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April 6, 2017

The 15 Craziest Things Parents Used to Do to Babies in the Past

Childrearing is a difficult undertaking to say the least, so it's understandable that parents might occasionally mess up or follow some bad advice. But looking back throughout history, there are a few examples of how people treated babies that seem absolutely insane.

Here's a look at some of the craziest things parents used to do to babies.

1. They Took Toilet Training Too Far

Some parenting advice books in the late 19th century stressed the importance of toilet-training to an insane degree, recommending starting the process as early as two months. This was believed to be important not only as a matter of hygiene, but also as method of character building for the child. Some methods even recommended the use of "soap sticks" to provoke bowel movements in some babies.

2. They Fed Them Only "Happy" Breast Milk

One strange bit of parenting advice that gained some traction in the early 20th century was that "angry" mothers would produce breast milk that would give their babies colic. Others suggested that breast feeding for too long would also cause “brain disease” in babies and blindness in mothers.

3. They Made Gas Masks For Them

In its historical context, it makes sense, but the fact that we once had to worry about protecting young children from poison gas attacks with miniature masks seems a bit insane.

4. They Placed Them In Questionably Designed Car Seats

While it was a step in the right direction, early car seats appeared more like death-traps than safety devices.

5. They Surrounded Them With Lead

The toxic nature of lead hasn't exactly been a secret throughout history (the Romans even knew about it) but that didn't stop people from using it in everything from toys, to paint, to appliances they used every day.

6. They Gave Them Contaminated Bottles

In Victorian times, many mothers didn't nurse, feeding their babies by bottle instead. These bottles, state-of-the-art at the time, had a rubber nipple and thin rubber tubing. There were two problems: The rubber tubing was extremely difficult to clean, which made it a breeding ground for bacteria. On top of this, the advice at the time was that mothers only needed to wash the bottles every two to three weeks. Eventually, these baby bottles got a new nickname: "murder bottles."

7. They Gave Them Beer

Alcohol is as old as civilization, and the occasional application of some beer or other drink to calm an unruly child has been a common theme throughout history.

8. They Smeared Them With Lard Or Butter

One of the more unusual trends from the early 1900s was the idea that babies needed to be given special baths to remove the waxy vernix that coated their skin in the womb. The conventional method to do this was to smear the baby in lard, butter, or olive oil. In fact, this isn't particularly good for the baby, and the vernix will come off on its own.

9. They Started Them On Solids Way Too Young

A trend that gained steam in the 1950s was a push to start babies on solid food at younger and younger ages. While this was based partially on the recommendations of pediatricians, some parenting advocates took it to the extreme, advocating a switch from breast feeding to solids at just two days old.

10. They Suspended Them From Cages

As more families moved into dark and crowded tenement apartments during the Industrial Revolution, parents became concerned their young children weren't getting enough sunlight or fresh air. The solution? Suspend them from cages installed on the outside of the building.

11. They Fed Them Poisoned Milk

We can't really blame parents for this failing. In the 1850s in New York, cows were fed the leftover mash from nearby distilleries. The milk these cows made was then doctored with water, flour, plaster of paris, eggs and molasses, to give it a more appealing consistency. Even so, it was often identifiable by its blueish appearance. The filthy, dangerous milk actually increased infant mortality in the state.

12. They Filled Them With Sugar

As sugary drinks became more common in the prosperous 1950s, advertisers began pushing sodas and other beverages as part of a healthy diet. Today's childhood obesity rates ought to tell you how that turned out.

13. They Gave Them Fireworks

Perhaps this one is just a hallmark of bad parenting that transcends history.

14. They Hid Behind Them In Pictures To Keep Them Still

In the early days of photography, a portrait took about 30 seconds to be properly exposed, so people had to sit still for quite a while. This is likely the reason for the somewhat stoic and creepy expression many had in their portraits (it wouldn't be comfortable to smile for that long), but it also posed an issue for parents wanting to get a portrait of their babies. The solution for many was to hide behind the child and just hold them still.

15. And This Was Strangely Common

Why these parents didn't simply sit in the photographs with their children, like many things people did in earlier times, remains a mystery.

(This original article was published on All Day)



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