This feature is part of a year-long series of excerpts and special commentaries celebrating AF's 50th year of publication. Excerpts from the two 1950 volumes of GP, AF's predecessor, appear along with highlights of 50 years of family medicine.
This feature, “How to Weigh a Baby,” by Edwin Matlin, M.D., is reprinted from the December 1950 issue of GP. Although light-hearted in nature, the piece illustrates a sense of humor that is as important today as it was 50 years ago.
I read somewhere, not too long ago, that the height of the present young adult generation is about 3 inches taller than that of their parents, and that, due to better nutrition and living conditions, we are developing into a race of giants. This may have been true at the time I was born, but I've recently noted a fact which fills me with alarm.
After delivering about 4,000 babies, it suddenly dawned on me that the birth weight of these newborns was quite low as compared with my generation.
To illustrate: my parents were 5 ft 9 in (father) and 5 ft 7 in (mother). They had three other children, who weighed 16.2 lb, 14.9 lb, 14.11 lb. The puny member of the family, I weighed 12.10 lb. The average weight of the babies I have delivered is between 7 and 8 lb. Occasionally, I have delivered a slightly larger child of 9 or 10 lb. Presumably, because of this better start, my brothers and I average 5 ft 11 in in height. Hence, my fear that the newer generations will be a race of midgets.
In my search for the mystic unknown, which I have called K9BM, I have spent innumerable hours in research, much of which was spent with the older obstetricians and GP's. Now, at last, I have found the answer to the larger birth weights of children, and I can report to the scientific world that I, too, can deliver 12-lb, 14-lb, and 16-lb babies without an episiotomy, without a tear, and to the complete satisfaction of all concerned, especially the grandparents.
We must dispense with the old-fashioned notion that babies should be delivered in a hospital. This is a new-fangled idea and consequently must be avoided; besides, you are a physician and, as such, have no control over the weighing-in process in a hospital. At home, you can do the weighing yourself.
First of all, I carry my own scales. This scale is a chrome-plated version of the fish scales commonly used, but with a few additional buttons and rhinestones to add glitter to the process. In reply to the question by nurses and parents, I nonchalantly state that the hospital scales have no springs in them and because of this the “krochain” is never “forstig” the way mine is.
With this glorified fish scale, a slight push on the weight pointer will enable the baby to gain 1 to 2 lb before it is even placed on the scale.
Then I take a tablecloth, fold it several times and hook it onto the scale. In the center, I place a pillow. “I just don't like to put babies on a hard table cloth.” On the pillow I place the baby fully dressed, of course; “it's too cold to undress the infant.” Then, when all is ready, I grasp the tablecloth because with a firm grasp the child can gain any desired number of pounds.
These are the trade secrets of K9BM as told to me by the old timers and which I freely divulge, so that mothers today may not be the parents of weaklings and underweight infants, and that we may answer the prayer of the modern mother: “Dear Lord, make my baby fat and me skinny.”—EDWIN MATLIN, M.D.