“I haven’t heard that morphine or buprenorphine is recommended for human babies who cry persistently and excessively,” I declared in a post about Opioid Drugs for Mental Anguish on my main blog.
An earlier generation of field-researchers found it quite (and sometimes permanently) effective: http://www.victorianweb.org/science/health/health4.html
The article on Opium and Infant Mortality states:
Medical officers were convinced that one of the major causes of infant mortality was the widespread practice of giving children narcotics, especially opium, to quieten them. At 1d an ounce laudanum was cheap enough — about the price of a pint of beer — and its sale was totally unregulated unitl late in the century.
Indeed, the New York Times of 1879 reported a terrible opium poisoning that caused the death of a one year old child.
There were other dangerous “soothing” products of the day with quaint and reassuring ads. One can imagine that administration of these potions was not limited to teething and bowel complaints. The U.S. National Library of Medicine has a lovely collection of these.
The Quack Doctor has a great post on Atkinson & Barker’s Royal Infants’ Preservative, which “has been acknowledged the best medicine in the world.” Ingredients included 1 dr. Laudanum, an old-timey tincture of opium.
Six drops of this fine medicine was enough to kill a six week old baby in 1886.
Lest you think that in the modern era, we know better than to poison our children with such foolish remedies, there was a recall of a dangerous product in 2009. The recall was “in response to a reported case of potassium bromide poisoning in an infant, associated with the use of a locally purchased teething product.”
The name of this product? Monell’s Teething Cordial (Cordial de Monell para la Dentición).