In the 18th century it is fairly well known that illnesses posed a deadly danger. Illnesses such as fever and more. So for many parents of ages past, the fevers that associated themselves with teething were very scary. Today fevers that come from teething pose little danger for children. They are commonplace and usually don’t affect their behavior and pass within a day or two.
Comforting Children with Teething Pain
There is much advice that was given in the 1800s that we can learn from regarding babies and their teething pain. There are much practical daily elements employed by mothers of that time that are exceedingly helpful to the modern parent.
Steps To Comfort a Baby Teething
The first steps were and still are, to soothe the baby. Showing love and care goes so far when a baby is teething. Nursing and holding the baby can be very effective.
A Bib for a Teething Baby
It was common in the 1800’s for a bib to be worn over their dress. Some outfits sold in stores still retain the practice of selling an outfit and matching bib. The idea was always to keep the dress dry and clean. Back then a baby may only have had a few dresses. Nowadays we have so many dresses, cheaply purchased, and in abundance that we can change a baby’s outfit multiple times a day.
Keeping a Teething Baby Cool
In the nineteenth century it was thought important to keep a teething baby cool, especially their head. Fresh air was utilized to keep their bedroom cool. This was likely because of the fears of fevers. Even still today, cool water is advised to combat fever. And sleep was considered super important, as it now, but they also believed it was good to sing the babies lullabies so they could go to sleep.
Baths for a Baby Who is Teething
Two hundred years ago advice was given in book to bath a child twice a day in a cold bath. Morning and evening a cold bath would be administered. The child would be given a cold sponge bath in the morning and then rubbed with dry rough flannel. But if the gums of the child were tender then they should be given a regular bath with hot water. The water should reach the child’s hips. This was especially also advised if the the cheeks were flushed and feverish due to teething. After the bath the child was supposed to be rubbed until completely dry.
Antique Teether Materials
Teethers are not a modern invention. We have merely “perfected” them with silicone and rubber, every color under the rainbow and shape you could imagine. Some teethers are hard, others are squishy. Some function as toys. We call these Teething Toys. In olden days their teethers were made with very ingenious items.
Coral was a frequent ingredient in teethers. A coral teether sort of looked like a rattle but the stick at the end was coral and there would be silver bells on the other end. Coral has a long history in superstition. Babies had coral put by their cribs to ward off witches, so perhaps that was some of the appeal of the coral stick rattle teether. And also it was a hard material. Originally it was advised that coral shouldn’t be given in the first six months. Coral should be delayed until the teeth had not yet come through but had softened the gums. Only then would the coral actually be soothing. There was concern that giving coral teethers prematurely might actually cause the gums to harden and making the teeth coming through even more painful and difficult. Parents also didn’t like how their babies would smack themselves in the face with the hard stick of coral (which also had silver and bells on the end). Using coral caused many to worry and fell into disuse paving the way for other materials to gain in popularity.
Other teethers were made of ivory. Much like wooden rattles, ivory is one solid piece and better because no risk of splinters. The ivory would be carved into the shape of a ring and considered completely safe for a child. This is where we get the modern shape of rings for our teethers. However, due to its rarity ivory rattles were very scare and now completely outlawed due to the endangerment of elephants. Crystal teethers were also used but as they are essentially a rock they are much too hard in my opinion.
India Rubber Teethers
After coral teethers, india rubber teethers became the next big thing in teethers. India Rubber was a popular name for natural rubber.
Vocabularly.com says that “India rubber is one name for the natural rubber that comes from the sap of certain trees. Rubber trees that grow in South America and India produce the majority of India rubber. India rubber can also be called “natural rubber,” “gum rubber,” or “caoutchouc,” its original name. This material was first brought to the West by 18th century explorers of the Indies, who loaned the word India to the gummy substance, which was eventually dubbed rubber because of its ability to rub out pencil marks on paper. India rubber was grown commercially on plantations in South Asia by the end of the 1800s.”
The India Rubber would be made into a teething ring as well. Many people preferred it because common sense would suggest that a teether that is a little squishy is preferable to a rock hard piece of crystal or ivory. And rubber, which comes from trees, was certainly a lot cheaper than ivory or a piece of coral covered in silver, which would have been a teether of the wealthy!
What would the mothers of antiquity think if they could only get a glimpse of the teething toys of today! Made of cheap materials and every color and shape imaginable. But there does seem to be something wonderful and beautiful about the natural teethers of the past, made from natural materials with none of our chemicals and dyes.
Other Teether Methods
Parents back then would massage gums with their fingers just the same as we do. Liquorice root was given to chew on, similar to how we give a child a cold carrot from the fridge. Other roots as well as crusts of bread and wax candles were given as teethers too. Figs which had been cooked in milk were given as well.
Dangers in Teethers
Today children have lost their lives to stuffed animals, blankets, teething jewelry. Back then there were problems as well. Soothing syrups came into popularity and they contained opiates. Many doctors of that time heavily warned against them. Children and infants lost their lives to such syrups. Today we have similar products in the form of teething gels. They contain medical numbing solutions.