A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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(2) Stocks of Cot Bedding and Substitutes.

The percentages of mothers who had children sleeping in cots or substitutes for cots possessing one or more articles of cot bedding of various sorts are shown below. It should be noted that only cot bedding bought ready made is considered.

Results are shown for the whole sample and for two economic groups.

Type of Cot Bedding (bought ready made) % Mothers possessing One or more
Whole Sample Higher Economie Group Lower Economic Group
% % %
Mattresses 84 97 80
Pillows 60 56 62
Sheets 25 33 23
Pillow-cases 47 52 45
Woollen blankets 45 55 42
Thin under blanket 28 31 28
Waterproof sheet 78 85 76
Eiderdown or quilt 67 71 66
Sample; 455 * 103 * 349 *

The majority of mothers had cot mattresses and waterproof sheets, both being items for which substitutes are not easily found. Only about a quarter of the mothers were using ready made cot sheets and rather less than a half had cot blankets and pillow cases.

Most of the proportions shown for the higher economic group are slightly higher than those shown for the lower economic group. Since the number of mothers interviewed in each group is small individual differences are not in most cases significant, however application of the X2 test to the results as a whole shows that there is a significant overall difference, i. e. there is a tendency for mothers in the higher economic groups to use ready made cot bedding ** more than mothers in the lower economic groups.

The most marked difference is found in the case of mattresses. A considerably higher proportion of mothers in the higher than in the lower economic group were using cot mattresses. With pillows it appears that there is a difference in the other direction, but this is not significant.

In the paragraphs below each item of cot bedding is dealt with separately in more detail and the sorts of substitutes used by those who did not have ready made articles are described.


Of the 504 * children who slept in cots or substitutes for cots 408, or 81% had cot mattresses. For the rest mothers used substitutes. In 44 cases (9% of children sleeping in cots or substitutes) the substitute was a pillow. The remaining 10% of children slept on a variety of substitutes such as folded blankets, home-made mattresses, cushions, etc.

The proportion of children sleeping on substitutes for cot mattresses was 24% in the lower economic group as compared with 4% in the higher economic group.


40% of the mothers had no cot pillows. 39% had one and 21% had two or more. The total number of pillows possessed was 393. 78% of the number of children, or in other words the average number of pillows per child was .78.

About half the mothers who had no cot pillows used ordinary pillows instead. Others used cushions or home-made pillows.


75% of the mothers had no ready made cot sheets, 13% had three or less and 12% had four or more. Thus the majority of mothers depended on home-made cot sheets or substitutes.

The great majority of these used ordinary sheets or cotton blankets cut up or folded. In a few cases only other substitutes, such as cut up table cloths or towels, were used.


53% the mothers had no cot pillow-cases, 20% had one or two and 27% had three or more.

Although only about half the mothers had ready made pillow cases, the number of pillow cases possessed is high compared with other types of cot bedding. There were altogether 721 pillow cases, an average of 1.4 per child.

About half of those with no cot pillow cases used ordinary pillow cases and in most other cases home-made pillow cases made from large ones or from old sheets or other pieces of material were used.

Woollen Blenkets

55% of the mothers had no ready made cot blankets, 25% had one or two, and 20% had three or more. There were in all 555 cot blankets possessed by the sample the average per child being 1.1.

Most of the substitutes used were large blankets cut up or folded. In a few cases only were other substitutes, such as shawls, knitted blankets, or clothing used.

Under Blankets

Thin under blankets specially made for cots were possessed by only 28% of mothers. In most cases ordinary blankets folded or pieces of old blanket were used.

Waterproof Sheets

78% of the mothers possessed waterproof sheets, and these had between then 426 waterproof sheets. Thus 85% of the children sleeping in cots or substitutes for cots had a waterproof sheet. A few mothers used substitutes such as old rain coats, pieces of mackintosh or cut up ground sheets.


67% of the mothers possessed cot eiderdowns or quilts, 56% having one and 10% having two or more. There were altogether 387 eiderdowns, and thus about 77% of the children had one.

A few mothers used home-made eiderdowns, some being made of large eiderdowns cut down. Others put on additional bedding of other sorts instead.

[1] No detailed information was obtained from 7 of the 462 mothers who had children sleeping in cots or substitutes, and these have been excluded from the total. 3 of the mothers from whom information was obtained were not classified by economic group.

[2] The number of mothers having some and not having any mattresses in the two economic groups form a two-by-two table. Similarly for the other items of cot bedding. There are thus eight two-by-two tables. If the values obtained for 2 and the degrees of freedom are added, X 2 = 34.07, n = 8, 9<-01.

Since the difference is much larger in the case of mattresses than of other items it might be thought that the significant value of X2 for the eight tables together could be attributed to this difference. However this is not so. Mattresses contribute 17-96 to the total X2, leaving X2 = 16.11 if mattresses are included. Then n = 7 and P<.05. Thus, even if mattresses are not considered, there is a significant overall difference in the proportions having ready made cot bedding in the two economic group at the .05 level of significance.

[3] There were 511 such children in the sample but no detailed information was obtained about 7 of them.

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