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Better baby contests were a feature of the baby saving campaign of the early 20th century, mainly in the United States and Britain, that attempted to combat high infant mortality rates with the promotion of public health, often paired with the eugenics goal of race betterment.

During the period before pediatric visits became common, baby contests at state and county fairs and civic gatherings introduced parents to the notion of routine health assessments for young children. These contests were part of what historians have termed scientific motherhood—a movement favoring the growing authority of medical professionals in child-rearing. The U.S. Children’s Bureau, founded in 1912, and organizations such as the National Congress of Mothers promoted this scientific approach through the development of milk stations, fresh-air camps, and ...

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