What did childhood look like in the Medieval?

by Kate

Needless to say, there are plenty of myths regarding Medieval. Some information has been changed dramatically, however, some of the unbelievable things one can hear about that time is actually the truth. If you would like to learn some intriguing facts about the way childhood looked in the Medieval or you just want to check whether the life of modern children is really thus complicated, you should certainly read this article.

You will find out that all the beliefs of people not taking sufficient care of their children during that time were not right. Parents really cared about their children and may be even more than today.

Extremely tight swaddling

Swaddling was still popular in the previous century, whereas nowadays modern paediatricians are sure this practice should be avoided as it is absolutely unnatural for babies and can bring more harm than good. Yet, the swaddling which preformed our grandparents differed a lot from the practice popular in the Medieval Europe.

Here, swaddling was made in a very tight way.

Very tight swaddling was believed to be good for the health of children as it was supposed to help their bodies to develop an appropriate form. According to the Medieval believes, the entire body of a child as well as one’s head have to be swaddled with long and narrow pieces of fabric making the baby look like a mummy.

When it comes to the head of the child, the swaddling was needed in order to make the child’s ears look beautiful whereas the entire body needed this tight cover in order to keep the internal organs in their appropriate places. According to the Medieval scholars, organs in babies are not attached to their positions and they are literally floating inside which is, as you can imagine, a rather serious condition. Generally, people were sure that the bodies of babies are like wax which can be shaped just as they like it.

Note that it was also recommended to cover a baby with salt and rose petals before swaddling. Swaddling was performed three time a day and any dirt with cleaned with wine.

More on hygiene

A rather specific attitude of people to hygiene during the Medieval time is well-known. When it comes to babies, it was believed that they do not need to take a bath. As you have just learnt, there was a practice of swaddling three times a day. This was usually performed near a fireplace where a child was lying on a pillow on the knees of a caregiver. As it was mentioned before, babies were wiped with a piece of fabric soaked in wine.

According to some specialists, there was some point in taking a bath. One of the crucial recommendations of them was spreading olive oil on the nostrils and joints of the baby after bathing.

Rabbits for teething

Almost every parent has at least once experienced a real chaos during the child’s teething. This event is very painful for babies, can have a range of other symptoms for example fever and is certainly rather confusing for them making them cry without a stop. In such a situation, it is rather difficult to find any solution which will really help a baby.

Yet, the Medieval scholars had some options. One of the most popular was massaging the throat and gums of a baby and feeding her with a portion of pâté made of the rabbit’s brain. If you wondering why this has to be exactly pâté made of a rabbit, the answer is pretty obvious. Just look at the teeth of this animal and you will understand all of the health benefits of this product for a child with teething.

Another option for easing the toothache is feeding your baby with dog’s milk. The logic of drinking this milk during teething is similar to that about having rabbit’s pâté. Puppies are fed by the milk of their mothers and they do not have any problems with teething. That is why babies also should try it.

According to some specialists from Medieval, honey can also be used instead of all of these strange products mentioned above. Needless to say, honey is a way more pleasant than rabbit’s brain or dog’s milk, however, the people of that epoch were not aware of any possible allergies which unfortunately can be rather severe.

Medieval babies and alcohol

You might have already heard about medieval people preferring drinking alcohol to pure water. Presumably, the reason for it was high contamination of water, yet, this is was not necessarily exactly like that. People drunk pure water too, not only alcohol.

Yet, it does not change the fact alcohol was popular indeed and parents gave it to their children as well. For example, one of the most popular drinks of that time known as small ale was drunk by people of all ages including newborns. Still, the specialists of that time were recommending white wine mixed with water for the children who had not reached the age of 7 years. Some scholars thought it was too early to give wine to babies and believed it would be a better idea to give it to girls who are already 12 years old and boys who had reached the age of 14 years.

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