> Life in 16th and 17th Century Amsterdam Holland: Children  
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Life in 16th and 17th Century Amsterdam Holland: Children

Children in Amsterdam

© Cor Snabel

Mortality rate among young children in the 17th century was high, the poorer the parents, the smaller the families. The day laborers and the poor had the smallest families, read the highest mortality rate. Then came the farmers and shopkeepers. The landowners and the middle class had the largest families. Some reasons are obvious; bad hygiene was reason number one for infant mortality, but also negligence and ignorance were scoring pretty high. The rich and educated had all the advantages possible, they could provide a decent shelter and they could read.

A very popular book about children's diseases, by Stephanus Blankaart, was written in simple, understandable Dutch and not in Latin, like every other medical book and most advise given was almost the same as today.

It was not only about diseases, but also contained a lot of helpful tips, about breast feeding, nursing, toilet training, first aid, even the first games and pedagogical lessons. A short summary: cleaning the belly button of a new born with a soft, clean cloth and a little alcohol, fresh fruit and vegetables, especially rose hip. No cuddling the first minute the baby cries, no alcohol for the mother if she is breast feeding, porridge made of half water, half milk and brown bread. All these advices still stand.

But a lot of children died at young age. Less than half of all new born reached adulthood, most infants died before their first birthday. The reason for that, was mostly bad hygiene, with as result diseases, which were fatal in those days. Even the “simple” children's diseases were incurable.

A lot of habits disappeared during the years. One of those habits was “bakeren”. The first two months the child was wrapped in swaddling clothes from neck to feet, so it could not move. The classic reason was the correct growth of the limbs (even Aristoteles and Plato wrote about it), but it was also the best way to keep the baby calm, it was the ultimate imitation of the womb. (I remember being tucked in very tight by my parents and it felt good). By some it was seen as indolence of the mother, cartoonists in those days loved to portray those babies as packages hanging on a nail in the kitchen. This habit disappeared in the 18th/19th century, in Russia it was still common in the 20th century.

Another phenomenon was the wet nurse. In history books she is always described as the “bad” woman. Normally her services were only required in case the mother could not breast feed her child and in cases of disease and death, but for a short period of time the elite had a wet nurse as a status symbol. But these aristocrat pretences were pushed aside by (even in those days) the hype of “natural” breast feeding as a must.

By the time the infants were one year old and started to move around, they got a dress, even the boys. By the time the boys were six, seven years old they got man's clothes and the "lucky ones" had to go to school.

Dutch Bakers in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Banishment in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Begijnhof in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Book Printers in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Building (Construction) in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Charity in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Children in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Diseases in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Education in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Entertainment in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Extinct Trades in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Funerals in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Guilds in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Immigrants in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Marriage in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Miracles in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Prostitution in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Schutterij (Civil Guard in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Servant Girls in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Street Life in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Table Manners in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Transportation in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Role of Women in Amsterdam Holland
Dutch Introduction in Amsterdam Holland


 
 

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