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.
Amazon author page: https://amzn.to/2ThzsNY
Divine Gamble buy link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074P686Q5/a/p?tag=pettpist-20