Myth # 123: Parents put their babies in trundle beds and pushed them under the upper bed for warmth.

Thanks to Eric Olsen, Park Ranger and Historian at Morristown National Historic Park, for this one. Seems new myths are always popping up! Let’s nip this one in the bud.


“I’ve got a new myth for you that I never heard before last week. I was talking with one of our new volunteers after she had completed a tour of Washington’s Headquarters [Ford Mansion, Morristown NHP] and she was excited because she learned something new from one of our visitors.
The visitor told her that parents placed their babies in trundle beds and then pushed the bed underneath the adult bed with the baby still in the trundle bed! The reason for this behavior was that the heat from the adults sleeping in the large bed about the trundle bed would help keep the baby warm.
At this point I explained the whole concept of Old House Tour myths and plugged your book at the same time. I pointed out that parents did indeed put babies in trundle beds but not underneath another bed. By having the baby in a trundle bed next to the parent’s bed, a mother could easily reach her baby for nursing in the middle of the night. If a mother placed her baby in bed with the parents, to make it easier to reach the child when nursing time came, there was always the possibility that the sleeping parents might roll over on the baby. So it was safer to put the baby in a separate trundle bed.
I also suggested that if a baby was placed under the parents bed the baby would probably get a lot of dust leaking out from the mattress above. Also depending on how tight the ropes were on the parents bed, there might not have been much room for the baby.”
Thank you, Eric. The lesson here is always beware of what you hear from visitors and from other guides. Don’t repeat it before you’ve checked it out first.

8 Responses to Myth # 123: Parents put their babies in trundle beds and pushed them under the upper bed for warmth.

  1. James "Jake" Pontillo says:

    Amazing how ‘new historical facts’ are constantly being invented! Your site is great at keeping this nonsense in check

  2. …and of course, the parents couldn’t “sleep tight” unless the bed ropes were adjusted properly….(sorry, couldn’t resist…)

  3. Joe Greeley says:

    I think it sounds like a great way to induce severe claustrophobia in your children . . .

  4. It is also good to note that heat rises, so it doesn’t seem likely that putting the baby *under* the parents’ bed would transfer heat to the child anyway.

  5. Daud Alzayer says:

    Two myths people love are one’s that talk about how people in the past were so pious and simple and ones that talk about how barbaric and backward they were.

    I’d file this one under column B

  6. Is it a myth that folks in the 19th C and earlier used the phrase “sleep tight?” If so, please enlighten us with a post on that topic.

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