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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 Readers who do so will be rewarded with some hilariously outdated advice.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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There are certain moments of parenthood that stay with us forever. The ones that feel a little extra special than the rest. The ones that we always remember, even as time moves forward.

The first day of school will always be one of the most powerful of these experiences.

I love thinking back to my own excitement going through it as a child—the smell of the changing seasons, how excited I was about the new trendy outfit I picked out. And now, I get the joy of watching my children go through the same right of passage.

Keep the memory of this time close with these 10 pictures that you must take on the first day of school so you can remember it forever, mama:

1. Getting on the school bus.

Is there anything more iconic than a school bus when it comes to the first day of school? If your little one is taking the bus, snap a photo of them posed in front of the school bus, walking onto it for the first time, or waving at you through the window as they head off to new adventure.

2. Their feet (and new shoes!)

Getting a new pair of shoes is the quintessential task to prepare for a new school year. These are the shoes that will support them as they learn, play and thrive. Capture the sentimental power of this milestone by taking photos of their shoes. You can get a closeup of your child's feet, or even show them standing next to their previous years of first-day-of-school shoes to show just how much they've grown. If you have multiple children, don't forget to get group shoe photos as well!

3. Posing with their backpack.

Backpacks are a matter of pride for kids so be sure to commemorate the one your child has chosen for the year. Want to get creative? Snap a picture of the backpack leaning against the front door, and then on your child's back as they head out the door.

4. Standing next to a tree or your front door.

Find a place where you can consistently take a photo year after year—a tree, your front door, the school signage—and showcase how much your child is growing by documenting the change each September.

5. Holding a 'first day of school' sign.

Add words to your photo by having your child pose with or next to a sign. Whether it's a creative DIY masterpiece or a simple printout you find online that details their favorites from that year, the beautiful sentiment will be remembered for a lifetime.

6. With their graduating class shirt.

When your child starts school, get a custom-designed shirt with the year your child will graduate high school, or design one yourself with fabric paint (in an 18-year-old size). Have them wear the shirt each year so you can watch them grow into it—and themselves!

Pro tip: Choose a simple color scheme and design that would be easy to recreate if necessary—if your child ends up skipping or repeating a year of school and their graduation date shifts, you can have a new shirt made that can be easily swapped for the original.

7. Post with sidewalk chalk.

Sidewalk chalk never goes out of style and has such a nostalgic quality to it. Let your child draw or write something that represents the start of school, like the date or their teacher, and then have them pose next to (or on top of) their work.

8. In their classroom.

From first letters learned to complicated math concepts mastered, your child's classroom is where the real magic of school happens. Take a few pictures of the space where they'll be spending their time. They will love remembering what everything looked like on the first day, from the decorations on the wall to your child's cubby, locker or desk.

9. With their teacher.

If classrooms are where the magic happens, teachers are the magicians. We wish we remembered every single teach we had, but the truth is that over time, memories fade. Be sure to snap a photo of your child posing with their teacher on the first day of school.

10. With you!

We spend so much time thinking about our children's experience on the first day of school, we forget about the people who have done so much to get them there—us! This is a really big day for you too, mama, so get in that photo! You and your child will treasure it forever.

This article is sponsored by Rack Room Shoes. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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The author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth is an example of the kind of character she seeks to foster in the next generation. As the founder and CEO of the Character Lab, a nonprofit dedicated to children's character development, as a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, and as a mom, Duckworth is trying to teach parents to let their kids struggle and that success is a long game.

According to Duckworth, grit is "this combination of passion and perseverance over really long periods. So it's loving what you do and working really hard at it for a very long time."

During the latest episode of The Motherly Podcast, Sponsored by Prudential, Duckworth tells Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety, "One could argue that motherhood requires more grit than anything else because it is such a stamina sport and the grind doesn't always feel like it's working."

As Duckworth explains, mothers can model grit every day by persevering in the face of challenging parenting moments, but we can also instill grit in our children, even very young kids, by encouraging them not to give up. It is so easy to tie a child's shoes for them when we're running late, but if we take a moment to stop and let them work through that challenge on their own we are being gritty and encouraging it.

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"You let them struggle and you don't solve their problems for them too early," Duckworth tells Tenety, recalling a time when one of her daughters was struggling to open a box of raisins. "When she gave up and like walked away thinking that's too hard, I did worry about her long-term grit. I was like, oh my gosh my daughter's been defeated by a box of SunMaid raisins. But the important thing is that when you see your child struggle, let them struggle a little longer than maybe is comfortable for some of us."

By not rushing to open the box of raisins for her daughter, Duckworth taught her an important lesson in perseverance: If you want something you have to keep working at it yourself because you can't assume people will do things for you. This can be hard for parents because we often want to rush in and fix things for our kids, but Duckworth suggests we force ourselves to wait a beat and give our kids a chance before coming to the rescue.

"If you solve their problems guess what? They will not figure out how to solve their own problems if you make life a frictionless path. Then don't be surprised when they are not very resilient," she explains.

When we don't do everything for our kids they learn that they are capable, and we're cultivating a growth mindset. When we let our kids struggle and persevere, we're teaching them that the ability to get back up and overcome challenges is more important than talent—we're teaching them grit.

To hear more from Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, author Angela Duckworth about grit and growth, listen to The Motherly Podcast, sponsored by Prudential, for the full interview.

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News

Relocating is one of the most stressful life changes families will experience, even more so when you add kids into the mix. Packing boxes and getting everything ready for your move with toddlers around can seem like an impossible task. You know the scene: You're trying to pack clothing and lift heavy boxes, but they want to play and see everything that's going on. But packing doesn't have to be a chore, mama.

Try these playful interventions whenever you're struggling to keep your little one entertained.

1. Create special time.

Believe it or not, children want to help us. When they feel disconnected to us their behavior can go off-track. That whining, moaning, tantrumming toddler is sending out a red flag that says, ''Help! I need connection!''

So before spending a day packing boxes, be proactive and connect with your child. Set a timer for 10-15 minutes, and tell your child it's their special time and they can choose whatever they'd like to do with you. As you play, shower your child with attention, so their cup is filled. This helps them to internalize a sense of connection to you, so they are less likely to demand it in challenging ways and get in the way when you need to focus.

2. Host a packing party.

Put on some music and make packing fun! Give your child their own box, and allow them some freedom to pack their own toys themselves—even if you go back and rearrange things later. Don't seal all the boxes so they still have access to toys to play with. And remember that they're bound to get distracted and start playing with every. single. toy. they pack away. Make sure they're occupied so you can continue packing.

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3. Try giggle parenting.

Giggle parenting is when you get a child to laugh to ease the tension. If you notice your child getting bored, or frustrated, giggle parenting can ease tensions, and give your child mini doses of connection to help their behavior stay on track.

For example, maybe you playfully say, ''I really need to pack this big object,'' then you attempt to place your child in a box and exclaim, ''oh no, that's not an object, that's [insert child's name!]'' Or pick up a dirty sock and say with a playfully inviting tone, ''I really don't want this sock to be packed'' and put it on the floor. Cue your child trying to pack the smelly sock, and you can act playfully annoyed, and retrieve it from the box. Repeat as the long as the giggles keep coming,

It's the perfect antidote to situations where they feel powerless and out of control. Spending 5-10 minutes being playful at various intervals throughout the day can help shift the feeling that something big is happening.

4. Pack with a puppet.

Although toddlers don't always listen well, you will probably find that they are much more likely to respond to a plush toy or puppet. So use a puppet to ask them to pack in a silly voice that gets them laughing. Or have a naughty puppet who removes items from boxes, while you act playfully frustrated. After a few laughs to release tension, your toddler will be more able to listen to you about what needs to be done, or will be more likely to play independently.

5. Use reverse psychology.

Good old-fashioned reverse psychology works wonders when trying to distract little ones. Say to your child in a playful way that you'd really like them to leave their toys on the floor, and not pack them. Then leave the room. They are bound to take this as an opportunity to pack things up, and you can pretend to be upset that they didn't listen.

6. Turn packing into a race.

Older toddlers love to win so why not set up challenges to get them moving and competing? Have a race to see who can pack five things the fastest. Make it a close call but let them win, and act playfully disappointed when you lose. You could also try setting a timer to see how many things can be packed in 5 minutes or how long it can take to pack a whole box.

7. Practice pretend play.

Use a trolley or a toy stroller to act as a delivery service. Ask your child to bring you items to pack. Pretend play gives them a sense of purpose, and a fun, novel way to be involved.

8. Take a break outside.

At some point during a full day of packing or moving, get outside, even if it's just for ten minutes. Have a playful game of chase in your yard, or go to a local park. This can really help shift grumpy moods.

9. Stop for tantrums.

At some point during the day, tears and tantrums may come up. You may be tempted to stop tantrums, but this is counterproductive as it may just postpone the upset. Crying is a healing process for children, a natural way to release stress and tension, so the best thing you can do is listen and empathize. Be the lighthouse guiding your child out of the stormy seas of their emotions, and when they recover they will feel well-connected to you, and be much more willing to help in the process.

10. Remember to relax.

Do something for yourself, mama. Order takeout. End your day with snuggles and bedtime stories. Packing and moving with toddlers can be one of the most challenging jobs you can do, so well, done, you did it.

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Learn + Play

Brooklyn based stay-at-home dad Mike Julianelle, also known as Dad and Buried online, shared a brutally honest post on Instagram recently that has gone viral. In it he describes how being a stay-at-home parent is really hard, especially during the summer when the kids need to stay entertained in the long hot days in the city.

The post also goes into something that struck a chord with many stay-at-home parents: not having a choice. Many of the over 500 comments the photo has received touch upon how stressful and draining being the parent at home with the kids all day can be.

The post reads:

"It's day two of my summer as a stay-at-home dad and I've already lost it on my kids.

Actually, I lost it at day 1.5. I'm not cut out for this.

I knew it 6 years ago when I did it for the first time, I knew it a month ago when it was looming again, I knew it yesterday when things were going well, and I definitely knew it today when I yelled at my 8yo and carried him to another room because he wouldn't stop complaining about something he actually wanted to do.

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I don't want to be a stay-at-home parent. I don't want to have to find ways to fill my kids' days all summer. I don't want to plan, I don't want to pack stuff, I don't want to herd them places, I don't want to go places.

I don't have the temperament, I don't have the patience, I don't have the interest.

I also don't have a choice.

Circumstances being what they are, and summer being what it is, someone has to stay home with my kids all day. Mom and Buried has done it for years, and now she's working and I'm not, so I'm back in the saddle. Reluctance (and unsuitability) aside, I have no choice but to get better at it.

They don't need to know how stressed I am, they don't deserve a dad who's grumpy and frustrated before the day has even begun, and most of all, they don't deserve a boring summer.

Summer is sacred. And it's usually Mom and Buried's territory. But it's on me now.

No, we might not be able to send them to camp or take them on fancy trips, but that doesn't mean there aren't things to do. And it's on me to do them. More than that, it's on me to do them with a smile on my face. Or at least without constantly yelling at them.

So far, things aren't going so great. But there's nowhere to go but up!

This is one of the primary challenges of parenting. Not letting your grownup stress impact your kids' childhood innocence. We all have struggles, and sometimes the toll they take is going to manifest itself, often in ways you don't even realize.

I guess the good news is: I do realize it. Which makes it even more crucial that I manage it, and do whatever I can to prevent my kids from catching on.

I've gotta fake it until *they* make it. But what else is new?"

Shout out to this SAHD for his honest, and to all the stay-at-home parents for the hard work they do, all day, everyday.

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Life

The sound of my youngest son's wailing filled the air. It was a meltdown of epic proportions. As his screeches pierced my ears and my eyes rested on his angry face, a thought flashed into my mind: I wonder if I will ever reach a sweet spot in parenting.

I like to imagine that somewhere in my future is a magical age where the daily demands of parenting lessen and I will finally have it (mostly) all figured out. It seems I have been waiting for and wishing for this "easy" time since the first few weeks of motherhood.

When my oldest was a newborn and I was fumbling my way through sleep-deprivation, I just knew as soon as he started sleeping through the night, then motherhood would be so much easier.

When he finally did master sleeping longer stretches, he figured out how to roll over. He would roll one way and get stuck. I would flip him back, and he would be good for about five minutes and then get stuck again. I just knew as soon as he was able to roll back over the other way, then motherhood would be so much easier.

After months of nursing, and then pumping, and then bottle-feeding, I just knew that once he was eating solid foods, motherhood would be so much easier because he would sleep better, and I wouldn't have the enormous mountain of pump parts and bottles to clean each night.

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Then he started to eat solid foods, and meal times were so messy and I quickly grew tired of constantly cleaning his highchair and the floor and the wall. I just knew once he could eat on his own, then motherhood would be so much easier.

I carried him everywhere because he couldn't yet crawl, and my arms and back would ache. I just knew that once he could crawl motherhood would be so much easier.

And then he did start to crawl, and suddenly nothing was off-limits. I just knew once he was older and I wouldn't have to worry about him falling down the stairs or jamming a toy into a light socket, then motherhood would be so much easier.

Then he started to walk, then run, and I worried about him running away from me in the store, running into a parking lot, or tripping on his wobbly legs and doing a faceplant into the sidewalk. I just knew that when he was older and better able to listen and communicate, motherhood would be so much easier.

Then he started to talk and protest, and have very strong opinions about everything and the meltdowns began. I just knew as soon as we were done with this age, motherhood would be so much easier.

As my sons have grown, each stage has brought new joys, but also new challenges. Some aspects of parenting have become easier, and others have become harder.

So does this parenting "sweet spot" I have conjured up in my mind even exist?

Do I just have to be patient and it will arrive one day out of the blue when my sons reach a certain age or I gain the perfect amount of parenting wisdom?

I kept thinking about this as my son calmed down and pressed his tired little body into my own. I gazed down onto his tear-streaked cheeks. I brushed the wispy strands of his hair with my fingertips. I paused at that moment to really soak him up as he cuddled on my lap. I let the tension of the previous minutes fade away.

And a new thought entered my mind. "I'm already in a sweet spot, right here and now. I don't need to wait for one."

Parenthood will probably never be "easy." But it is pretty sweet, nonetheless.

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Life
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