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Oh, baby! Why Johnson & Johnson created Dr. Simpson’s maternity packets

In honor of Mother’s Day, we’re sharing the story behind a company invention from 1894 that helped make deliveries safer.

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Having babies wasn’t always like it is today. In fact, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the onus was on the expectant parents to gather the supplies needed for delivery because most babies were born at home.

That is, until Johnson & Johnson helped change that.

This was part of Johnson & Johnson’s commitment to mothers and babies, which continues today in many forms.

According to the company’s in-house historian, Margaret Gurowitz, in the late 19th century, Johnson & Johnson worked in conjunction with such prominent obstetricians as Dr. Joseph Brown Cooke, a surgeon at New York Maternity Hospital, to create maternity kits containing sterile medical supplies that could help ensure a safe delivery and reduce infant and maternal mortality rates.

The first mass-produced kit, Dr. Simpson’s Maternity Packet, is believed to have been named after Dr. James Young Simpson, a Scottish obstetrician. “He worked on anesthetics and made a lot of contributions to the field of obstetrics,” Gurowitz explains. “It was likely named in his honor because he was such a pioneer in the field.”

Each kit contained sterile sutures, an obstetric sheet and ligatures, sterile sponges and gauze, antiseptic soap, a washcloth, materials for washing the baby’s eyes, flannel for wrapping the baby, safety pins and a chart for keeping birth records. It could be purchased either through retail drugstores or surgical supply dealers.

“This was part of Johnson & Johnson’s commitment to mothers and babies,” Gurowitz says, “which continues today in many forms.”

When you’ve been innovating for over 135 years …

Johnson & Johnson has a virtual museum where you can learn more fun facts about its rich history.

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