19th Century Childcare by Charlene Raddon

One of the things I enjoy in writing is the research. I love learning new things. For my current series, Bachelors & Babies, I needed to learn about childbirth and childcare in the 19th Century.

During the 1800s, infant mortality was shockingly high. Many died before the age of one, and a relative few lived to adulthood. Drownings, falls, snake bites, accidents, diseases, bad water, spoiled food due to the lack of refrigeration, poor hygiene, poor diet—the causes were numerous.

My hero in my second Bachelor & Babies book, JARED, was a rancher who happened to enjoy inventing things, such as a recording device like the phonograph invented in 1877 by Thomas Edison. After the arrival of triplets in the household, Jared’s interests veered toward ways to aid mothers. First, he created a window box made with a wooden frame and using chicken wire for the top and sides. The box fit into an open window, with the bulk of it sticking outside. The infant could enjoy sunshine and fresh air without insects and be relatively safe (have to wonder about that).


He also created a walker much like those sold today. This wasn’t too unusual. Walkers were used back beyond the 17th century. His other inventions included a swing that resembled a porch swing except with a baby bed and a mechanism to make it rock. He also designed folding highchairs. The key was to make these items safe enough for the child and then pray they would be used safely.



At the time, when my story takes place (1879), baby formula had yet to be invented. There were baby bottles (some called murder bottles—see bottle like baby’s face & picture of several bottles—because of harmful bacteria housewives couldn’t easily wash away.) Rubber nipples tended to develop cracks that harbored bacteria. They could also release carcinogens and cause allergic reactions. Although the first rubber nipple was patented in 1845, it wasn’t until the early 1900s that a practical rubber nipple for nursing bottles was developed.











Nineteenth Century medicines, even those made for children, tended to contain shocking levels of alcohol and opium. Bayer Pharmaceutical Products invented heroin (diacetylmorphine) and started selling it from 1898. Sigmund Freud extolled the virtues of cocaine for its supposed ability to treat depression and impotence. Kimball White Pine and Tar Cough Syrup, which contained four minims of chloroform, was marketed for colds and bronchitis. In 1849, Mrs. Charlotte N. Winslow launched her Soothing Syrup containing sodium carbonate and aqua ammonia, as well as 65mg of morphine per ounce. It was advertised as effective for children who were teething. Babies were also spoon-fed laudanum for teething pain, bowel problems, flatulence and convulsions.


If that wasn’t enough to explain the high infant mortality rate in the 20th century, there was also premature birth, birth asphyxia, pneumonia, congenital malformations, term birth complications such as abnormal presentation of the fetus, umbilical cord prolapse, or prolonged labor, neonatal infection, diarrhea, malaria, measles and malnutrition.

When you think about it, you have to wonder that children survived at all.



To win an ebook copy of JARED, Book 7 in the BACHELORS & BABIES sweet romance series,

tell me . . . 


What crazy things did you do as a child that you were lucky to survive?

I had a swing in my backyard and a driveway that went downhill. I’d swing as high as I could, wearing roller skates, jump off and skate down the drive. The trick was to turn onto the sidewalk at the foot of the hill and avoid flying into the busy street.

Charlene Raddon likes to claim that her fiction career began in the third grade when she told her class she’d had a nonexistent baby sister killed by a black widow spider. Her first serious attempt at writing came in 1980 when a vivid dream drove her to drag out a typewriter and begin writing. She’s been writing ever since. She grew up certain she’d been born in the wrong era and truly belonged in the Old West. Her genre is, of course, historical romance set in the American West. At present, she has five books, originally published in paperback by Kensington Books, two anthologies and a novella available on Amazon. Now an indie author, Charlene is busy on her next novel. She also designs book covers and other graphic materials for authors, specializing in western, at http://silversagebookcovers.com.

Website: http://charleneraddon.com

Amazon author page: https://amzn.to/2ThzsNY

Facebook:    https://www.facebook.com/CharleneRaddon/

Divine Gamble buy link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074P686Q5/a/p?tag=pettpist-20

Guest Blogger
Updated: January 12, 2020 — 7:47 pm


  1. There was a little feature in the early days of Sesame Street my brothers and I refer to as “baker man.” A baker with goods fall down the stairs. My brothers and I would intentionally fall down the stairs while yelling “baker man.” My mom didn’t like that game.


    1. Well, Denise, your prank sure beats mine. It’s a wonder you didn’t break your neck. I broke mine just going out to get the mail and tripping on the sidewalk.

  2. The inventions are so interesting and it is neat how they are different from what we use now.

  3. I don’t remember doing anything crazy. Now my brother I have no idea how he survived childhood as he was taking to the emergency room many times.

    1. Sounds like you were smarter than your brother, Kim.

  4. oh wow several things come to mind – I pulled the hot iron off the ironing board onto my sister’s face, opened a cabinet door while she was chasing me and brought blood – plus all the horse related things – like sticking a pitch fork through the other sister’s elbow?? We were dangerous!!

  5. Gosh. After reading your post, it’s no wonder the mortality rate of babies was so high. I’m glad things have changed. When I was a little kid (under 10), my sister and were always told not to cross the train tracks because my step-father was a fireman and he had seen multiple people who got hit by trains. But we had friends on the other side so we still crossed. When I got a little older, we used to love to play in the creek and I used to catch snakes to take home to scare my mother with (yes, I was a brat). I had no idea the amount of venomous snakes there are in Texas, especially in creeks. I was lucky I didn’t get bit. I also loved going down there after a heavy rain and seeing the creek when it came out of it’s bank. Now I know about flash floods and how people get killed by being near flooded waterways.

    1. I remember when I was a teenager, riding in a car down the railroad tracks. Stupid of me.

  6. The only think I can think of is swinging on grape vines in a thicket near our house. We thought we were Tarzan swinging on those vines. Those vines were little thin things that could break at any time. My mother would have had a cow if she new we were swinging on those vines. We were not suppose to be in the thicket much less swinging on those vines.

    1. Hi, Quilt Lady. Been a while. Hope you’re doing well. I’m wondering where you grew up.

      1. I grew up in a small community called High Bridge KY. It was the highest railroad bride over the Ky river.

        1. Sounds like an interesting
          place. Probably pretty too. I grew up near Los Angeles. It wasn’t pretty.

  7. WOW I knew about some of these but oh my. Your book sounds wonderful. I love to see where someone invents to make things easier on others.

  8. Hi, Lori. Thanks for your comment about Jared. I enjoyed writing the book.

  9. I sled down a hill where the bottom was riddled with huge boulders. When we went down forward, it wasn’t such a problem, but when the tube turned with many of us piled on, those boulders became sinister.

    1. Sounds terrifying to me, Sara. I wouldn’t have been that brave.

  10. I don’t remember anything crazy, but I do love the cover of your book!!! I”m not surprised that the mortality rate was so high; wow, have things have changed! Yet, in other ways, how they’ve stayed the same!

  11. You’re right, Trudy. They’ve changed but in some ways not so much. Life is easier today though, that’s for sure. Thanks for stopping by.

  12. I fell on a rusty nail while jumping rope and didn’t realize it. The nail went deep into my arm below my elbow and 6 months later stuck out above my elbow. A magnet clung to it through my skin, and then we realized it was there and the doctor removed it. Luckily or not, I was always stepping on nails, so my tetanus shot was up to date.

    1. Good grief, Hebby. Didn’t it hurt? You’re lucky you survived that.

    2. That’s so bizarre, Hebby!!! You’re lucky you didn’t develop a whopping infection!

  13. Great post, Charlene. My absolute favorite is that baby cage. Hmmm. I feel a blog brewing in my brain . . .

  14. Blog away, Pam. I can send you a couple other pictures.

  15. In a vacant field behind our next door neighbor’s house there was a depression where someone had excavated dirt. The neighborhood kids brought old boards (some with protruding nails) and laid them across the top to make a “cave”. My mom had no idea where her precious girl was playing until I got a huge, huge splinter in my leg from a rotten board. Mom was so upset her hands shook and she had a neighbor come remove the splinter.

  16. Ouch, Caroline. I got a splinter in my knee once that left a scar for years. Thanks goodness it was a splinter that got you and not a rusty nail.

  17. I was not one to do crazy things growing up. Thank you for this interesting post.

  18. Then you were smarter than some of us. Thanks for dropping by.

  19. Thank you so much, Petticoats & Pistols, for letting me post today.

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