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The past, said British writer L.P. Hartley, is a foreign country; they do things differently there. That’s certainly true of the Middle Ages, which would strike the modern human as a very foreign place. But medieval moms loved their kids just like today’s mothers do. And in fact, although they looked after them in some curious ways, some things really don’t ever change. Although, of course, not everything has stayed the same.

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4. Using wet nurses

Medieval women were big believers in “breast is best.” To be fair, they didn’t really have any choice, since formula milk had not been invented, and no food for infants would come along until the 19th Century. Nobles and those women who could not breastfeed for other reasons had to use wet nurses: mothers who were nursing their own babies and could feed another.

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3. Leaving baby unattended

Most moms today don’t like to leave their babies alone for even a short time. But medieval mothers would happily abandon their kids to run off to the shops, for instance, relying on swaddling to keep them in place. Indeed, they weren’t as safety-conscious as today’s moms, and babies had to survive a childhood where deaths in accidents were common.

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2. Chewing up food

Special food for babies was first made in 1865, so there were no handy jars or packets of the goo that infants love for the medieval toothless wonder. Instead, before babies could chow down, moms had to chew their food for them. There are still cultures in the world today that do the same, but it’s thought to be unhealthy because of the risk of transmitting infections.

Image: Christopher Winton-Stahle/Getty Images

1. Tying baby up

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The saying “tied to mother’s apron strings” seems curious until you learn about what Middle Ages moms did to keep toddlers safe. They would literally tie them to their aprons! This might seem curious, but today the same concept lies behind a baby harness, allowing new walkers the ability to explore safely while staying close to mom.

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