This is why hospitals started displaying newborn babies behind windows

Newborn nurseries have been fixtures at U.S. hospitals since the early 20th century, and all share a striking similarity: large windows facing out to hospital corridors, Smithsonian.com reports.

In the June 1943 edition of Standards and Recommendations for Hospital Care of Newborn Infants, the authors prescribed that a "viewing window" should be "provided between each nursery and the nurses' station, and one between each nursery and the corridor so that relatives may see the infants without coming into contact with them."

The original purpose of the window was two-fold. The window was foremost used to allow relatives to see the infants, but it also served as an antibacterial barrier to prevent the babies from coming into contact with disease or illness. The windows, experts suggested, provide "hope" and happiness by allowing families and hospital visitors the opportunity to see the babies who may one day become future leaders.

The practice of placing infants on display may have stemmed from the Western tradition of "incubator shows," which placed premature and otherwise weak babies on display in permanent and traveling exhibitions, according to the report. In the U.S., incubator shows commonly charged admission and displayed sick infants among "ethnic village and freak shows," NPR reports.

However, the practice of viewing infants may be diminishing, due in part to the World Health Organization's Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative in 1991, which encourages hospitals to keep mothers and infants together after birth to promote bonding, according to the report.

More articles on hospital-physician relationships:
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SSM Health physician: These were the top 10 things that surprised me about medical school
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