History of Wool Baby Clothes

As you might know wool has been a huge part of our New Zealand heritage. Sheep farming was the back-bone of New Zealand’s economy. New Zealand sheep farmers were wealthy. Back then we all knew about our New Zealand wool and knew it was the best fibre to keep our babies warm – there was just no question. Mother’s all knew how to knit with wool and it was a huge part of starting a family and providing the best and warmest clothing for their children - without too much cost, only a mother's time to knit. Wool was endorsed and a must have for clothing a new born baby. vintage wool baby nappy

Every baby had singlets, vests, pants, bootees, socks, bonnets, over naps, shawls, blankets, frocks, matinee jackets all made from wool. The wool clothing was of course great for baby being warm and breathable which helped when babies were wet from their cloth nappies. But most of all the  clothing was able to be passed down through the whole family. Everyone knew this then.

Here are some exerts from New Zealand maternity hospital’s guideline books for new mothers so a new mother knew what to take to hospital for the birth of their new baby.

Lyttelton Maternity Hospital (New Zealand) – 1940’s.
3 x gowns
24 x napkins
3 x barriers or petticoats (flannel)
3 x singlets (silk and wool)
½ yard of flannel
1 x woollen shawl.
1 big bag of old rag or wool.
6 yards of gauze.

Rangiora Maternity Hospital (New Zealand) – 1960’s
This list was the clothing to take the baby home in.
The hospital supplied the clothing while the baby stayed there.
1 x gown or petticoat
1 x airtex singlet
1 x silk and wool singlet
3 x napkins
1 dozen safety pins.
1 x 3 inch crepe bandage
1 x Gelvin baby soap
1 x woollen shawl or wrap

Christchurch Women’s Maternity Hospital (New Zealand) – 1970’s
This list had strict instructions to “Leave packed in a plastic bag in a draw at home”. I'm guessing the reason for these instructions would be so the husband knew exactly where these items were located when it was time to find them to bring them to hospital in time to collect his wife and baby to come home.
1 x night gown
4 x napkins
1 x woollen vest
1 x bonnet
1 x woollen shawl or blanket
1 x dozen safety pins.


This is an exert from The Royal Plunket Society Baby Record book in the 1940’s for a Plunket nurses advice to mothers:

Clothing: Clothing must be non-irritating, non-constrictive, light but sufficiently warm.

Bathing: Bath and dress very quickly in a cosy corner. No dawdling.

Warmth: Warmed air and surroundings are essential for prematures. Healthy babies like adults, benefit enormously by being kept in pure cool air if properly clad.
vintage wool baby clothes

I’m not sure what some of these items in the above lists were used for but I’m sure they were all very important at the time for the health and well-being of new born babies. Safety pins were called, “mother’s medals” as they were always handy, on display and pinned on the front of the mother’s front.

Mothers were treated like they were new at their job and had to do what their 'bosses' told them to do, until they learned the correct way. They stayed in hospital for over a week after giving birth and were not allowed to get dressed so stayed in their nighties, dressing gown and slippers night and day until they were allowed to get dressed and go home. Husbands were the only visitors the new mother could have during this time and were strictly not allowed at the birth.

Of course things have changed for today’s Mums and babies but the benefits of children wearing wool has never changed over all these years.

Written by Tracey and her Mum.



Were you a new Mum in these times?