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Weird History

The Dystopian Program Of "Practice Babies" Where Orphan Infants Were Used To Train Expectant Mothers

The best way to train mothers is to use real children, right?  At least that was the guiding principle during the first half of the 20th century when "practice babies" were used in home economic programs around the country. Babies from orphanages were put to work, so to speak, taking part in an experiment of sorts while receiving nurturing and attention from numerous women on a daily basis. The infants were called domecon babies - a mash-up of the words domestic and economy - and even given the last name Domecon to define them. The children were leased out as practice babies for home economics students. Unfortunately, these babies lost their identities and any sort of attachment to a single mother figure in the process.

These courses on "mothercraft" - the scientific art of child-rearing - were conducted to teach and domesticate young women motherhood and other domestic skills could be learned just like any other science. The earliest mothercraft courses were based in lectures and training in skills like needlecraft as well as motherhood by using dolls. As the courses continued to develop, however, there were criticisms that simulated infant care wasn't sufficient. This led to the use of real-life infants in the classes - practice babies. 

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