Babies in Cars (Back in the Day)

This is something I’ve been wondering for a while. What did people do with their babies when they were driving before baby/kid car seats were a thing? My mom didn’t drive when I or my sisters were babies, so if she took us in a car, she was holding us. But what about the moms that drove? Did they just lay the baby on the backseat when they went off to the grocery store? I can see an infant just lying there, but what about a baby that was old enough to move around but still not sitting really well? Did they just roll around on the back seat?! I know when we were older we just piled in the back seat and fought over who got to stand on the “hump”!! I’ve asked older women this question, and they all say, “I don’t remember” !!!

No the baby would be in the front passenger seat by the driver.
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There were no car seats when I was born (but they were required by the time my brother was born six years later - if I correctly recall they became widely available in the US around 1980). What my parents did was put me in a portable crib with legs that folded up so it could go on the back seat.

I can remember the car seat I had in the early '60s or maybe I remember my little brother using it. It was plastic, clipped over the back of the front seat and had a little toy steering wheel with a horn button. Kept me in place and somewhat occupied but it wouldn’t have helped in a serious collision.

For an infant, folks would sometimes put a blanket down in the rear seat foot area. These were usually much deeper indentations then, and made a cozy bowl separated by the “hump” (where the axle went through).

In a station wagon, There was about an 18inch stripe of flat space between the rear seat and the back-facing jumpseat. This was also a favorite spot for little ones to sleep or sit.

I used to ride in the well for the convertible top. I shit you not.

Bassinet, partly folded stroller, or being held by a passenger. I am told circa 1958 my Dad would wrap me in a blanket almost sleeping-bag style and lay me on the floor of the old Ford. Bench seats made a lot of options possible.

According to this interesting article, the first car seats built with safety in mind were made in 1962. Prior to that, there were things you could buy to put your kid in in the car but they were just to let the kid look out the window or keep it in place.

The first federal standards were set in 1971 and the first state laws were passed in 1979. All states had a car seat law by 1985.

I happen to remember my car seat from the early 80s. It was vinyl coated with metal arms. OUCH!! (On a hot day)

This Pinterest board has some photos of vintage car seats.

Actually my post is kind of a hijack, sorry. But your question made me wonder about the history of car seats!

My wife’s family tells the story about an incident that occurred in 1965 or 1966. They were living in Indianapolis at the time; my wife was around 3 years old, and her sister was an infant. My mother-in-law hated Indianapolis (they’d moved there for my father-in-law’s job), and my father-in-law was working long hours, leaving her alone at home with two small girls. (Given my mother-in-law’s now-documented but then-undiagnosed psychological issues, she was very likely suffering from some form of depression.)

Anyway, one day, my mother-in-law decided that she’d had enough, and left. She put the girls in the car, and drove to her parents’ house in Chicago. My wife, being old enough to sit up, was in the back seat; my sister-in-law was placed in a laundry basket, surrounded by blankets to keep her from rolling around in the basket. No child seats of any kind.

Edit: for myself, in that same era, I remember sometimes sitting in (and even sleeping in) the footwell in the back seat of my parents’ car.

I also recall sitting on the hump itself, between the two footwells, if the back seat was full of bigger kids. Had to pay attention though, it could heat up fast.

when I was 3 or 4 years old dad put me on the front seat to take me to his house for a bit he went back in moms house for something with the car on ……10 minutes later I was bored and decided to play "cars : got bored of playing with the steering wheel slipped down and wanted the car to go vroom and pressed the pedal and turned the wheel
Right into the teachers parking lot fence of the hs we lived by ……… d

I remember riding in one of those, and looking past my Father’s head.
I also remember riding in the back of the station wagon with the rear seats folded down, with blankets and comic books.
Stepdaughter v.2.1 was described to me as “standing on the seat beside me”.
I drove Mama Plant when she felt she couldn’t drive well anymore. When I braked hard, she put her arm out to stop me from sliding off the seat as she did when I was too small for my feet to reach the floor.

We had a kind of harness that was put on the kid and secured somehow (how?) to the back seat. They could lie down or sit up, but they were secured to the seat and could not leave. It didn’t strike me as very safe in an accident (they would not be thrown out of the car, but the point of attachment was in the middle of the back), but it was what there was and was recommended by Consumer Reports. This was in the late 60s.

I’m part of a Facebook group that posts old-time photos and articles about our neighborhoods, and someone recently ran an article from the 1950s about a police motorcycle being knocked over by a Chevy because the car’s driver was distracted by her baby grandson having slid off the front seat onto the floor.

I’ve also seen old ads for what was essentially a collapsible table that fit over the floor spaces in the back seat of a car, to turn the whole back seat area into a flat play area. It’s hard to imagine what people using such a thing thought about what might happen in an accident.

In the mid-60s, my family took a road trip to Alaska. I was baby at the time. Mom tells me the story of building a tabletop sort of thing that fit in the back seat, creating a flat surface at the seat level, and then hooking me into a harness that kept me from falling off the edge of it. So tie them into place as an option.

I was a kid in the early 70’s and thought nothing of standing up in the car. I remember grown ups holding babies, I can’t recall what a single grown up would do.

How was this OK?:eek::smiley:

It seemed normal as a kid, but looking back it seems like criminal level neglect. Kinda like pregnant women who smoked WELL after the consequences were common knowledge.

The world is a funny place.

In my family the older kids were assigned one younger kid to hold on to and for some reason I always ended up with my baby brother. He was the biter/ hair puller type. I was always afraid he would try to open the door. It was a crowded back seat. We would have all died had my Daddy wrecked the car.
ETA on the other hand, the lil’wrekker was Houdini in a carseat. Many times I had to pull over and dig her out of the floor board and restrap her in.

When my parents were coming back from Canada with baby me I was on the front floor of the car, under the passenger seat.

I remember my sister doing this with my oldest niece and nephew.

Best $400 I ever spent.