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17 Completely WTF Things People Used To Do To Babies

Um, goats used to nurse babies.

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Unless otherwise noted, all facts came from Nicholas Day's Baby Meets World: Suck, Smile, Touch, Toddle: A Journey Through Infancy.

1. Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup was a 19th-century medicine for crying and teething babies...that had alcohol, cannabis, morphine, and chloroform in it.

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In the 1840s, Mrs. Charlotte N. Winslow discovered that making infants stop crying was as easy as plying them with a boatload of drugs. Her son-in-law Jeremiah Curtis and fellow druggist Benjamin A. Perkins partnered up to manufacture the remedy for market, and it was a hit. The opiates in it knocked out the little kiddos and eased their diarrhea, as the drugs are known to cause constipation. The American Medical Association eventually denounced Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup in 1911, but it was still sold as late as 1930.

2. Paris was once called "the city without babies" because most newborns were sent out to the countryside to be wet-nursed.

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Wet nurses — women hired to nurse babies when the mother cannot or chooses not to do so — were very popular in the 18th century. So popular that, in 1780, only 700 of the 20,000 babies born that year weren't wet-nursed. Not only that, but only about one out of every four babies stayed in the city to be wet-nursed; the rest were shipped out to the countryside, resulting in Paris's dubious nickname.

3. Oh, and until the 20th century, babies were often nursed by LIVESTOCK like goats and donkeys.

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In fact, all kinds of animals, including sheep, cows, and horses were used, but goats were most preferable. To ensure a proper feeding, parents would place cradles right under the goats so babies could suck directly from the udders. The weirdest part? People reported that the goats could recognize the infants they were feeding(!) and would run over to "their" babies when they heard them crying for food.

4. People also thought tickling could severely damage a baby.

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“Tickling is bad for children. Sometimes it does serious harm, and it never does any good,” the educator Angelo Patri wrote in 1922. I mean, tickling is the worst anyway, tbh.

5. And in 1928, a psychologist recommended shaking hands with your baby as a morning greeting instead of, you know, a hug or a kiss.

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For years, people warned against touching your child too much — or, in some cases, at all — to avoid spreading germs. Psychologist John Watson's 1928 book Psychological Care of Infant and Child, said, “Never hug and kiss them, never let them sit in your lap. If you must, kiss them once on the forehead when they say good night. Shake hands with them in the morning. Give them a pat on the head if they have made an extraordinarily good job of a difficult task.”

6. In the early 1900s, people thought babies who sucked their thumbs would become chronic masturbators.

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Literally! A turn-of-the-century piece of wisdom was "Infants who persist in the habit of sucking always become masturbators." To combat this, parents would pin the sleeves of babies' nightgowns to their cribs to stop them from sucking in their sleep and make them wear gloves and mitts.

7. People used to regularly dip pacifiers in honey or sugar water because sucrose can be a sedative for newborns.

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The practice was common into the 20th century, and the dental problems it caused are part of the reason some people are still wary of pacifiers.

8. Some Victorian-era bottles were called "baby killers."

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Glass baby bottles in the 19th century had long rubber straws connected to nipples to make for more flexible feeding — the bendy tubes meant that parents didn't have to hold the bottle up to the baby's mouth. How convenient! What was not convenient was that the tubes were basically impossible to clean, making them prime bacteria and disease carriers. Thousands of babies died as a result, earning them the "baby killer" name.

9. Before modern baby bottles were invented, little ones would drink milk out of cow horns.

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The vessel was especially popular in medieval times. The shape seems like it would have been a little hard to set down, though.

10. Ancient Greeks fed newborns diets that included lots of wine.

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Soranos of Ephesus, a Greek doctor from the second century, said babies six months or older should eat semi-solid foods like breadcrumbs soaked in milk, mead, sweet wine, or wine sweetened with honey.

12. And the swaddling they got was really, really restrictive.

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In medieval Europe, swaddling cloths were applied so tightly that infants basically couldn't move their heads. People did this to make babies easier to look after — they were physically unable to move, after all — but also because they worried that unswaddled babies might “easily and soon bow and bend and take diverse shapes.” A rigidly wrapped baby, it was thought, would be an upright adult, while an unswaddled one would walk around on all fours like an animal.

13. Instead of wearing diapers, many infants went bare-bottomed in the Middle Ages.

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The ones who did wear diapers underneath all of the swaddling cloths rarely got changed, which led to many constantly damp and dirty baby butts.

14. When swaddling fell out of favor centuries later, people recommended putting babies in ice-cold water.

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Swaddling was popular when people thought babies should be warm, but in the 18th century, they thought the opposite. Philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau even said people should make infants' baths colder and colder until “at last you bathe them winter and summer in cold, even in ice-cold water.”

15. The first incubator for premature babies was designed by a zoo director based on a version that was used for baby chicks.

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That version was designed in 1878, but incubators didn't really catch on until after 1933, when they were showed off at traveling carnivals and in the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair's "living babies" exhibit.

16. In hospitals, doctors and nurses were so wary of touching babies too much that they fed them like gerbils in cages.

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"Prop feeding" meant that bottles were propped up so that babies could suck milk out of them without having any human contact. Seems legit.

17. And baby cages, aka metal cages hanging out of windows that babies could play in, were all the rage in the 1930s.

Fox Photos / Getty Images

It's as shocking as it sounds: The baby cages, patented by a woman named Emma Read in 1922, were popular among city-dwelling families who wanted to give babies some fresh air and, apparently, a spectacularly scary view.

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