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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 Readers who do so will be rewarded with some hilariously outdated advice.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.

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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One of the hardest areas to declutter can be your children's toy closet. Does that beeping, singing firetruck spark joy for you? Well no, in fact, it might be the most frustrating toy, but then again, having an occupied, entertained child sparks more joy than all of your household items combined.

So do more toys really mean a more engaged child? Studies say no. Having fewer toys leads to a more ordered home and encourages your child to develop creativity, concentration and a sense of responsibility for taking care of their belongings. But how do you go about reducing the number of toys your child has when there are so many "must haves" on the market? Perhaps more importantly, how do you ensure you don't bring any more toys that will be quickly forgotten into your home?

The secret: Look for toys that are open-ended, toys that will last for years, toys that encourage creativity, and toys that benefit development.

Here are some of our favorite Montessori-inspired toys.

Open-ended construction


Toys that are open-ended, rather than have just one use, empower your child to be an active participant in their own play. An example of an open-ended toy is a set of blocks, while a more limited use toy might be a talking toy robot. Blocks are only fun if your child applies their own creative thinking skills to make them fun, while the robot is a much more passive type of entertainment.

Open-ended toys also tend to keep children's interest for much longer, as they grow with your child—as their skills develop, they can build increasingly complex structures and scenarios.

There are so many beautiful sets of blocks available, but here are a few good choices.

1. Wooden Blocks

2. Duplo Lego

3. Magnatiles

Pretend play


Beginning in early toddlerhood, many children begin to incorporate pretend play into their repertoire. They do this all on their own, without the aid of toys, turning mud into pies and sticks into hammers.

Still, these toys will encourage their budding imaginations and also allow them to process things they experience in their own lives through role-playing and pretend play.

4. Doll

5. Farm

6. People figures

7. Train set

Music


Music provides a great deal of joy to most children, and can also aid in brain development.

Providing regular opportunities for your young child to both create and listen to music will encourage him to develop an appreciation for music, an understanding of rhythm, and an outlet for creative expression.

8. Musical instrument set

9. Simple music player with headphones

Movement


Giving young children opportunities for movement is so important, both for their gross motor development and for giving them a daily outlet for their boundless energy. Children who spend plenty of time running around generally sleep better and are often better able to concentrate on quieter activities like reading.

Encouraging plenty of unstructured time outside is the best way to ensure your child gets enough daily movement. These toys though can help your child develop muscle coordination and strength, while also providing plenty of fun.

10. Balance bike

11. Pedal bike

12. Climbing structure

13. Wagon

14. Balls

Puzzles


Puzzles are wonderful toys for helping children develop spatial understanding, problem-solving skills, resilience and new vocabulary. Bonus, they also provide a quiet activity that can engage even young children for an extended period of time!

15. Peg puzzles

16. Jigsawpuzzles

17. Layered puzzles

Games



Games encourage your child to develop social skills such as taking turns and winning and losing gracefully.

Many games for young children also have educational benefits such as building memory or practicing counting.

18. Memory game

19. Bingo

20. Simple board game

Taking the plunge and reducing your children's toy collection can be scary. If you're uncertain whether your child will miss a certain toy, try putting it away in a closet for a month to see if they notice. Take some time to observe your child with their reduced toy collection and notice how their play changes.

Once you commit to fewer toys, you'll find you can truly be intentional with what you provide your child and can also choose higher quality toys when you're only purchasing a few. There will also be far fewer little objects strewn around the house to trip over, which is a huge bonus!

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For so many parents, finding and funding childcare is a constant struggle. How would your life change if you didn't have to worry about finding and paying for quality childcare? Would you go back to work? Work more hours? Or just take the four figures you'd save each month and pay off your student loans faster?

These hypothetical scenarios have been playing in the minds of many American parents this week as presidential hopeful Senator Elizabeth Warren unveiled her plan for free or affordable "high-quality child care and early education for every child in America."

Universal childcare will be a cornerstone of Warren's campaign for 2020. It's a lofty goal, and one many parents can get behind, but is it doable?

Supporters note it's been done in other countries for decades. In Finland, for example, every child has had access to free universal day care since the early 1990s. Sweden, too, has been building its universal childcare system for decades.

Critics of Warren's plan worry about the price tag and potential for ballooning bureaucracy, and some are concerned that subsidizing childcare could actually make it more expensive for those who have a government-funded spot, as it could result in fewer private childcare providers.

But subsidized childcare had lowered prices in other places. In Sweden, parents pay less than $140 USD to send children to preschool. In Finland, the cost per child varies by municipality, household income and family size. A parent on the lower end of the income spectrum might pay as little as the equivalent of $30 USD, and the maximum fee is about $330 a month.

But Finland's population is on par with Minnesota's. Sweden is comparable to Michigan.

So could the Nordic model scale to serve the hundreds of millions of families in America?

As Eeva Penttila, speaking as the head of international relations for Helsinki, Finland's education department once told The Globe and Mail, "you can't take one element out and transfer it to your own country. Education is the result of culture, history and the society of a nation."

Right now America spends less on early childhood education than most other developed countries (only Turkey, Latvia, and Croatia spend less), but that wasn't always the case. This nation does have a history of investing in childcare, if we look back far enough.

Back in World War II, when women needed to step into the workforce as men fought overseas, America invested in a network of childcare to the tune of $1 billion (adjusted to today's money) and served hundreds of thousands of families in almost every state through center-based care. Parents paid between $0.50 and $0.75 per child per day (the equivalent of about $10 in today's money).

So America does have a historical and cultural precedent, not to mention a current model of universal preschool that is working, right now, in the nation's capital. In D.C. In Washington, D.C., 90% of 4-year-olds attend a full-day preschool program for free, according to the Center for American Progress. Seventy percent of 3-year-old are going too, and the program has increased the city's maternal workforce participation rate by more than 10%.

It won't happen overnight

While some American parents might be daydreaming of a life without a four-figure day care bill in 2020, the road to true universal childcare for all children in America would be a long one. Peter Moss, a researcher at the University of London's Institute of Education, previously told The Globe and Mail it took Sweden "many years to get it right."

Indeed, the 1990s saw long wait lists at Swedish day cares, but the growing pains of the '90s paved the way for the enviable system Swedes enjoy today.

According to Moss, governments in other countries look at the Nordic model and "tend to say, 'We can't do that.' But what they really mean is 'We can't suddenly do that.' In other countries, they just don't get to grips with what needs doing and actually plot a course."

Maybe America's starting point is found in its history books, or in the modern day preschools of the nation's capital, or in the conversations happening between now and 2020. It doesn't have to be Warren's plan, but America does need a plan for safer, more affordable childcare.

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It's so unfortunate that in the working world there are still those who believe mothers are more distracted and less productive than people without children.

Research proves that just isn't true—working moms are actually more engaged than working dads and fathers and equally committed—and plenty of working mothers will say that parenthood has actually made them more productive.

Ayesha Curry counts herself among those moms who become more efficient at work after becoming parents. The entrepreneurial mom of three seems unstoppable when it comes to expanding her career, which she launched as a lifestyle blog back when the oldest of her three children was still a baby.

"You don't realize how much you can get done in a day until you become a parent and you're like, 'what was I doing with my time before'?" she recently old Cheddar's Nora Ali.

Now less than seven years later she's built her own empire as a mom, not in spite of being one.


Now a New York Times best-selling cookbook author and restaurateur, Curry has also got her own brand, Homemade, and you can find her products bearing her name in places like Target and JC Penny. She's been promoting a partnership with GoDaddy and she's an ambassador for the Honest Company, too.

Curry says motherhood taught her how to multitask and manage her time.

"I have three children, so I've had to grow four invisible arms," she explains. "I've definitely learned efficiency through being a parent. It's helped me in my business tenfold."

As a celebrity, Curry's life experience is kind of unique, but her experience of becoming better at work because of motherhood isn't, according to experts.

Career coach Eileen Chadnick previously told Motherly that motherhood is an asset in the workplace, in part because it trains women to be both empathetic and assertive at the same time, a combo that makes for great leaders. "There are incredibly nice, compassionate women who are very strong and know how to take a stand," Chadmick said. "And they're trusted and admired by others even if they need to say 'no' to their employees."

That's something Curry agrees with. Because it's her name on that frying pan, cookbook or bedspread, she doesn't shy away from saying 'no' when she doesn't like something. "I'm really good about being forceful and putting my foot down," she explains.

It's easier to put your foot down when you've already grown four invisible arms. That's the balancing act of motherhood, and it's what makes this mama so good at business.

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It may seem like there are more recalls than ever these days, but that's actually a good thing for parents. It means fewer potentially dangerous products are making it to our dinner tables and medicine cabinets.

According to food safety experts, the spike in recall notices for everything from broccoli to baby toys in recent years suggests companies are doing a better job of self-reporting, and we're actually safer than we were in the days when recalls were rare.

"It reflects a food industry that takes contamination and foodborne illnesses seriously. Increasingly companies are willing to recall their products rather than expose customers to potential harm," Dr. William Hallman, professor and chair of Rutgers Department of Human Ecology, said in an interview with Food Drive."So more companies are taking a cautionary approach."

Here are the recalls parents need to know about this month:

Dollar General Baby Gripe Water

The FDA issued a recall notice for "DC Baby Gripe Water herbal supplement with organic ginger and fennel extracts" after the company received one report of a one-week old baby who had difficulty swallowing the product, and there were three other complaints "attributed to the undissolved citrus flavonoid."

The FDA says "the product should not be considered hazardous but could result in difficulty when swallowing the product for sensitive individuals."

Basically, it's not harmful if swallowed but the undissolved flavonoid makes it a choking hazard.

The gripe water was sold at Dollar General stores in four ounce bottles with the UPC code 8 5495400246 3.

Nature's Path Envirokidz gluten free cereals

If you've got a kiddo with celiac disease you're probably familiar with the EnviroKidz kine of gluten free cereals sold at Trader Joe's and other grocery stores. Unfortunately, Nature's Path, the maker of the cereals, is recalling more than 400,000 boxes of Envirokidz cereals in the U.S. and Canada due to potential gluten contamination.

Choco Chimp, Gorilla Munch and Jungle Munch are all impacted. The best before dates are: 08/01/2019, 08/24/2019, 08/27/2019, and 09/21/2019. The UPC codes are: 0 58449 86002 0, 0 5844987023 4, 0 5844987027 2, 0 5844987024 1 and 0 5844987028 9.

If you can handle gluten they are safe, but Nature's Path says "people who have a wheat allergy, celiac disease or sensitivity to gluten and wheat should not consume the cereals."

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