Who hasn’t watched their child swiping a tablet screen with amazement at their speed and skill?
Steve Jobs, who died in 2011, is the person we have to thank for the tech revolution that has changed the way our children learn, communicate and play.
As the architect of the Apple iPad launch in 2010, Steve changed behaviour so much that the tablet is now ubiquitous in schools and homes for education and play (just don’t try to getting your little one off it without a fight!).
Interestingly, Steve limited his own kids’ use of gadgets at home: maybe he had iPad reward charts for the 4 of them…
5. Owen Maclaren
With such an array of teeny, folding pushchairs out there, it’s hard to imagine a world where the ONLY buggies you could buy were huge, cumbersome cots on wheels.
Enter Owen Finlay Maclaren (1906 to 1978), who invented the first compact folding pushchair in 1964, the forerunner of today’s plethora of models.
The former test pilot and designer of the Supermarine Spitfire undercarriage was inspired when his daughter visited from Moscow with his 1st grandchild and he saw her struggling with a conventional pram.
The Maclaren Baby Buggy – made from aluminium tubing to fold like an umbrella, and weighing just 3kg – received its first patent in 1965 and changed baby transport for ever.
6. The Obamas
One of the most iconic working families out there, the Obamas spent two terms of US presidency(2009 to 2017) stripping away stereotypes and showing that a US president could be an engaged, connected dad.
As a senator, Barack was lambasted for missing an important vote because daughter Malia was ill – but the family has since paved the way to more equality at home and work.
Former First Lady Michelle’s 2018 biography, Becoming, gave us an insight into just how the Obama family dynamic works, and we love how the family injected passion and humour into their lives, from dealing with playdates to canine fun with their pet dogs Bo and Sunny.
Is it just us, or would we all secretly like to parent like the Obamas?
7. Queen Victoria
Being able to choose pain relief in birth if we want it is a modern-day mum right, but did you know that Queen Victoria (1819 to 1901) was among the 1st to make it an acceptable idea?
Before then, the traditional view was that women should endure the pain of childbirth but, having had 7 drug-free births, Queen Victoria was eager (natch) to try the new anaesthetic chloroform during the birth of her 8th child Prince Leopold in 1853.
Choosing pain relief again in 1857 with daughter Princess Beatrice ensured wider public acceptance, leading to the development of modern pain relief like gas and air – or Entonox – and the epidural.
8. Professor Robert Winston
A familiar face (and tache!) on our TV screens, Professor Robert Winston’s scientific work since the 1970s has helped develop surgical techniques to improve fertility treatment, as well as sterilisation reversal.
He later pioneered new ways to boost IVF and allow embryos to be screened for genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis.
Professor Winston’s interest in genetics and the environmental factors that play into human development have been explored in TV shows including The Secret Life of Twins, The Human Body and, of course, Child of Our Time.
2020 will mark the end of the Child of Our Time project, which has followed the lives of 25 babies from their birth in 1999/2000 until they reach 20. We cannot wait.
8. Donald Winnicott
Paediatrician Donald Winnicott (1896 to 1971) trained as a psychoanalyst in the late 1920s, focusing on the significance of the parent-baby relationship and the idea that parents know better about their children’s needs than experts.
Coining the (excellent) phrase the ‘good-enough mother’, he developed the ‘holding’ theory, saying that a supportive environment – including being physically held – is a really positive thing for babies’ development.
Donald’s work on the value of play, published in his 1971 book Playing and Reality, gave major insights into how play can impact on creativity and help reveal a child’s true self.
10. Margaret Crane
You might find this hard to believe but, as recently the 1960s, women couldn’t do their own pregnancy test: they had to ask to be tested at their doctor’s surgery and then wait around for 2 weeks for the result!
That was until freelance graphic designer Margaret Crane – known as Meg – came up with the idea of a home pregnancy testing kit in 1967. Finally, women could do a test whenever and wherever they wanted, and get the result in 2 hours.
Although it took until 1976 to get approval for the testing kit, sales of Meg’s ‘Predictor’ took off immediately – even though there were plenty of critics who thought women couldn’t be trusted to do the test properly on their own!
The simple design for the kit – which included a little test tube and dropper in a plastic case – is now so famous it has been acquired in the US by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
And 5 people who almost made the cut..
Dad-of-5 Jamie Oliver may have started his TV chef career in the background of the kitchen at swanky west London eatery the River Café, but just a few years later, he had moved his focus to schools. And when his documentary School Dinners aired in 2005, it’s fair to say we were all shocked at just what our children were eating at school – including the now-infamous Turkey Twizzlers. Sparking more investment from government, Jamie’s campaigning raised the profile of school food.
Michelle Leclaire O’Neill
California-based Michelle Leclaire O’Neill developed Hypnobirthing – the Leclaire Method – in 1987. It which aims to create a completely natural state for childbirth through mindfulness, concentration and relaxation. With fans including Angelina Jolie, Jessica Alba, Fearne Cotton and Giovanna Fletcher, hypnobirthing is fast entering the mainstream, with classes even being offered on the NHS.
Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson has been an ardent campaigner for parental rights, introducing new shared parental leave legislation, which took effect in 2015 and allows parents to split up to 50 weeks of leave (including 37 on statutory pay) between them. She was first elected to Parliament in 2005, when she was just 25, and was the first ever MP to bring a baby into a Parliamentary debate, when her son Gabriel fell asleep in his carrier after a feed last year.
Prunella (pictured, above left), who died in 2017, launched the Natural Childbirth Association – later renamed the National Childbirth Trust –in 1956, to give women more information and support about labour and birth. The NCT has become shorthand for antenatal classes in many parts of the UK, but its inception originally came from the experience Prunella Briance had of stillbirth in the 1950s, a time when fathers were not even allowed into the delivery room.
Liberal politician William Forster (1818 to 1886) was the campaigner behind 1870 Elementary Education Act, commonly known as Forster’s Education Act, which established local education authorities, authorised public money to improve existing schools and established the provision of education on a national scale for all children aged 5 to 12.
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