From The Archives: Childcare

On a recent trip to the “People’s Friend” Archive, I noticed the “‘People’s Friend’ Nursery Card” – a page of advice on caring for very young children, from January, 1907.

Like the “Friend”, lots of the advice has stood the test of time, although there are a couple of odd items to look out for!


  • Accustom a baby from the very first to sleep when laid down, without singing or rocking.
  • Bedtime should be a set hour.
  • Do not leave a light in bedrooms to please child.

Food and Feeding

  • Wherever possible, mother’s milk should be the sole diet for 8 or 9 months.
  • Utensils must be clean and sterilised daily.
  • For its first seven months baby should get no starchy foods (biscuits or bread and milk, milk puddings, &c); but later these are suitable. Oat-flour gruel is particularly good then.
  • Children should have neither pieces nor fruit nor sweets between meals.
  • Jam must not be used as a substitute for butter. If a substitute be necessary, beef dripping is admirable.

General Management

  • Daily outings are essential – the only obstacle being fog or rain.
  • Do not bribe a child to be good.
  • Too few toys are better than too many.
  • Where disapproval is a distinct punishment, you may spare the rod – otherwise whippings are advisable.
  • Teach children to be methodical and tidy in every little task they undertake.

Some Warnings

  • Never give laudanum in any form to a child. (!)
  • Never use punch or any other form of alcohol.
  • Never make a promise you cannot keep.
  • Never frighten a child either about the dark or a bogie-man, or the doctor, or anything.


  • Coughs and Colds should be carefully watched, and a doctor summoned if the temperature rises or the breath becomes hurried.
  • Constipation – Teach child to try at a set time daily. For children over six months, prune juice or stewed apples or rhubarb may be tried.
  • Diarrhoea – Dose of castor oil at once. Lime water.
  • Croup – Linseed poultices or hot fomentations to front of neck; drinks of warm milk; fire in room, and steam kettle.

For more historical gems and curiosities, pick up a copy of our 150th Anniversary Edition!

Lucy Crichton

Fiction Editor Lucy is always on the look-out for the very best short stories, poems and pocket novels. As well as sourcing enjoyable content, she enjoys working with our established contributors, encouraging new talent, and celebrating 155 years of 'Friend' fiction!