Patents (Only) a Mother Could Love

For Mother’s Day, we’ve pulled some of history’s wackiest patented ideas for mothers and children

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Stop your baby from sucking his or her thumb with this, er, "clever" invention. U.S. Pat. No. 2,276,612

Visit any baby store, and you'll see plenty of strange-seeming baby items: booger extractor tool, anyone? (Although strange is in the eye of the beholder, as the product has nearly 400 5-star Amazon reviews.) But take a browse through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office archives, and you'll find that inventors throughout history have come up with a mind-boggling number of inventions for babies and kids. In honor of Mother's Day, we've pulled a few of the most interesting patents designed to help mother and child.

Pacifier with magnet

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(U.S. Pat. No. 3,455,292)

Has your baby put metallic objects, such as "tacks, pins, nails" or the like in his or her mouth? Extract them easily with this 1969 patent invention, a pacifier with a magnet in its nipple. On second thought, as much as we admire relaxed Mad Men-era parenting attitudes, the better bet may be to avoid letting the baby eat tacks in the first place

Baby face guard

For your mini Hannibal Lecters, this 1942 "face guard for infants" claims to prevent thumb-sucking. We bet it also prevents the baby from eating tacks, thus making the prevous patent unnecessary. 

Nursing modesty system

This 1910 patent is designed to "avoid unpleasant and embarrassing situations in which mothers are sometimes placed in public places by the necessary exposure of the breast in suckling the child." It's a complicated-looking harness, holding in place two breast shields from which flexible tubing emerges. The baby can suck milk from the tubes without the mother having to so much as unbutton a button. From a physiological perspective, we're not sure this would work. And a simple nursing cover achieves the same aim. But for post-Victorian moms, this may have been cutting-edge stuff. 

Bottle leash

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(U.S. Pat. No. 4,989,811)

Babies and toddlers love throwing their bottles and cups over the side of the high chair, just to see what happens. Moms and dads enjoy retrieving them a little less. Nip this little physics experiment in the bud with this bottle leash. From 1991, this patent is one of the first entries in a genre that now includes a wide variety of cup, bottle, pacifier and toy leashes, available at any baby store. 

Baby cage

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(U.S. Pat. No. 1,448,235)

This 1923 patent by Emma Read is for a "portable baby cage," designed to allow babies to sleep while hanging out the window. It's meant to allow babies access to "proper fresh air," which was considered extremely important by baby care experts at the time. This idea actually did catch on with small-apartment-dwellers in New York and London, though it went out of fashion a few decades later with the advent of stricter child safety laws. 

Walking trainer

Though this 1930 harness for training children to walk looks strange, it actually may be ahead of its time—there are actually similar devices on the market today. 

Talking potty

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(U.S. Pat. No. 5,978,976)

When it comes to potty training, there are a seeming infinity of inventions aimed at helping kids get comfortable with using the bathroom. We've seen a penguin-shaped urinal for toddlers, a plastic potty with an arm to hold a tablet computer and now this, a patent for a potty that senses when the child gets up from the seat and offers a song or words of congratulations. 

Tricycle lawnmower

Designed for riders young and old, this 1982 tricycle lawnmower will let you sip a margarita while your preschooler trims the backyard. We imagine there's a reason you don't see these sold in Toys "R" Us these days. 

Retainer alarm

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(U.S. Pat. No. 4,764,111)

Tired of bugging your teenager to put his retainer back in? This 1988 patent, for a mouth-mounted alarm device that detects when the retainer has been away for too long, will do the nagging for you.