Parenting is not an easy task, but former parenting decisions of the past may make one raise an eyebrow. Moms and kids today should be thankful and excited that neither ladies or their babies are being subjected to the horrors of yesteryear’s parenting ideas. Then again, there was a reason the mortality rate for humans was lower.
What was considered perfectly normal for a child over 50 years ago, may make some gag and reel in disgust today. Not only were certain baby routines mean and unusual, but solutions for normal child behavior seemed more an effort to stamp out childhood. Children lived in a world where they were to be seen and not heard.
Some adults today may wonder, what made parents make such bizarre decisions about their kids? The good news is most children survived, and now past parenting horrors can be laughed off and brushed off. After all, decades have allowed today’s modern family to enjoy a better quality of life, and technological distractions.
Thankfully, most crazy parenting ideas have stayed in the past where they belong. Certain ideas just don’t need to be brought back, for the mere sake of nostalgia and curiosity.
13 The Hanging Baby Cage
Mothers in the past worried about their child getting enough fresh air when living in a crowded bustling city. The solution? Babies would be placed into metal cages, about the size of an air conditioner unit. These cages were secured on the outside of a window, allowing baby to hover suspended many floors up. Talk about a future case of vertigo!
Patented by Emma Read in 1922, this baby cage was made so that an infant could crawl through the window, and safely enjoy the outdoors. Thankfully, today many urban moms can just take their little one to a park for some fresh air. It may come as a surprise, but these fixtures didn’t result in any unsavory accidents or fatalities. Some things just aren’t made like they used to be, I guess.
12 Selfies With The Dead
Getting the kids together for a family portrait could be time consuming, and a bit expensive. If it wasn’t bad enough getting everyone together without a fuss, imagine if a sibling had passed away before picture day? Instead of leaving anyone out of a family portrait, dead siblings would be happily included.
Children in the Victorian age would be seen in photographs posed as naturally as possible, next to their "sleeping" sister or brother. No parent was thinking there would be any psychological scarring for this creepy practice. I’m hoping that funerary practices were amazing enough that the kids and photographer were not experiencing any noxious odors amid dead children forced in poses that defied their rigor mortis. Thankfully, practices like these have been left behind where they belong.
11 Bathing The Kids In Fat
While most moms today choose to give their baby a bath daily, in the years past that was unheard of. Not only would a tot usually only get bathed once or twice a week, but a curious item was used to give baby their first bath. If you think your child is slippery after a bath full of bubbles and being lovingly slathered with lotion, hold on tight.
Babies would be bathed in lard. Yes, lard, that substance derived from the fat of pigs. Honestly, people thought a lard bath would help remove the waxy vernix coating on a newborn. So the logic is, smear on one hard to remove substance, to remove a naturally occurring substance. If baby survived the smothering of fat, they eventually got soap and water.
10 Dropping Babies For Good Luck
Sometimes parenting practices of the past manage to survive into modern-day. One such curious practice is found in India. In order for new babies to be blessed with good luck, parents must trust dropping their babies. And, I don’t mean at a daycare.
In a religious festival held near Sholapur, India, at the Baba Umer Durga shrine, faithful adherents gather to drop babies from the roof tops. Babies are dropped about 50 feet, and are caught in a sheet held securely by men below. The practice is rare, but still continues after 700 years! This ritual involving babies is all about ensuring good health and prosperity for families. Thanks to the incredible amount of trust and danger involved, India’s National Commission for Protection of Child’s Rights has investigated the rituals.
9 How To Fix Bad Posture
Braces for kids didn’t always mean getting a mouthful of metal. Children in the past had a lot of expectations heaped onto their shoulders, literally. Poor posture was a sign of mental deficiency, defiance, and made parents looked bad. So, in order to fix a slouchy child, braces and tight lacing with a corset were in order.
The use of shoulder braces and corsets was not solely a medical decision, since diets and genetics played a role in a child’s physical development. It was also a matter of fashion, and forcing a child to conform and become accustomed to being little more than a background accessory in the adult world. Children would be forced to wear stiff braces made from bone, metal, and other implements which made moving around difficult.
8 Preemies Were Put On Display
When moms gave birth to a premature child, the fear of the child not surviving was understandably high. Childhood was tough enough, and being born too early didn’t put the odds in a newborn’s favor. Parents of the past were not left with many options, outside of hopefulness and prayer. Thanks to the maddening genius of one man, some parents made the decision to turn their babies into side show attractions.
Dr. Martin Couney had developed incubators to help premature babies survive. In order to support his rejected research, he charged admission to see the babies. Without the babies being displayed as curiosities, the future of medical research for premature babies would not exist. Since many of the side show babies survived into adulthood, they were able to forgive their parents.
7 Newborns Were Tightly Swaddled For Months
Today, many modern moms enjoy wrapping their newborn babies with soft, attractive blankets, so babies feel snuggled and safe. But imagine a baby being wrapped in tight swaddling for months? For children born in the Middle Ages in Europe, such was their fate. There was no time for stretching, crawling or free movement for a young baby. They stayed wrapped up tight for months after birth.
Children would be wrapped in tight linens around their body, up until they reached the age of nine months. This was seen as proper parenting advice for the time, as it was believed that swaddling a child tightly for an extended time would help them to grow straight and tall. Extreme swaddling also made it easy for parents to strap their babes onto ‘carrying boards,’ so babies wouldn’t interfere with their parent's occupation.
6 Pass The Baby Bottle? No Problem
While many moms would cringe at the idea of their little one getting the tiniest amount of alcohol underage, such was not the case during the Middle Ages and even in the 1800s. Since sanitation and clean waterways were not established, it was very easy for a child or even an adult to fall fatally ill after drinking the water. The solution? Instead of practicing frequent hand washing, purifying water or changing clothes often, everyone drank alcohol with their meals.
Babies, young children, and adults were all sucking down pints of beer, and even downing gin. It was considered more healthy, and a lot less dangerous, than taking a chance on the local water. Everything wasn’t a drunken paradise, as it probably lead to alcoholism and even more sinister parenting decisions.
5 The Shocking Solution
Electroshock therapy is still teetering on the edge of barbaric torture or if it actually brings positive results. Parents in the 1700s and 1800s with a ‘difficult child,’ often made the tough choice of interning their child to a sanitarium or asylum for the mentally ill. Certified experts in psychology would force young patients to ingest a plethora of various pills and potions. The kids may also be subjected to electroshock therapy, if none of the other treatments were proving successful.
When parents and medical professionals didn’t know what else to do regarding a child’s bad behavior, emotional problems, or impending signs that a tot was going to be a bad character, electroshock therapy was the answer. They hoped the shockwaves could disrupt the brain patterns and "cure" a child. Unfortunately for some patients, the shock treatment led to more problems than solutions.
4 A Spoonful Of 'Candy' Before Bed
Dealing with a fussy toddler or baby wasn’t always solved by simply ignoring the child until they calmed down. After all, for many parents in the past, giving a baby too much attention was bad for building character. When giving baby the silent treatment wouldn’t suffice, parents reached for the bottle. A bottle of opium.
It was pretty common for a parent to dose their petulant child with a spoonful of opium. Takes ‘a spoonful of sugar’ to a different level, no? Considering how terribly addictive opiates can be, and the destruction opiates have waged on humans for centuries, many modern day parents would hope it was contrived that parents would choose such terrible solutions. However, opium would keep little ones quiet and fast asleep for hours.
3 Left-Handedness Was Seen As Evil
In the past, to be born a southpaw, or left-handed, was frowned upon. So much so, many kids were beaten, had their left hand tied behind their back, or were even outfitted with special braces. The thought of creating left-handed scissors and desks were definitely unheard of.
Unfortunate children who were born left-handed, despite having a more natural inclination to being creative, were forced to use their right-hand or else. Thanks to the good advice of many American and British psychologists, educators, and psychiatrists, the use of the left-hand was linked to a defiant personality, or seen as an abnormal weakness to be corrected. It should also be noted that many people have held some long held vile superstitions about left-handedness too.
2 Cured With Mustard
Ointments like mustard plaster, chock full of ingredients that smelled bad and stung a bit, were common in the good old days. Shockingly, this vintage cold remedy has made a comeback with some crunchy granola types, but in a gentler manner. Since a cold or flu could spell possible doom for a little one, moms would go out to the pharmacist for mustard ointment.
A toddler would be slathered with a greasy ointment in order to get rid of a cold, or sweat out a fever. Some parents would also make their own ointment, using ingredients like camphor, turpentine, onion juice, and more. Getting sick could really be harsh for a child. No matter how much the mixture may have irritated the skin, a child would not be allowed to remove the offending medicine.
1 Thumb-Sucking Is Forbidden
Thumb sucking was not seen as an attractive and endearing activity of a baby back in the day. In fact, parents would try plenty of solutions to get their baby to stop. This was because experts thought thumb sucking was a mental disorder. After all, babies were to be content without hugs, affection, and little contact with their parents.
Thumb sucking is naturally motivated by the need to self-soothe, in addition to creating future dental problems. Parents in the 1800s and early 1900s used bitter, borderline toxic substances on young children’s thumbs with abandon. Serious cases of thumb sucking led to youngsters getting a thumb brace, to deter kids from going to their thumb for comfort.
Concerned parents were neurotic about their kids ceasing thumb sucking, since it was linked to developing facial deformities, and gasp, masturbation.
Sources: Herald Tribune, NCBI, Babble, Huffington Post, BBC, NPR, Thought Co, Mind Hacks, Stay Lace