The frequency of multiple human births follows an apparent statistical "rule of 87." Twin births in the U.S. and European countries happen once in 87 confinements. Triplets are born once in 872 (87x87) or 7,569 confinements, quadruplets once in 873 (87x87x87) or 658,503 and quintuplets once in 874 (87x87x87x87) or 57,289,761. Though the rule cannot be proven for quintuplets, U.S. statistics otherwise follow it remarkably well.
This "Rule of 87" may have been true in the mid-twentieth century, but I'm guessing that the rise of fertility drugs played havoc with it.
In 2003, the UK children's charity Barnardo's came out with the ad below. It promptly triggered numerous complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority. Barnardo's argued that it "caused distress for good reason, but the ASA banned the ad anyway, saying it could "cause serious or widespread offense."
The ad was subsequently voted one of the top 10 ads of 2003 by Campaign magazine.
Of course, the charity must have known it was likely the ad would get banned, but evidently figured the controversy would attract more attention to their message than something more subdued.
Japan's "crazy inventor" Hiroshi Majima invented this odd device:
It is like a mother's real breast. A baby grabs hold of the facsimile, its nipple in its mouth, its cheek against a simulated heart that beats 70 times regularly every 60 seconds.
The tot apparently feels secure and reassured, stops yelling and drifts off to sleep without another whimper.
Bed-wetting is also greatly reduced, inventor Majima finds.
"Mother Heart" now sells abroad, not just on Japan's domestic market alone. Ready-made markets, Majima says, have been found in the Mediterranean countries, like France, Italy, and Spain, where mothers are especially close to their infants, and vice versa.
Here we have an article which brings both extremes of existence together—the symbol of death is used to rest the babe who has just begun life—birth and death are mentally associated upon contemplating this peculiar outcome of man's mind. Whether intended to impress the growing child with the nearness of death, and to demand a due reverence for the future state of man, or whether merely the result of a morbid desire to connect the mind continually with the undertaker, I cannot venture to say; although it must be admitted that the cross fixed at the head of this curious cradle substantiates the supposition that a religious idea prompted its construction. The bells, which tinkle upon occasions when the cradle is being rocked, seem to point to the wish on the parents' part to comfort the little darling of humanity destined to occupy this coffin-cradle.
I don't think this would go over well nowadays. From the Iowa City Press-Citizen - May 12, 1975:
As a pediatrician [Dr. Charles Johnson of the Iowa Medical School faculty] gives a lecture on child development. It’s scheduled for 1 p.m. The students are sleepy, not only because the subject doesn’t send them but because they’ve just finished lunch.
To liven them up Johnson does this:
“I start the lecture by playing a stereo recording from Sesame Street, which awakens about a third of the audience. I briefly outline the two-hour lecture and then, on cue, in comes the first patient... a newborn in a wheeled isolette pushed by a nurse.
“For the pediatrician,” I announce, “this is where it all begins.”
The baby then starts to scream. As it gets louder and louder Johnson becomes more and more annoyed.
At first he rocks the isolette gently, then with more vigor. Finally, in a fit of anger he flings open the glass top, seizes the infant, and throws it out into the audience.
“When the hysteria dies down I state: ‘Infants are helpless parasites. They can be and are battered.’
“Most of my other pearls are soon forgotten, but rarely does the student forget the ‘helpless parasite’ flying into the audience. All that’s needed is a straight-faced nurse, a good tape recording of an infant yelling — and a life-size doll.
Artist Mary Kelly’s 1976 exhibit at the Insitute of Contemporary Art in London consisted of a framed series of soiled liners from her kid’s diapers. Below the fecal stains, she listed what her kid had eaten in order to produce the marks.
The 1930s-era solution to the problem of babies getting mixed up in hospitals was to temporarily brand newborns with a UV-ray lamp. The procedure was said to be painless, though it was terrible PR to describe it as 'branding'.
Sara Franklin's 15 minutes of fame came from being the first baby raised in a glass box. Or in an Air crib, as the device, invented by psychologist B.F. Skinner, was called. More info from wikipedia:
The air crib is an easily cleaned, temperature- and humidity-controlled enclosure intended to replace the standard infant crib. Skinner invented the device to help his wife cope with the day-to-day tasks of child rearing. It was designed to make early childcare simpler (by reducing laundry, diaper rash, cradle cap, etc.), while allowing the baby to be more mobile and comfortable, and less prone to cry. Reportedly it had some success in these goals.
The air crib was a controversial invention. It was popularly mischaracterized as a cruel pen, and it was often compared to Skinner's operant conditioning chamber, commonly called the "Skinner Box". This association with laboratory animal experimentation discouraged its commercial success, though several companies attempted production.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.