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Thomas Phaer’s “The Boke of Chyldren,” widely considered to be the first book of pediatric medicine, is a fascinating window into sixteenth-century life. First published in 1544, Phaer’s book describes the various medical problems children might encounter in their first few years, along with the remedies parents might try.


The first thing readers will be likely to notice is Phaer’s creative spelling. For example, he spelled his own name at least five different ways. English spelling wasn’t standardized until long after Phaer’s book was first printed, but reading any strange-looking words out loud will generally make their meaning clear. Readers who do so will be rewarded with some hilariously outdated advice. For example, mixing the child’s feces with honey is no longer an accepted approach to curing tonsillitis. But most importantly, the fears and uncertainties underlying Phaer’s medical advice are very similar to the fears and uncertainties parents of today’s parents.

What follows are six lessons that modern parents can take from this 473-year-old book of parenting advice.

Lesson 1: Women have long been concerned with increasing their milk supply

Like many parenting books that eventually followed his, Phaer’s book opens by focusing on breastfeeding. First, he shares “remedyes appropriate to the encreasyng of mylke in the brestes,” including recipes for three simple soups. The first includes parsnip and fennel in chicken broth. Women who couldn’t find the necessary fresh produce could make a broth with mint, cinnamon, and mace. And if none of those spices were available, women could always turn to a beef tongue broth with dried and powdered earthworms.

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That’s right. Earthworms.

Many of Phaer’s remedies include ingredients that would be unpalatable to many of today’s parents. That was probably true for parents of his own time as well, which is one reason why honey is featured so prominently in many of the recipes. But even the most stomach-turning of remedies suggest that the poorest of parents could do something useful for their children using the ingredients most readily available.

Turning to dessert, there is also a sort of lactation rice pudding recipe that calls for breadcrumbs, fennel, and sugar, topped off with wine, a suggestion that alcohol has long been recommended for milk production, even though its effectiveness is disputed.

Phaer also recommends many individual ingredients thought to improve milk production, among them dill, anise, fresh cheese, honey, goat’s milk, lettuce, saffron, and cow dung (sheep dung is also fine).

473 years after Phaer’s book was published, many breastfeeding mothers still swear by fenugreek-filled lactation cookies. Although the cookies are a considerably tastier option than many of Phaer’s recommended recipes, there’s no strong evidence that either the old or the new recipes do anything to increase milk production.

Lesson 2: Babies are bad sleepers

Phaer describes sleep as “the nouryshment and foode of a suckyng chylde, and as much requisyte as the very tete.” If sleep is nourishment, there must have been a lot of undernourished babies around in Phaer’s time, because he devotes a good amount of space to discussing sleep problems.

Like today’s parents, who cite problems with feeding, swaddling, room temperatures, sleep schedules, or a host of other issues, Phaer reaches for explanations to describe poor baby sleep. Phaer claims that bad sleep comes from bad milk, tainted either by the woman who produced it or by spoilage. Sleep is also affected by the quantity of milk, which can lead to “vapoures and fumes aryse into the head and infect the brayne, by reason wherof the chyld can not slepe but turneth and vexeth it selfe with cryeng.”

One additional reason children might not be sleeping is nightmares, so Phaer offers strategies for children with “terry ble dreames and feare in the sleape.” One source of nightmares is a full stomach, so parents should “take hede that the chylde slepe not wyth a full stomake, but to beare it aboute wakynge tyll parte be dygested.” Phaer also discourages over-rocking children, advice echoed in modern parenting books that discourage parents from over-stimulating children before bedtime.

To help children sleep, Phaer recommends drops of violet oil and vinegar for the forehead and nostrils. He also advises parents to use, if they can get their hands on it, “syruppe of poppye” as a sleep aid, a strategy that seems as unnecessarily aggressive as doping modern kids with Benadryl.

If Phaer’s description of baby sleep problems is indicative of 16th-century babies more generally, perhaps modern parents can rest a bit easier in the knowledge that sometimes, babies are just bad sleepers.

Lesson 3: Parents will go to great lengths to explain a baby’s behavior

In his entry for “colycke and rumblynge in the guttes,” Phaer describes symptoms that probably look quite familiar to parents reading nearly 500 years later: “The sygnes thereof are too well knowen, for the chylde can not rest but cryeth and fretteth it self.” Phaer attributes colic to “wynde” caught in various bodily organs, identifiable by “the noyse and romblyng in the guttes, hyther and thith- er, declareth the chylde to be greved with wynde in the bellye and colik.”

Phaer’s remedy is to avoid meats, beans, butter, eggs, and similar foods, advice not so different from the advice given to parents of gassy children 500 years later. Although we’re no longer administering oil and wax plasters to children’s bellies, the sales of gas drops and other similar remedies suggest we are just as concerned with their gastrointestinal traffic now as then.

Given our current popular wisdom to provide gas drops, or burp babies, or avoid eating particular foods to keep them out of breast milk, it would appear that modern parents have been as ineffective at stopping babies’ crying as their 16th-century ancestors. The lack of strong evidence connecting burping and colic, as well as the limited evidence that gas pains are as painful as parents imagine them to be, suggests that what we might be “remedying” when we treat children’s gassiness is more our own fear that our children are in pain than the children’s actual pain.

Lesson 4: Teething may be more worrisome for parents than babies

Phaer writes that parents should expect to see teeth at around seven months, the emergence of which may cause the child to be “sore vexed wyth sondrye dyseases and peynes, as swellynge of the gummes and jawes, unquyete cryenge, fevers, crampes, palsies, fluxes, reumes, and other infyrmities.”

Phaer’s first remedy for teething is to rub rabbit brains on the gums, along with chicken grease or honey, but he concedes that any one of those items alone is okay, so if you’re testing out Phaer’s remedies you might start with just the honey. Mary Poppins must have been a student of Phaer’s, because in “The Boke of Chyldren” there is a spoonful of sweetness for every affliction.

The notion of rubbing some kind of analgesic on the gums of teething children persists today. Phaer also recommends a teething device, made out of silver, bone, or coral and “hanged about the necke wheruppon the chylde shulde oftentymes labour his gummes.” Although those teethers were ornate, their hanging calls to mind the pacifier clips many parents use today.

In Phaer’s case and in ours, we’re probably still making too much of teething. Phaer’s connection between teething and disease was hardly new for his time, as Hippocrates was making similar claims nearly 2,000 years earlier. The equation of teething and illness has been so strong throughout history that in 1842, teething was listed as the cause of death for 4.8% of all London children who died before their first birthday. And modern parents continue to suspect that teething causes all sorts of problems today, even when there is very little correlation between reported symptoms and actual teething.

Lesson 5: There’s one surefire way to make a child stop crying

Whether the cause is eating, sleeping, winding, or teething, most of Phaer’s remedies are directed at stopping a child’s crying. His entry for bloodshot eyes, a condition which Phaer says comes about from too much crying, is one such example: “When the eye is bloodshotten and redde, it is a synguler remedye to put in it the bloode of a yonge pigion or a dove or a partryche, eyther bote from the byrde or els dried and made in pouder as subtyle as maye be possyble.”

Perhaps modern parents could learn a thing from this remedy. Imagine responding to a tantrum by putting dove blood in your kid’s eye. That might very well be the end of the tantrum because he’ll know his tears were why you sacrificed that dove.

Lesson 6: Parenting is rooted in uncertainty

These days, your pediatrician would probably discourage you from trying Phaer’s remedies. Parents shouldn’t treat watery eyes with powdered snail shells or earaches with a worm paste cooked in the rind of a pomegranate. But Phaer’s book is so much more than the remedies themselves. It’s about ritual, and about knowing what to do in the face of uncertain situations. In offering 16th-century parents medical advice in their common tongue, Phaer was giving them the confidence that they could intervene on their children’s behalf.

If our baby care books are read by curious parents another 20 generations from now, perhaps they’ll also be comforted that we were so concerned with our babies’ seemingly constant crying. It’s possible they will think our attempts at soothing or healing are as misguided as we think Phaer’s remedies were. But perhaps they’ll also smile with the recognition that, hundreds of years before their own babies were born, parents were just as befuddled as they are now.

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No kid is born a picky eater, but there are plenty who will give you a run for your money come mealtime. Whether it's a selective eating phase or simply a natural resistance to trying something new, getting your little one to try just.one.bite can be easier said than done.

But sometimes your attitude about eating can make the most impact. A 2017 study found a direct correlation between "mealtime emotional climate" (AKA, how positive meals are for parents and children) and a child's consumption of healthy food―meaning the difference between your child trying their green beans or not could depend on how positive you make the experience.

Not sure where to start?

Here are 10 positive parenting techniques that can help overcome picky eating and lead to more peaceful mealtimes for all.

1. Make them feel special.

Sometimes just knowing you have a special place at the table can help kids eat better. Create a special place setting with dishes just for them.

Try this: We love OXO's Stick & Stay plates and bowls for creating less mess at mealtime. Not only will the kids love the fun colors and designs, but the plates also come with a suction cup base that prevents little hands from knocking plates to the floor (or in your lap). Trust us—we've tried it.

2. Take off the pressure.

OXO Tot's Stick & Stay Suction Plate

Think about it: If someone kept telling you to take one more bite during lunch, how likely would you be to go along without bristling?

Try this: Instead, use the Satter Division of Responsibility of feeding, which lets parents be responsible for what, when, and where feeding happens, while the child is left responsible of how much and whether. Besides promoting a more positive environment at mealtime, this method also boosts your child's confidence and helps encourage better self-regulation of food as they get older.

3. Serve a variety.

OXO Tot's Stick & Stay Suction Divided Plate

It could be that your child is bored with the usual rotation. Keep things interesting by regularly introducing new ingredients, or reworking a familiar ingredient in a new way. The familiar setting might make your child more likely to take a bite without a struggle.

Try this: Sub in spaghetti squash with their favorite pasta sauce, or add in a new veggie to a beloved stir-fry. We love OXO's Stick & Stay Divided Plate for creating a "tasting menu" of new flavors for little ones to pick and choose or using the center spot for an appetizing dip.

4. Don't bargain or negotiate.

Many kids resist trying new foods or eating at all because it gives them a sense of control over their lives. By resisting an ingredient―even one they have tried and liked in the past―they are essentially saying, "You're not the boss of me."

Try this: Instead of resorting to bargaining tactics like, "Just take one bite!" or "You can have dessert if you try it!" lower the pressure with a neutral statement like, "This is what we're having for dinner tonight." There's no argument, so you avoid tripping their "Don't tell me what to do!" sensor.

5. Serve meals in courses.

Even adults are more likely to eat something when they're really hungry. When their tummies are rumbling, kids will usually put up less of a fight even when they're uncertain about a new ingredient.

Try this: Serve up vegetables or other new foods as an "appetizer" course. That way, you won't have to stress if they don't fill up because you can follow up with food you know they'll eat.

6. Make it a game.

The fastest way to get a toddler on board with a new idea is to make it more fun. Turn your kitchen into an episode of Top Chef and let your little one play judge.

Try this: Use each compartment of the Stick & Stay Divided Plate for a new ingredient. With each item, ask your child to tell you how the food tastes, smells, and feels, ranking each bite in order of preference. Over time, you just might be surprised to see veggies climb the leaderboard!

7. Get them involved in cooking.

You've probably noticed that toddlers love anything that is theirs―having them help with preparing their own meals gives them a sense of ownership and makes them more likely to try new ingredients.

Try this: Look for ways to get those little hands involved in the kitchen, even if it means meal prep takes a bit longer or gets a bit messier. (We also love letting them help set the table―and OXO's unbreakable plates are a great place to start!) You could even let your toddler pick the veggie course for the meal. And if your child asks to taste a raw fruit or vegetable you planned to cook, go with it! Every bite counts as training that will ultimately broaden their palate.

8. Cut out unstructured snacking.

Not surprisingly, a hungry kid is more likely to try new foods. But if your toddler had a banana and a glass of milk (or a granola bar, or a handful of popcorn, or a glass of juice) an hour before dinner, odds are they aren't feeling truly hungry and will be more likely to resist what you serve at mealtime.

Try this: Stick to a consistent eating schedule. If your child leaves the table without eating as much as you think they should, remind them once that they won't be able to eat again until X time―and make good on that promise even if they start begging for a snack before the scheduled meal.

9. Model good eating habits.

Kids may not always do what you say, but they are much more likely to follow a good example. So if you want a child who eats vegetables regularly, you should do your best to fill your own plate with produce.

Try this: Pick a new food the whole family will try in multiple ways each week. For example, if you're introducing butternut squash, serve it roasted, blended in soup, cut up in pasta, as a mash, etc.―and be sure a healthy serving ends up on your plate too.

10. Don't worry about "fixing" picky eating.

OXO Tot's Stick & Stay Suction Bowl

In most cases, children go through relatively consistent eating phases. At age two (when parents tend to notice selectiveness ramping up), growth rates have slowed and most children don't need as much food as parents might think.

Try this: Focus on keeping mealtime positive by providing children with a variety of foods in a no-pressure environment. And remember: This too shall pass. The less stress you put on eating now, the more likely they are to naturally broaden their palates as they get older.


This article was sponsored by OXO Tot. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Learn + Play

Over six million women in America struggle with infertility, and yet its a journey that can feel so isolating.

That's why we find Google's short video, "Becoming Mom," to be so powerful. Through anxiety-driven web searches, vlog clips, and calendars packed with appointments, this video gives a brief peek into the all-consuming reality of struggling with infertility.

Watch "Becoming Mom" here:


Candace Wohl, a fertility advocate featured in this video, writes of her experience:

"For seven years, Mother's Day was the worst day of the year for me. It was an observance that felt completely out of reach, yet commercially and socially it was a reminder that I couldn't escape. I wanted to be a mom, but I was having trouble becoming one."

As Candace and her husband felt their private life had been invaded by fertility specialists, they also felt that the outside world didn't understand what they were going through. So she found solidarity online.

"I found support groups, blogs and resources. I wasn't as alone as I thought—like many, I had been silent about my struggles with infertility. It's a less-than-tasty casserole of heartache, injections and surgeries, failed adoption placements and financial devastation."

Through her years of personal experience, Candace has since become an advocate for infertility awareness, and hopes that speaking up will help break down the barriers surrounding infertility. She was excited to see Google using their platform to further this message.

"I hope that this year, even one more person out there will realize they're not alone."

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We love how this video is helping to spread awareness of a struggle so many women experience, and importantly—how it highlights the virtual communities that help many women to find a path forward. It's a powerful reminder that there are others out there, typing the same fears or curiosities into a search bar.

We applaud Candace and the other brave women who shared their stories in this video. Their openness is helping to educate people and elevate the conversation surrounding infertility. 👏

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We grew up together, were in each other's weddings, and dreamed about the day we would raise our children in unison. Then, BOOM. Kids arrive, and it doesn't take long to realize that, whoa, my best friend and I have very different approaches to this parenting gig.

The odds of her letting her babies “cry it out" are about as high as me co-sleeping with mine, and by that I mean not a chance. That's not the only thing that makes us very different in terms of parenting.

I enforce strict bedtimes, while her kids are catching a 7 p.m. movie at the theater. My little ones eat most meals from a box or the freezer, and hers have palates more developed than most adults.

We're both teachers. She cries when August rolls around at the thought of leaving her kids to go back to work. Me? I'm itching for “me time" and aching for conversation with someone above the age of five.

Sure, we're both trying our best to raise happy, respectful, and kind children, but when I'm faced with a grumpy 4-year-old whose mood rivals a teenager, I choose to send her to her room for quiet time. My best friend tickles the grouchies away.

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She has endless patience while I'm nearing the end of my fraying rope by noon.

I'll never forget one day when my daughter was having an epic tantrum, and I said to my friend, exasperated, “Ugh, sometimes I just want to scream 'Shut up!'"

Her response was one of shock, her eyes wide with horror. “Jennifer!" she said, appalled.

“Of course I would never actually say that," I quickly clarified. “But c'mon, you mean to tell me you've never thought that before?"

“Never!" she replied.

Then we chuckled about how different our mindsets are.

That's the thing – it's not a secret that we're raising our kids using opposing methodologies. We know that about each other and we respect that about each other. Here's the key: there's no judging.

My friend's children are being raised with religion in the household—praying at meals and before bed, talking about God, and falling on faith to help explain many of the mysteries of the human experience. My husband and I rest pretty low on the spirituality ladder and while we have no problem explaining religious beliefs to our kids, we have no plan to incorporate religion into our family.

“Johnny included you in his bedtime prayer last night," she recently told me.

“Aww, tell him thanks," I said, “and I love him."

We don't hide things from each other or pretend to be similar in ways that we're clearly not. With such different approaches to most aspects of parenting, you'd think that it would be difficult to be friends, but the opposite is true. Honesty, empathy, and support go far in maintaining a lasting friendship.

In a culture that likes to pit moms against each other simply because of differing choices, our story proves that it doesn't have to be that way.

Many of our conversations start with: “I know you think I'm crazy, but…" Sometimes when one of us (usually me) needs to vent about an issue with our child, the other one just listens and does her best to offer advice even if it's not something that we would do personally.

In the end, it comes down to this: There's no right way to be a mom. No one hands out gold star stickers to the moms who are doing things “this" way, rather than “that" way.

So, is it possible to be best friends with a mom who has polar opposite parenting styles as me? The answer is yes. She may be the June Cleaver to my Rosanne Barr, but what can I say? It just works.

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Love + Village

Sure being a mom of three totally rocks, but it comes with its fair share of demands, too. Singer-turned-lifestyle-entrepreneur, Jessica Simpson is learning this first hand, as she recently admitted to People that mothering three children can be difficult.

"Three is challenging," says Simpson. "We are trying to get into the groove and make sure all three kids are getting equal attention … it's more than a full-time job right now."

Simpson is a mom to daughter 6-year-old Maxwell Drew, 5-year-old son Ace Knut and little Birdie Mae who is just 5 weeks old. Birdie was born via C-section on March 19, and Simpson admitted on Instagram that "recovering from a C-section is no joke!"

While in the recovery period, the new mom of three is determined to live in the moment and enjoy hugging her new baby. "We are trying our best to be as present as possible and enjoy every part of having a newborn," she says. "We know how fast the time goes and how precious it is."

But being a mom to multiples can often be overwhelming. A recent survey found that motherhood isn't just equivalent to a full-time job, but actually equivalent to working 2.5 jobs. And we know three kids is one of the hardest ratios for moms: A survey found moms of four or more are less stressed than moms with fewer kids, but moms of three are way more stressed than moms of two.

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Simspon is totally feeling this.

She tells People: "The other night, all three kids were crying at the same time, so I just joined in!" She's joking about it, but feelings of sadness after a new baby are not a laughing matter. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), postpartum depression impacts 15 to 20% of pregnant and postpartum mothers. (If you're feeling overwhelmed, seek help, mama)

No matter how many kids you have, the fact is that statistically, parents are more stressed than people who don't have kids. It makes sense. We have less free time and more responsibilities, but it is so worth it. And it won't feel like a full-time job forever.

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News

I've always felt a weird kinship with Prince Harry. We are two different races (he's white, and I'm an African American), so we're definitely not related, and technically, I've never met him, but because my mother was pregnant with me at the same time Princess Diana was pregnant with him, I feel strangely connected to Harry.

It's almost like we're distant cousins in some bizarre way. So, imagine my delight when I discovered he was dating, and later married, an American actress of African-American heritage?

"Finally, there's some color in the royal family!" I texted to a few close friends on Prince Harry's wedding day, who later joined in my delight with smiling emojis. She's a beautiful 37-year-old American divorcee with a relaxed California girl sense of style. Naturally, I want her to win.

But as much as I'm team Meghan Markel and pro black women in general, I understand that having a black woman in the monarchy doesn't change much. Let's reflect back for a moment: Shortly after the world learned Meghan was dating Prince Harry, the tabloids were loaded with racist comments. "Duchess Difficult" is a mainstay in the news that particularly stands out to me. "Oh, great another black woman deemed aggressive, ill-tempered and hostile," I remember mumbling to myself.

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The trope of the "angry black woman" has once again re-emerged and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, isn't excluded from it. According to NBC News, some British journalists say Meghan has been treated differently from other members of the House of Windsor, citing a difference in attitude towards Kate, the wife of Harry's elder brother Prince William.

Realizing this reminded me how former First Lady Michelle Obama was treated shortly after taking on the title. Michelle has spoken about the racism she faced as the first lady, noting that when a West Virginia county employee called her an "ape in heels" it cut deep.

And speaking of cutting deep, it pains me when society labels Meghan as "our black hero" because it's damaging to other black women who don't have straight, long hair, light skin, and a narrow nose. Does this mean that if you don't look like Meghan, an "acceptable" version of a black woman, then you don't quite matter? Is her version of black the only type that counts?

But even with the racism and wanted (or unwanted) labels surrounding Meghan being in the royal family, I'm thrilled to learn that her baby (whether a boy or girl) will be seventh-in-line to the throne and the first baby of African ancestry to have such a title in the history of British royalty.

I love birthing stories, and this one is extra special. This, to me, is more magical than Meghan being in the office because it means a new breed of royalty is here. It's a symbol of change, new beginnings and it disrupts white British bloodlines. I couldn't be more excited.

If I'm being honest with myself, I know the baby won't be excluded from racist remarks, but their mere presence will acknowledge that mixed families are breaking age-old boundaries of white people dominating the royal family, and creates new histories. And, that gives me a beacon of hope for not only the Brits but Americans, too.

Just like Meghan, I too am expecting a child any day. Just like Meghan, this baby won't be granted the title of Princess (unless it's a girl, who by default will be seen as such through her daddy's eyes). And, just like Meghan, I'm hopeful yet unsure of the world my little one will live in. But, I'm positive they will break their own boundaries while standing on the shoulders of black women who have come before them.

And that, strangely enough, makes me feel even more connected to the Harry and the rest of the British Royal Family.

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